Saturday, October 15, 2016

Buca di Beppo: Disappointing and Costly

By John Fisher

I'm in Indianapolis to attend a conference and, because I don't know the city, I looked online for ratings for downtown restaurants. Buca di Beppo, an Italian restaurant popped up with a rating of 3.7 and two ($$) symbols.  I decided to try it.

Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant
I walked into the restaurant through what appears to be the kitchen annex: steel counters on one side and a reception desk on the other. It was 6 o'clock Saturday evening. No waiting. I went right in and sat at table 33. I opened the menu. And wow, I was astonished. I wanted an inexpensive meal but it looked like the restaurant had nothing to offer me.

Across the top it read: Our dishes are served Family-Style. Buca Small® serves 2 to 3 and Buca Large® serves up to 5. Prices for the small meal for 2 to 3 were $22 to $30.

The server pointed out I could order from the lunch menu at half the price. And, because I didn't want a lot, I ordered antipasto salad and asked about soup.  "Sorry, we just ran out of soup."  "Then can I get some bread?" I asked. She offered three choices: regular, garlic, or mozzarella and garlic. I chose the latter.

While I waited, I looked at the decor. Walls were covered with pictures and other hangings.  The ceilings had posters of Italian wines. Not a space to spare. Across the room was a large picture of Frank Sinatra. Beside me were two boys playing ball next to a cross on what looked like a church wall. Two women stood by in another picture as a man gorged himself with spaghetti. Another picture show a large bottom as a woman leaned over to walk through a law door. Without conversation, at least I had something to entertain myself, while I waited for my salad.

The salad came out and with it a tray of 12 pieces of bread - a whole loaf. I started into the salad and then the server came by. "What is your name dear?" she asked. "I was just notified that a new pot of tomato basil soup was made. Do you want some?"

So soup was added to my dinner. It came in a cup. It was tasty. I added dry Parmesan cheese and then some more. I couldn't taste the Parmesan. I added the it to my salad, and it sopped up the oil and vinegar. Now my salad was dry.

As I sat eating, I started adding up the bill in my mind.  $9.99 for the salad. $2.99 or was it $3.99 for the soup. And the 12 pieces of bread. $4 would make me happy.  $5 would be all right.

I finished and pulled out my AMEX card. The server started a new table to my left - a family of six. Then, dropped by and filled my water glass. "Is there anything else?" "Just the bill and a container for the leftover bread," I said.

She came back with the bill. $23.95 total. The bread was $7.99.  My inexpensive meal of salad had skyrocketed into a bill of enormous size. I should have ordered a Buca Small® for the price I paid for soup and salad. I was tempted to not give a tip, but couldn't be that mean - even though I really felt she was not thinking of my interests when she put in that order. Rather than my usual 20%, I gave her $3. My total bill $26.95.

As I walked out the restaurant, I passed a man asking for handouts. I was tempted to give him my bread, but I thought he would be disappointed. too.

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