I entered Margherita’s new branch in the mall ABC, Ashrafieh with positive vibes and high hopes. I was met with an establishment so astoundingly grim you want to congratulate the kitchen on its incompetence. Mabrouk, no one can do it like you did. You managed to change a fine Italian dining experience to what resembles a cheap Chinese food take out at best.
During my daily route to my office in Gemmayze, I have been passing by Margherita for what must be years now. I have always admired Margherita’s trademark window display of fresh ripe red tomatoes and the occasional deep violet aubergine. I heard so many mixed reviews about it, yet I never got the chance to try it personally. So naturally I felt really ecstatic to know that it opened in ABC and that I will finally get the chance to try it after watching a movie. The movie ended and I hassled and made my way to my guilty night treat.
There it stood with its trademark window display and traditional Italian interior. Having visited Italy on numerous occasions, it felt nice to sit there even though there is a dim voice at the back of your head reminding you that you are still in a mall and not in a small pizzeria in Tuscany.
My Italian nostalgic experience sadly ended right there and then, at the entrance admiring the décor. We were seated at the table of our choice and handed our menus. All good up till now…. Wait, I’m just getting warmed up!
Three minutes after receiving our menus, a handsome young waiter approached our table with a smile, which soon changed to a snarky grin. He gave us a look which said, “You seem lost, let me help you” and then he said, “You seem lost, let me help you”.
Who does he think he is talking to?? Where was he when not only I visited Italy, when I worked in a small Italian bistro as a part of my Italian experience! How can a waiter approach a client which such a condescending attitude. My friend and I both glared at each other with disbelief and chose to ignore his attitude and to try enjoy the promised Italian feast. Less than two minutes later, the handsome young waiter approached us again with his pompous smile and asked if we were SURE we didn’t need help. I assured the young man with a calm voice and a warm smile that we are doing well.
The menu was versatile and very inviting. Everything sounded great and I wished I could try everything in it. Our choices were simple, a Risotto dish with lemon sauce and shrimps, and a Calzone Margherita. The young gentleman took our order and explained in un-necessary detail the two choices of water they carried. Much appreciated, just get me a bottle of Soha.
Like any fine Italian restaurant, came a basket of complimentary Italian bread. Just delightful and light. The coarse salt just bursts in your mouth with mini explosive flavor attacks. I was disappointed that I was never offered any extra virgin olive oil or balsamic vinegar, yet it was not such a big issue compared to what I had to deal with later.
My risotto arrived. Where is my risotto? With an $18 price tag, I expected to actually eat and not just taste the risotto! I understand a small portion gourmet meal, but looking at that sad grim plate made me giggle. At the end of the day, risotto is just pretentious RICE!! Before I even touched my plate, I noticed how unclean it was. It was full of fingerprints and smudges. That was appalling. I called my handsome smiling waiter and expressed my feeling towards my smudgy plate. His reply was more appalling. “No, we wipe the dishes well before presenting them”. What does that mean? I’m blind? I’m lying? I smudged it myself? He then grabbed my plate and went back with it to the kitchen. Few minutes later, arrived my friends Calzone. They say a Burger with any other name is still a Burger. I say a Manou’she with any other name is just expensive. I do admit, they present well. The Calzone was an elegant looking generous piece of cheese pie with a coat of velvety rich tomato and basil sauce. The Calzone itself was very bland and rather tasteless, yet the rich tomato sauce saved it from being a total insult to the taste-buds.
Hurray, my risotto arrived again. Yuck, my risotto arrived again.
A single smudge few centimeters wide circled my plate as the kitchen staff wiped it with a rag and sent it to me. An atrocious sight. I’m sure that Queen Margherita of Savoy would have felt so offended by such an establishment holding her name. She turned in her coffin.
The waiter automatically noticed the shock on my face directly as the plate left his hand in front of me. He asked why I look so disturbed. I simply requested that he looks at my plate. He presented his charming smile (a shy version now), took the plate and headed to the kitchen again.
Damn it, I’m hungry.
The floor staff manager approached me and asked me to be patient, and promised to take care of the situation. I didn’t explain the situation. I guess he must have read my mind or eyes. Yes, some people can do that!!
Rejoice rejoice, here comes the risotto again.. and in a clean plate. I’m impressed it took them only three trials to serve such a simple dish!!
Oh wait, remember how I said that the portion was amusingly small?? Ok, they managed to make it smaller now!! Don’t ask. I didn’t comment. It was getting drained; I guess it was the hunger and my low blood sugar levels. The risotto was good! Yet again, I wish I ate it rather than just sample it. Half way through my plate (that’s about 2 mins after I received it) the manager arrived with her warm kind smile and requested to know if everything was up to my liking. I said that all was fine (I repeat, at that point I just wanted to eat). She wondered why my risotto was kept going back. I briefly expressed how the plate was smudgy with greasy finger prints. She smiled and said, “Well, I’m glad you finally are enjoying your meal.”
Mmmmm, did she study management? Well, I studied marketing and Public Relations. That’s not a reply your client expects.
My dining experience came to an end at Margherita, and I was ready to leave.
My advice to all of you, don’t go to Margherita. Keep not going. Keep not going a lot!!
I rate the food as a generous 7/10 and the total experience as 4/10.