Monday, March 26, 2012

No Straws for You!

Tenth Stop: Fratelli’s 
Date:  March 18th, 2012
Location: 6890 Tylersville Road West Chester, OH 45069
Ranking: 10

Wouldn’t it be cool if Ma Fratelli from The Goonies would have greeted us as we breezed through the doors of this similarly named pizza joint?  On second thought, Ma Fratelli had a pretty nasty attitude, and as it turns out, attitude can have a significant impact on the lens through which we view our human interactions (and our pizza).  There’s a good reason that old saying exists about someone “leaving a bad taste in your mouth.”      
"The only thing we serve here is tongue!  You boys like tongue?"

We’ll just say it up front:  Fratelli’s was disappointing.  We walked in completely aware of its top ten status, armed with empty bellies, and ready to feast on some deliciousness.  In the end, things just didn’t work out as expected.  Writing a scathing review is not our goal here.  Obviously others have had great experiences with Fratelli’s, or it wouldn’t be ranked as a Top 10 pizza in Cincinnati.  However, we have to be honest about our own experience, as uncomfortable as that may be, because that’s what we set out to do on this pizza mission.    

This is another “order at the counter” kind of place, which always throws us for a loop.  Right off the bat, there was something a little off.  Our server seemed a little indifferent and even rude, and made us both feel rushed to order.  She asked us what we wanted, but didn’t hand us a menu; we had to ask and then grab one for ourselves.  Maybe if you are a regular, no physical menu is required.  However, we are not.  Perhaps intuitively, we had glanced at their menu online, and thought that the New Yorker might be where it was at.  Pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, and onions:  a classic combination that we both enjoy.  We ordered a large for its leftover potential.  It was also about 7pm in the evening, and neither of us had eaten much that day.  As usual, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs.  Robyn suggested ordering Garlic Knots, since neither of us had experienced these before.  This Italian joint seemed to be the ideal place to give them a go.

After we spewed out our order, we paid on the spot, as is typical of most counter-ordering locales.  Our Receptionist of Rudeness did kindly split our check, though, as we requested.  We both paid with our debit cards, and upon receiving our bill noticed a line for tip.  With no cash on hand, Courtney quickly calculated a tip and hoped it would suffice.  As we walked through the restaurant and chose our table, Robyn mentioned that she was leery to leave a tip before experiencing the service, and would just leave a cash tip.  Wise words, and ones that Courtney will bear in mind during future pre-paid restaurant excursions. 

We sat down in a place that allowed Robyn optimal basketball watching (March Madness, y’all!).  A moment later, the same greeter/server brought over our drinks.  She set them on the table, said “You can get your straws are over there,” and then walked away.  Weird, right?  She actually walked past the straws in order to bring us our drinks.  So, we got up and grabbed our straws, as well as our forks, plates, and napkins to prevent future trips.  Self-service is no problem with us, but her drink delivery was still off-putting.  Further, it seems like they should make their operations clear with new customers before you ask for a tip right off the bat.  It just feels a little presumptuous to the newcomers like ourselves.   

The garlic knots came, and were good enough.  These are really just miniature breadsticks covered with some melted provolone and served with a cup of marinara.  The marinara was not very exciting.  It is a thin and runny consistency, so it is probably best just to dip your knot right into the cup. If you just want a simple, bread-y appetizer, then these might be a good option for you.  They weren’t earth shattering or anything, but not everything needs to be.  We also will probably be subconsciously judging every garlicky bread appetizer by the standard set with the almighty dough logs from Rocafella’s.      

