Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Last Sunday evening, SP's family gathered at Carino's in Robinson for Z's birthday dinner. This dining out experience continues our recent trend of horrible service experiences.The plan was to meet early, at 4:30 pm, since one person had to work later on Sunday evening. SP and I did a few errands beforehand and found ourselves in the Coscto parking lot at 4:10 pm - not enough time for other errands but early for dinner. Carino's is across the street from Costco. We decided to just go early. It was hot and we were thirsty, so we thought we could at least order some drinks and relax a bit in a cool place.

It was dark and cool inside. Our table was set up for us. It took a few minutes, but eventually our server came over and we ordered iced teas. She brought those and a bag with a small loaf of bread inside.Additionally, she put down a plate with these tiny brown things I couldn't identify - I was thinking rice krispies? Who pours olive oil over rice krispies? But as soon as I passed the plate towards SP and got a whiff I knew: toasted garlic. And lots of it. Blah.So I couldn't eat any of the olive oil. I probably could have asked for a plate of plain olive oil, but our server had kind of disappeared, so I just ate the bread plain. We ate the whole loaf before everyone else arrived.

Eventually everyone arrived. Someone ordered the Calamari appetizer for everyone to share. SP put some calamari on a bread plate for us to share. I didn't try the marinara because it was spicy. The calamari was fine - nothing special but also no need to avoid it in the future.

Several people opted to have soup or salad with their meal. SP was one who chose salad:The salad and soup are unlimited. The greens were nice greens, not iceberg. The croutons were non-garlicky, just herby. Pretty good salad.

SP chose a shrimp pasta dish for his meal. He specified whole wheat pasta.I think he thought his meal was OK but on Monday his stomach was upset and he thinks the sauce bothered his stomach.

I ordered a pizza with tomatoes, spinach, black olives, mushrooms, and ham.It was just OK. It was a thin crust pizza. Maybe too thin - the center was very mushy and when I picked up a slice, it just drooped and all the toppings slid off. I had to eat it with a knife and fork. I would not order the pizza again.

Z, the birthday girl, ordered a sample plate of lasagna, chicken parmesan, and spaghetti marinara. I took a photo, but it came out very blurry. Z's SO ordered a pizza with ham, pepperoni, and bacon, and maybe some other meat, I can't remember.I'm not sure what everyone else ordered because they were at the other end of the table. I do know that at meal time, the service problems began.

First off, several people had requested more salad/soup (remember, unlimited). The second salad/soup servings arrived with or after the entrees and everyone would have preferred before. SP asked for his second salad to have no croutons and it came with croutons.

SP & Googer had been very specific about whole wheat pasta for their entrees, but they got regular pasta and had to send their entrees back.

SP's dad's pasta got messed up and he had to send it back twice. The third time it seemed mostly correct, but I think the spicy sauce wasn't as spicy as he remembers it being at Carino's, so he wasn't overly thrilled with his meal.

Meanwhile, only one person had ordered soup and somehow, 4 soups showed up at random times - ?

Our server went to get SP's dad a drink refill, brought water instead of lemonade so she went back to get the correct drink, but she must have completely forgotten what she went to do because when she returned she asked him if he wanted more lemonade - ?

We all asked for boxes to take home leftovers and it took several requests for enough boxes to arrive. Then our server assumed that because we were boxing up food we didn't want dessert so she brought the check(s) - I've already complained about this in a previous blog post, but seriously, is it really so odd for people to take home part of their entree for a lunch and get dessert since they ate only a part of their meal? Or maybe take a dessert home for later?

Anyway, for dessert, SP and I split a piece of tiramisu with Z and SP's dad.We asked our server to split it into 4 pieces, and amazingly, she got it right. It was OK. Sort of more like a sponge cake with chocolate cream than a tiramisu.

As for the check(s) - when SP & I arrived, before everyone else arrived, we asked her to do a separate check for us. We find that when all 9 of us are gathered, a separate check makes things a bit easier. When our server tried to leave the check(s) before dessert, she had two, one for us and one for everyone else. After dessert, I guess she was suddenly confused because we shared the appetizer and a dessert. We planned to toss some money at the other check to cover that, but our server asked if we still wanted 2 checks, others were confused because they didn't realize we'd asked for a separate check, so SP & I just said, fine, one check. Then, they either forgot to charge us for SP's dad's entree or took it off since they screwed it up, but no one told us/it didn't say on the check, so there was momentary confusion before we just said, oh well, just pay what's on the check, at least we're not being over charged.

So everyone tossed cash at the bill and SP's dad collected the cash, put it in his wallet, and paid with his credit card. It took quite a while for our server to come by to take the credit card. Is it so odd that a large group would pay with a credit card? Did she think we were just going to leave a pile of cash on the table and leave? SP and I looked at each other and said "Buca di Beppo all over again."

I had eaten at Carino's once before, for lunch, and the food and service were much, much better. I would go back because, for a chain Italian place, I like the food better than Olive Garden and Buca and I think Carino's is a bit less expensive than Bravo. Yes, I know I said I would not get the pizza again, but the meal I had the first time I went was good, the salad is much better than the Olive Garden salad, and the lasagna looked yummy.

In her defense, our server did say she was new at this but who the heck let a new server wait on a large group? I would think large groups are generally more difficult - more to remember, more drinks to constantly re-fill - why would a new hire be tasked with serving a large group when she clearly did not yet have enough experience in being a server?

When we left, I had the same feeling I had after Buca di Beppo - that of escaping from a torture chamber. I don't have much tolerance for bad service. Oh well... at least all these bad service experiences give me something to blog about!


  1. Well, this doesn't make me want to hurry over. We've never been to Carino's... and I don't think we'll go anytime soon. (I mean, Italian is too easy to make at home and it's too common in Pittsburgh to deal with bad service for it!)

  2. Indeed, good thing the food at Carino's is pretty good because the service this past Sunday was truly awful! I've been there quite a few times in the past and the service has always been just fine, and I've never had to send food back before no matter what wacky customizations I've asked for. I too wonder why they thought assigning a new waitress to a large group was a good idea, but such is life I guess. :-P

  3. Hmm. A good friend of mine from college worked at Carino's. Maybe it's all of the activity around Robinson that breeds bad service? I've never been to Carino's, but from talking with her, they get slammed...