Posted in Foodie, Review

Convivium Café Deli… not worth the hype.

The ambience is homey, comfy, and cozy; the food is not bad; the staff, however, is terrible for a place which charges 6% towards its service. Simply put: not worth it.

Our interest was piqued ever since people are raving about its pasta and (more so of its) cake and saw to ourselves how the parking lot is always filled to the brim during lunch or dinner time whenever we pass the area. My antennae were up upon reading the back story of (pardon the inaccuracy, too lazy to crosscheck) two friends loving Italia and its cuisine big enough to reproduce its taste and authenticity here locally. Being a gastronome and big fan of pasta and pizza, I have since looked forward to a chance to stop by. It boasting a homemade and authentic Italian taste is enough of a bait, let alone another plus point that one of the founders is also the chef there. Hmm… seems like quality is its top priority, now whose mouth doesn’t water?

Our first failed attempt was on Christmas night last year when we stopped by only to find that the tables (tho’ still empty) were fully booked for the night. Didn’t want to take the outdoor seat, we decided to postpone trying out its dishes. Thereafter, we were busy struggling to grasp the elusive work/life balance that it’s almost impossible to fork out time to go there together but weekends. Plus, we could imagine how busy the eatery would be during those times. Despite an instance of unexpectedly rude service received wherein the inhospitable-sounding recipient on the other end hung up on my sister right after telling her that they’re fully booked, we remain curious of it. Enough that upon seeing its empty lot around brunch-time on Independence Day (yesterday) we ended up making an offhanded visit.

The space is quite small; the interior is minimal and simple with medium lighting, yet exuding a homey and welcoming air. Took the table-for-four right in the middle of the room, next to the see-through kitchen though upon sitting down we could barely watch the cooking-in-action. We then flipped through the thumbed menu searching for desired dishes. All written in language so foreign to me the English descriptions helped me tremendously.

Wait, I once came up with a complete menu (appetizer, main course, and dessert) of a made-up upscale Italian restaurant replete with its wine pairing… why the words now gave me headache instead of familiarity or reminiscence?

Backtracking, I already had in mind of what to order but decided to test the water.

I beckoned and asked how big the pizza is and the waitress responded, “It has no size, but will be cut to six slices.” What pizza has no size? How can you make a pizza with no preset size for uniformity? Either she didn’t know or chef is free to knead whatever size that pleases him – it’s common to state the diameter of the dough like 10 inches or whatever, NOT the slices. What? I could request a 10-inch pizza to be cut to 12 slices if I want to, couldn’t I?

Next, I inquired into its popular pasta. “Cream or tomato?” she asked. I asked for both but she murmured an answer for cream pasta only I had to re-ask for the tomato option. Her one-two-words responds were barely made out I had to ask twice of what they were – it made me feel dumb. I ended up ordering what I’d had in mind, which was reviewed a lot on the web, and was ‘recommended’ by her, after hesitating between it and Arabiatta pasta: the handkerchief mushroom cream pasta. We also ordered lasagna and funghi pizza. Also honey citron and chamomile tea. 25K for a mug of hot water with a tea sachet and a bite of biscuit on the side is outrageous imo.

Our orders came on plain-looking plates with unappetizing presentation except the pizza. The handkerchief pasta tasted okay, lasagna’s different from lasagnas I’ve had before, but pizza was the worst: bland taste and thin, too dry a dough. I know I’ve exposed myself to American-styled pizza only (my professor once said we might not like Italian pizza as it’s much oilier) but this one looks like familiar thin-crust pizza. Even after dipping it into provided chili sauce it still ain’t tasty.

Another thing to note is not to chat over your meals as they get cold quickly. Not many foods-served-warm/hot are still good eaten cold, especially NOT cream-sauce pastas. Too bad because in places like this we’re supposed to savor the meal, not gobble it down quickly.

Wrapping up, we ordered the highly raved red velvet to go (some said theirs is the best in town). At 38K, it sure is pricey (much so than that of Harvest, but it also comes in a bigger slice I guess) if not overpriced. Even if its cake is highly sought-after.

Anyway, the same waitress passed by and we asked for the bill that never came. Isn’t it unbelievable — and unacceptable — that we have to ask TWICE to settle the bill in a nearly empty restaurant? It’s not as if I’d let it pass had the premise been full. I mean, if this is the service rendered to you when the staff is completely available to serve you, what treatment you’ll get when it’s full of patrons? We were most likely their first customer for the day, yet this was what we got.

The total after 10% tax and 6% service charge was well above 300K. That was when I concluded that it’s simply not worth it. For such an ambience, for menus tagged at such high price, and for such quality of food served and service delivered, I couldn’t justify the amount of praises given to this place. Either they haven’t found a better eatery or there’s something wrong with my tastebuds and patient meter.

Service isn’t the IT factor, but it cannot be overlooked either. If the staff wasn’t ready to give their best smile, wasn’t willing to serve us, wasn’t happy to see us there, and couldn’t mean a ‘thank you’ (read: stop whatever they’re doing, look at us, say the magic words and smile) upon us leaving, we are more than pleased not to make another visit there. Thank you very much. You won’t lose a thing and we definitely won’t miss you.

Because you know what? The cashier at Doner Kebab outlet at MTA later on that day wore a much bigger, radiant, and sincere smile; was way more service-minded and enthusiastic; thanked me sincerely, established eye contact, and hoped I’d enjoy the 30K meal that I just purchased. And they charged no single cent for that pleasant service.

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I blog sometimes, gush ofttimes, snark all the time.

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