Then came the pizza.  The large pizza at Fratelli’s is HUGE.  We’ve been eating a lot of pizza lately, and have ordered a number of “larges” across town, but were still surprised by this one’s enormity.  In fact, when Courtney tried to take one leftover piece to work for lunch the next day, she had to cut it into four pieces just to fit in a container.  We both liked the look of the sausage that is used on the New Yorker.  It is not crumbled, but cut into thin, rectangular pieces from links of Italian sausage. Those thin slices sit on top of the cheese and curl up at the edges while the pizza cooks.  It looked delicious.  The green peppers looked impressive, too:  bright green, fresh, and cut in nice, big hunks.  Once this pizza was placed before us, we hungry girls needed to eat it immediately. 
This entire piece took about a half hour to eat (not exaggerating)
Up close and personal survey of the goods

We each took a giant slice for ourselves, once again, expecting greatness.  And maybe Fratelli’s is great to some people – we surely see the potential – but this particular visit and this particular pizza did not measure up for us.  Overall, there was something just a little odd about the flavor.  Each of us felt that the pizza had an overwhelmingly salty flavor to it, which we came to attribute to the Italian sausage.  It wasn’t terribly bad, but it was definitely noticeable and was an observation that stayed with us through each bite. 

Once home, Courtney tested her leftovers on former Special Guest Matt, who liked the pie, but also noted the salty flavor. Robyn revealed that her leftovers were actually more enjoyable the next day when warmed up in the toaster oven.  Sausage is salty, we know, but we were a little surprised by how much this one topping affected our Fratelli’s experience.  The crust was thin with a crisp bottom, and with the size of the slices, Fratelli’s surely does achieve the New York style pizza it claims to offer. This pizza was good, but it seems that our overall experience was compromised by other details. 

Really, the two most memorable things about Fratelli’s were the salty pizza and the medium-to-poor service.  In regards to the latter, we just really didn’t feel welcome in the restaurant.  From the moment we walked in, we felt pressured to hurry up and order, take a seat, eat, and leave.  We had to seek out our own menus, straws, and consider ourselves lucky to have received just one beverage refill.  Sometimes poor dining service can be blamed on an exceptionally busy afternoon or an understaffed crew.  Neither of these scapegoats were true.  Two other tables were occupied during our time there, and at a few points throughout our visit, we saw 3-4 employees huddled behind the counter.  Perhaps we were inconveniencing them, who knows.  What we do know is that, if we lived closer, we would probably give Fratelli’s another shot.  Via delivery.

Fratelli's New York Style Pizzeria on Urbanspoon


  1. My wife and I wanted to try Fratelli's the other day. It was about 1:30-2:00 P.M. It was our first trip there (and will be our last). We entered and the counterman couldn't decide where to put us. It was really a bit comical watching him try to decide. Finally, after an extended wait we were shown to our tables.

    We sat down and the waitress brought took our drink order. We waited, and waited. No drinks and no order. The noise from the speakers was almost painful. My wife and I were sitting rather close to each other and we had to yell to be heard. Finally after ten or fifteen minutes with no one to take our order we got up to leave. The counterman didn't seem surprised but did offer to take our order. We politely declined telling him why.

    Definitely an unpleasant experience.

    No top ten rating for us, that is for sure!

    We drove from Hamilton for this?

    Robert D. McGee

    1. Well, that is disappointing. That's a shame that you had an unpleasant experience, too. You can't help but wonder how long they can ride out the top 10 ranking with that kind of service. And with other places dishing out great pizza AND great service, we have no reason to return!

  2. Don't give it a try via delivery, a few years ago we ordered delivery and it arrived about 2 hours after they said it would and we called them several times asking where our pizza was (of course giving the estimated time a good 15-20 late minutes before calling the first time). Each time we called we would get a different person telling us our pizza was on the way, when it wasn't, until we had to forcibly demand to talk to the owner. He was a rude man instantly blaming us saying it's not his fault it's ours and we are wrong. That was the last time we called and when our pizza arrived we answered the door and told them to shove it as they try to demand money from us. The manager had personally drove the pizza too us but it makes no difference with such poor service. So don't get delivery I have no idea how this got in the top 10 pizza places in Cincinnati, chances are there isn't very many places to compete with so it's not really a feat.