Upper West Side: Earlier this month Missy Robbins and the A Voce team doubled the size of their New York empire by opening A Voce Columbus, the UWS spinoff of the Madison Square Park original. Housed in the former Cafe Gray space, the new restaurant has done away with the previous tenant's much-maligned, view-blocking open kitchen and, by comparison to the flagship branch, has rather appropriately Time Warnered up the interior. As far as food goes, it seems that there is plenty to be pleased with. Service and noise, however, are murkier matters.
The Mostly Good News: There's a fair bit of love for the restaurant on Yelp, where two users have already weighed in. Says one Joy C.: "We got the Cassoncini con Prosciutto di Parma and the Funghi al forno to start. The mushrooms were absolutely amazing, so flavorful and juicy...For the entrée, I got the fennel and chili marinated brick chicken and it was also very good, tender chicken with a nice crispy skin... I read on Tasting Table that Missy Robbins has five full time pasta makers here and you can definitely tell that the pasta was freshly made. My favorite was the orecchiette which had roasted pork jowl and soffrito - the sauce was perfectly porky and rich. We also had the polenta and the swiss chard as sides and the swiss chard in a creamy sauce was definitely the stand out." However, she does point out that "service was a little slow (it took 30 minutes for us just to order) and the waiter spilled my drink on my friend's jacket. I guess they still need to work out the kinks in the service department." [Yelp]
The Terrible News: Although NYJournal actually praises the service, he's got plenty of criticism to level at the restaurant: "But they didn’t fix the noise. If anything, it is worse. With nothing but hard surfaces everywhere, the room is an echo chamber. My hand was cupped to my ear all evening. Couples nearby were shouting at each other to be heard. Is this a restaurant or a NASCAR race? A Voce’s owners clearly aren’t sure...Missy Robbins’s food struck us as timid and uninteresting. Most of what we tried was flat, under-seasoned, and unmemorable. You’d be happy to drop in if it cost half as much. But I wouldn’t go out of my way for this food, even if the room were much more pleasant...We sampled only a fraction of the menu, but I won’t be dragged again into such an unpleasant space to try any more of it." He does "give full props to the bread service, though," which has to count for something, right?? [NYJournal]
The Solid News: More generally happy thoughts on Menupages, where the three entries to date have lots of praise for the food: "Appetizers were really good?We tried the Pancetta, Funghi al forno and Stracciatella all A+ The pastas, we pretty much tried them all, overall good. The only disappointment was the Spaghetti alla Chitarra? it just had too much butter." Another user is quick to point out that although "the meal was excellent - service not so much. Hopefully improves with a few more weeks of practice, but I wouldn't count on the sommelier's attitude improving (although his recommendation was wonderful)." [MP]
The Fantastic News: A whopping fifty reviews have graced the feedback section of OpenTable, where the restaurant has racked up impressive numbers and fawning reviews such as this one: "The pork belly with fresh figs was so delicious, each mouthful was tender and moist, the beef cappaccio was light and fragrant with fresh lime; we choose the pasta as main course: rich cheese ravioli with fresh mushroom - very full flavor and do not be deceived by the small portion, and the spagetti with crab was awesome. the donuts were a must - and they did not disappoint at all; the very light donut body had a liquer creme center and a generous scoop of chocolate sauce - went down very well with the coffee.definately will be back." [OpenTable]
The Bad News: Buried not so deep in the OpenTable lovefest are a few serious pans: "It's cold, noisy and the food was just OK, nothing inspiring. The pasta rags with heirloom tomatoes was delicious but the sweet breads were so heavily salted that it broke my heart, I love sweet breads. And they don't really care about tables for two as we were all shoved into one corner on top of each other. The scenic view is lovely but not enough to bring me back." Another user addresses the elephant in the room: "I have always loved the original A Voce restaurant, but thought that A Voce at Columbus was very disappointing. The food was good, but not great or innovative. It is very noisy. When the remodelling was done accoustics were not taken into consideration." [OpenTable]
— Gabe Ulla