Monday, July 25, 2011

brunch at Panella

I've know about Panella for ages, I think their bread products are great but a bit on the pricey side so I rarely go there. But I recently heard they were doing aperitivo and brunch buffets as well so we decided to test it out yesterday.
It started off very well, perfect weather, great location, pleasant waiter, and lovely company. Our waiter gave us the run-down: all-you-can-eat brunch plus a drink for 15 euros till 3:00 PM. Not bad, considering most places charge 25+ for brunch (I still don't understand why brunch is so freaking expensive in this country!). The buffet had several vegetarian-friendly options too. Sweet! We were all excited about this very reasonably priced brunch.

Our first observation: the whole thing is poorly organized. You pay at your table then go inside to the buffet table with your receipt, stand in "line" (those of you who live in Rome know what I mean, it's an inverted pyramidal shaped mass of pushing people), and wait to be served. A stupid system if you ask me, you tell the guy what you want, he puts it on your plate, and if he thinks your plate is too full, he tells you to come back later for whatever else you may want. Waste of time & plates. Give people bigger plates so there'll be less of a pile-up inside, no?

Second observation: as always in Italy, there's a catch. A friend joined us later and just ordered a drink while two of the brunching friends got a second drink- the bill came and they were charged 15 euros each for their drink. I thought there was some kind of mix-up and pointed it out to the waiter, he very casually said "No mistake, extra drinks cost 15 euro even if you don't want to eat or even if you've already paid for the buffet". Ridiculous. I'm willing to pay 15 euros for a drink at Hotel de Russie on occasion, but this is out of line. Needless to say, my friend who had just ordered the drink decided to pounce on the buffet since he was paying for it anyway.

Third observation: they need to get their act together. If you're going to do the aperitivo/brunch scene then do it right. Make sure it's organized and user-friendly, and make sure your staff is prepared. When I went inside for my third round (yes, third... the plates were tiny!), the buffet server examined my receipt and with an accusatory tone declared I hadn't paid for the brunch. I laughed out loud and told him to talk to our waiter.
Him: "What's your waiter's name?"
Me: (in dismay) "I have no idea, I'm not in the habit of asking a waiter's name".
I pointed him out and naturally my waiter defended me, he'd punched in the wrong code hence it looked like I hadn't paid for brunch but of course I had.

We ate like fiends to make up for the excessive extra-drink cost and in all honesty, the food was great. I just can't begin to understand what possessed them to set up that ridiculously exorbitant second-drink price. I mean, don't you want people to stay and drink?? That equals more money, duh! Even if you charged people 7 euros, they'd gladly buy a second and third drink but 15 euros is unheard of. People are going to eat and leave... so maybe that's what they're aiming for? Beats me... I'd go there again but would make sure everyone at the table knows what the policy is ahead of time.
Consider yourself warned.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Price hike?

Apparently, ATAC is planning on raising prices for the public transportation system in Rome. While I understand the need for price hikes, I think ATAC has some nerve raising the price for the substandard service they provide. Before asking us to fork out more money, how about fixing up some of these issues, dear ATAC?
-Making sure all of your buses have AC that works
-Making sure buses run regularly
-Spacing out the buses. How many times have I seen three #3 buses appear within one minute (and manage to miss them all) and then have to wait 25 minutes for the next one?!
-Rethinking the placement of certain bus stops so that riders can easily switch from one line to another without having to sprint 100 meters!
-Improving the night bus schedule
-Making sure your bus tracker app works even past midnight
-Placing ticket machines on every bus
-Improving signage on streets and even in buses so riders know what stop is coming up and what route the bus takes

...shall I go on?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Gym update

Remember how excited I was about finding a new gym that I liked? Well, I do still like it but (you knew that was coming)... initially they said they were open for the month of August, which was a big selling point for me since I stay IN Rome during August. Then they said they would close only for the week of Ferragosto, then they said they would close for 2 weeks, now they say they'll be closed the whole month PLUS they've reduced the number of classes in the month of July (they've cancelled my morning class which is a huge annoyance for me) since "most people are on vacation". Ummm, okay... that's not what I signed up for and that's not what I paid for! I signed up knowing there were morning classes all through the summer, but since this is Italy what you see is not always what you get and they keep changing their story on a daily basis. Needless to say I asked them to add an extra month to my membership since they'll be closed in August plus they threw in a few extra weeks for the July downsizing too. Fair enough I suppose, but I'll still have to find a place/way to work out during August.

Aside from this glitch, the gym is great, I've tried out most of the instructors and have selected my favorite classes, which all happen to be morning classes. I went to an evening class the other night and it was like being inside of the Grande Fratello house: chitchatting nonstop, yelling, complaining, fighting, joking, teasing the instructor= total mayhem. Never again, I'll stick to my morning classes which are much more civilized and more focused on exercising- which is what I'm paying for.