Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Trastevere Almost A Travesty

by D. E. Carson (writer), , May 25, 2009

Rating: 3 ½ Stars out of 5

On the corner of Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Boulevard stands a large imposing edifice housing an Italian restaurant named Trastevere Ristorante Italiano.  The place is decorated in a fashion befitting a good old, authentic Italian restaurant.    It has the plaster walls complete with cracks to give it that “Old World” feel.  Included in the restaurant is an al fresco dining area and large front windows that fold open like old fire station doors that open the place up to make for a great dining experience.

The food is prepared as one might expect.  I had a standby: pepperoni pizza, but let me tell you something about that pizza.  It is cooked in an area separate from the main kitchen – I could see it from my table.  The pizza kitchen contains an old-style fire furnace for baking the pizzas on a flat iron surface inside.  The dough is kneaded by hand and is made as thin as it can be and not fall apart.  In fact, this stuff is so thin, it makes New York style pizza look like Chicago deep dish!  I could read the menu through this pizza.  Being the pizza connoisseur that I am, if the pizza isn’t good, I don’t hold out much hope for the rest of the menu.  But this was good pizza.  I ate the whole thing and I wasn’t miserable like I am when I eat a whole medium pizza from that goofy, red-roofed pizza conglomerate that has no restaurants in California anymore.   It was almost just right.  Perhaps a bit more cheese would have closed the deal but then I’m the kind of person who can’t get enough cheese on a pizza.  Is there such thing as too much mozzarella?  So I have to deduct a quarter star there.

The service was just above okay.  It certainly wasn’t worth the “18% suggested gratuity” conspicuously printed on my final check.  I don’t recall our waiter coming back to the table to ever ask if everything was okay – at least not until my family and I were finished with our meal and she was trying to upsell dessert.  When we declined, she left the check folio on the table so I could pay and get out.  The placement of the gratuity suggestion and the reminder that a gratuity should even be left costs another quarter star.  If you have to remind the customer that they should tip the waiter and go so far as to spell out exactly how much to leave, then apparently the management either a) has no confidence that the wait staff is competent or b) does the old “pay tipped employees half their entitled wages as a draw then expect them to make up the difference at the tables” – all perfectly legal under the IRS regulations concerning tipped employees.  A third possibility is that management believes that because their prices are so high that if you can afford to eat there, then you can afford a big tip.  For the record, I did tip the waiter, but at the minimum 15% because she at least showed up promptly after we were seated and did write down our order correctly.

Which brings me to why Trastevere loses a whole star.

Printed right on the menu in black and white is the following: “Soda $2.00 (No Refills)”.  And yes, "no refills" is italicized!

Okay, now look.  I can appreciate $15.99 for a 14” pepperoni pizza – or maybe 16” – especially when it’s good pizza.  I can even sit still for a $2.00 Coca-Cola when it comes with linen napkins.  But I draw the line at a restaurant that acts so pretentious that it thinks it doesn’t have to offer free refills on soda yet has no problem giving free refills on iced tea!  Trastevere doesn’t pay any more for Coca-Cola syrup than does McDonald’s and the best McDonald’s can offer is a wax-covered paper cup!

So here’s my suggestion.  Go have a nice Italian dinner at Trastevere when you’re trying to really impress a new girlfriend.  Then you can walk Third Street Promenade with her and enjoy the street performers.  Just make sure you smuggle in a couple of two-liter bottles of Coca-Cola or other favorite soft drink so you don’t have to drink the water!

Trastevere Ristorante Italiano
1360 3rd Street Promenade
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 319-1985

About the Writer

D. E. Carson is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on Trastevere Almost A Travesty

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By Ariel on May 25, 2009 at 02:48 am

Interesting review!

I go to Trastevere fairly often and would give it a 4.5. I'm not a big soda fan and therefore never even noticed this no refill policy. I like Trastevere because of the quality of the food and the fact that there is usually close to no wait to get a table with no reservation. The service was also always good in my experience. I strongly suggest the veal piccata, it's delicious.

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By D. E. Carson on May 25, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Thanks Ariel!  We just walked up on the place and got seated immediately.  The pizza was good enough that I'd go back and try something else.  I'm not much into veal, though.  I'd have added a photograph, but the ones I took outside the place didn't come out very well.

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By cristogianni on June 01, 2009 at 11:48 pm

Al mio caro sfaccim, Signore Carson,

Just a couple of friendly tips on not sounding like such a Mangia-cake  if you should ever dare to order a pizza in New York (or as you folks like to say "Tha Beeeg City").

1) Your reference to an "old-style fire furnace" is not "old" at all. It is still in use, and it is technically referred to as a "brick oven." I know, the term is hard to remember...but try.

2) There is no such thing as New York style pizza. You got your facts wrong there, Farmer Brown. There is the classic slice modeled on the smaller, round pizza Margherita` of the Neapolitan region of Italy, and then there is Sicilian (the "square" ones).

3) There is no such thing as a "Chicago" pizza. I tried it once, and it rivals L.A. for having the absolute WORST garbage passing itself off as Italian cuisine.

4) I get that you like cheese, but too much spoils the sauce ...You want to be able to taste the sauce, right fatso?

5) If you like thin pizza, then you have to go to Patsy's in my nonna's old neighborhood, up on 1st Ave between 118th and 119th. It's rated in the top five. But that's only if a pizza-lover and Conservative Republic (okay...I didn't puke) wouldn't mind going to EAST HARLEM to get it.

On a personal not, let me just add: I was in L.A. (unfortunately). I don't remember much, as there was really nothing much to do in that town, but your "pizza" I wouldn't feed to a pig. The best joint was called Mulberry Street or something over on Ventura, and that was only because it was owned and operated by Cathy Moriarty--NY native and co-actor with DeNiro in "The Raging Bull."

For the good stuff, go to Grimaldi's under the Brooklyn Bridge, or Lombardi's--where it all started back in 1905, on the corner of Spring and Mott--or, go to Patsy's uptown. That way you can stick to writing about what you Conservatives "out there" do best: picnics at the beach (with Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and a lot of other really pasty white guys), watering your lawns (and lighting up your cross-shaped barbeque grills on them), beer, beer, more beer and being assholes.

Leave the pizza to us.


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By D. E. Carson on June 03, 2009 at 09:14 pm


I hope you don't ever leave New York.  You'd be grossly disappointed with the rest of the USA where we think with our brains instead of sitting on them.

I could say equally vitriolic bullshit about New York and lower myself to your vermin-infested level but I won't.  I'll say whatever the hell I feel like saying about Pizza and there isn't a goddamn thing you can do about it because this is still the United States of America where I have the right to review a Los Angeles restaurant any damn way I please.  If you don't like our pizza, fine, then stay the hell out of our town!  I may have contempt for L.A., but it is still my home and I'll be damned if I'm gonna let some East-coast, stuck-up, full-of-himself, tightly-wound, gasconading poltroon talk smack about it.

Had you had the common decency to disagree with me on a civil level, I might have apologized had I insulted you, but after that little temper-tantrum, I wouldn't offer you a glass of water if I saw you dying of dehydration in the middle of the desert.

You've successfully convinced me that I don't ever want to visit New York.  Which is just as well -- I like breathing!

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