where not to eat in boca*

Another excrutiating dining experience in Boca Raton. Matteo's doesn't take reservations for parties of fewer than six people. So the five of us waited over an hour for a table, being told all the while, "Ten more minutes," by the smiling hostess, who would be the last pleasant person we'd encounter at Matteo's. Finally we get seated. We hadn't opened the menus when our waiter asked us if we had decided on our meals. He explained that with the restaurant so busy best to order food first and drinks second. He brought water; we ordered. He forgot to come back for the drink order. We were about to head for the bar when he returned and told us his name "Bucci with a B." Cindy ordered a Brazilian cosmo martini. He said, "How do you make it?" "I don't know; it's on your menu." "We don't have a drink menu." But, of course, they do: here! And shouldn't the drink be the bartender's job? So she orders a cosmo. I order Sam Adams. They don't have it. Bucci begins to tell me the beer list. The second beer is Peroni, I say, "Peroni," but he keeps going through the list and I keep saying Peroni after each beer, and when he finishes he waits for me to say Peroni again. The salad arrives in due time, family style, but Bucci is in such a hurry to serve it into our plates that he tosses salad in my lap--he apologizes. We wait for over an hour before the food arrives, being told several times that the serving was imminent. (It's pasta, folks!) We did get bread and three pats of butter--"It's all we have right now." Two choices with the bread: the stale white Italian or the toasted white Italian which his rock hard and undigestible (or indigestible, if you prefer). It's my brother-in-law Roger's birthday, but we've already decided we aren't having dessert. Bucci knows this delay is intolerable, so he brings Cindy a complimentary drink. Just Cindy, no one else. The food arrives at last. The Italian sausage is dry as dust. The marinara sauce just ordinary at best, like something out of a jar. The penne, way beyond al dente. At some point Bucci, who has been studiously avoiding us, shares with us that there are items you can order that are not on the menu, but you have to know about them. What a great idea! He names something called Chicken Irving (I'm not making that up) as an example. It's Chicken Francais with chili on top. He's had it; it's one of the best things they make, but, as he said, it's not on the menu. You just have to know. 

* Or Hallandale, Jupiter, Orlando, or any of the New York locations