Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Drinking Italian at Enoteca Drago

We took a friend from out of town to dinner the other night, and because she's an avowed foodie who likes good wine, we decided to take her to Enoteca Drago in Beverly Hills, a wine bar and trattoria-style restaurant that promises to bring a little bit of Italy into your life. Conveniently located on a relatively quiet street (read: not Rodeo Drive), Enoteca Drago aims to be a comfortable place to stop in for a quick bite and a glass of wine when you're shopping, as well as to provide you with comforting food for a full dinner on the town.

After looking at the menu we decided to start with some small plates from their "Enoteca" menu, followed by pasta. The small plates were, in my mind, the highlight of the evening. We had some fresh sliced prosciutto that just melted in your mouth ($8), and some fried zucchini blossoms stuffed with ricotta that were perfectly prepared and very tasty ($12). We tried a variety of pastas, including a spelt spaghetti with fresh vegetables ($17.50), spaghetti carbonara ($13.50), and malloreddus with meat ragu ($15). There was still room for dessert, and with options like coconut flan, gelato, and affogato with biscotti there was something for everyone. My only complaint with the food was that the service felt rushed, with no room to breathe between courses and as soon as you finished your dessert the check was in front of you. The waiter didn't even ask if we wanted coffee.

While the food was perfectly good, and in the case of the small plates excellent, the problem came with the wine. You knew I was going to say that, right? One of the great draws of Enoteca Drago are the flights of Italian wine that they offer. Typically, you get three generous 2.5 oz. pours of different wines for between $15 and $30 depending on which wines are included. We each had a flight of medium bodied whites, and a flight of light-medium bodied reds. They came out with a placemat "cheat sheet" that gave some--though not all--the details for the wines tasted, i.e. the vintage and the type of wine, but not the maker. What's up with that? I insisted on keeping the wine list until we were through out of sheer determination to know what I was drinking. My favorites were the 2005 Mauro Sebaste Arneis, which was crisp and refreshing, and the 2003 Tenuta le Querce Aglianico del Vulture "Il Viola," which was like drinking plush red velvet.

The sad thing was, we were served a corked bottle of 2005 Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi. I told the waiter it was corked. My friend told the waiter it was corked. He seemed uninterested, and said, "oh, you don't like it?" We expanded our treatment of what "corked" meant: it was mildewy; the wine was flawed; "there is something wrong with this wine and you should tell the person pouring it." We returned two full glasses, and received no replacements, no we're sorry, no acknowledgment from anyone that this had even occurred. Here's my tip: if you have a wine bar, and want to serve flights at the tables, TRAIN YOUR WAITSTAFF ABOUT WINE. There's only so much of the evening your guests want to spend trying to sort out a 2.5 oz pour of wine. After 3 minutes of effort, I simply gave up. Probably the wrong decision, but there you have it.

You can see sample menus by clicking over to their website. Unfortunately, there are no wine lists online, so you can't do a pre-meal browse and see what's on offer. If you are shopping in Beverly Hills and want some small plates and a glass of wine, stop in and see what you think. For me, though, this is one of those restaurants that could be a great restaurant for wine lovers, but falls short by not training its staff on what a wine lover wants from the experience.


Anonymous said...

I hate it when restaurant staffers don't believe their customers can actually tell when something is corked. Most people don't trust themselves (partially as a result of waiters sneering at them when they say speak up) but 99 times out of 100, if your instinct says a wine is off, it's off. I believe this holds true even with beginners.

Gripes (totally reasonable sounding to me) aside, while it doesn't sound like you'll be heading back to Enoteca Drago anytime soon, if you should...try the La Bomba stuffed pizza with black truffles. It's something like $15 or so, one of the least expensive items on the menu. It's quite large and delicious. Almost worth the bad service.

winedeb said...

You'd think being in a "Wine Bar" that everyone would have a grip! It makes me CRAZY that these events happen, especially with the price you have to pay for the wine!

Anonymous said...


What a shame. They have the potential right there and yet aren't doing anything about it...and it wouldn't take much.

It always shocks me when I eat at a restaurant in the middle of wine country where the servers have no clue. The two restaurants where I worked in Mississippi had amazing wine lists and constant staff training (which I helped with).

Too bad for you, but in the long run, probably worse for the business.

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for the support, folks. I am positive that wine was corked. And I'll definitely go back to Enoteca D. and give them another shot because everyone deserves a bad night now and then--the chef, the waiters, the whole thing. I have bad days all the time and am glad someone gives me a second chance. So, I'll try that La Bomba pizza, and some more flights and hope that they have their act together on the return.

Alessio de Sensi said...

Dr. Debs,
I am sorry that you had such a bad experience with our staff. That is not what ENOTECA DRAGO is about.
Please make sure next time you ask for me:
I would be very happy to show you our true ENOTECA EXPERIENCE.

very best

Alessio de Sensi

Dr. Debs said...

Dear Alessio:

First of all, welcome. Second, I certainly will be going back to Enoteca Drago in the future, because I think the food and wine selection is excellent, and I love the opportunity it gives us to taste Italy. And I do encourage my readers to try it out for themselves. I look forward to my next visit to Enoteca Drago.