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.

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