Richard Godt, MD writes:

I read your review of Spaggi’s restaurant and cannot believe someone wrote such a nasty review of such a wonderful restaurant. You are either blind or vindictive. Starting out with “located in an unsavory strip mall” surely puts the reader on notice that your review will be negative. Firstly, who cares where a fine restaurant is located so long as it it a safe environment for you and your family? Secondly, the area in certainly NOT unsavory although I shall agree it is within a strip mall. Your criticize the decor as gaudy and museum like. Could not disagree more. The decor is lovely, inviting, and well done. Yes, come of the paintings have more ornate frames than I would use in my home, but they are lovely to gaze at while you are dining. I have never, ever noted any unusual dust. In fact, the restaurant is always impecable. The hostess (on occasion, Henry’s wife) always greets the guests at the door. The wait staff is always professional, knowlegable, and warm. My wife and I are treated as very welcome guests. In fact, I am considered a friend. My wife and I dine there almost weekly, my children and grandchildren have all been there several or more times.

Chef Henry is extremely personable, usually coming out from the kitchen to greet every table. He listens to his guests and gives them respect. He will make any dish you desire so long as he has the ingredients. He listens to your raves about his dishes and to any complaints you might have. He is never insulted or hurt if you did not like a particular dish, just wants to know how he could do better next time. His menu is varied so that each diner may have what he or she feels like eating. His wine list is quite extensive. His deserts are always good, although I often pass (to save on calories).

For you to suggest that people would be better served by eating at the Del Taco across the way shows the quality of your opinions. I would not eat at any Del Taco if it were free.

You did a disservice to Spaggi’s and you should make an effort to go there again and perhaps re-write your review.

Dr. Godt, allow me first to say thank you for taking the time to read my review. Furthermore, let me thank you for writing me with your thoughts. It is my – and probably most writers’ – greatest pleasure to know that something I wrote affected you. I hope you read more of my reviews and recommend my site to others, even if it’s simply to point out to others how wrong I am. 🙂

I appreciate you sharing your personal experience with me. It differs from mine and I should hope that you wouldn’t begrudge me my personal opinions based on my experience. Obviously, you regard Spaggi’s very personally. I’d accuse you of actually being the owner Chef Henry if it weren’t for the family members you CC’d on your email to me. Because of my impartial position, I feel I can give a more unbiased review of the restaurant.

Additionally, I have worked for several years in the serving industry from hot-footing it in turn and burn family chains to silver polishing at upper crusty joints. I have eaten at lowly all-night Mexican food stands at 2 a.m. and swapped stories with world-class chefs in Beverly Hills. In short, I have a fair dining sense that I am constantly honing by eating at as many places as I can. Even Del Taco.

If my comment about the unsavory strip mall is where readers are first tipped off that my review is negative, then either I’ve done a poor job as a writer or my readers aren’t very observant. My hope was that my first paragraph about Spaggi’s being a fine-dining facade would tip them off. Additionally, location is very important, both for the restaurant and for the reader/diner. A restaurant with a view of the ocean is decidedly different than a restaurant with a view of a Wal-Mart, for instance.

Reviewing a restaurant is not an exact science, however, I think it can be generally agreed that if a restaurant presents itself as a fine-dining establishment that it must be judged by a higher standard. It is not enough to simply be greeted warmly at the door – which I was not, by the way – as you can get that at any place you frequent. Instead, attention to detail, food, service, customer consideration and all the little things must be considered. For that reason, I stand by my review 100%. I would hate for someone who’s never experienced fine-dining to go to Spaggi’s, pay fine-dining prices and think they’ve received a fair shake. While I’d like to imagine that my experience is the exception and not the rule, I don’t have the luxury of dining there week after week to get an “average” of the experience. Moreover, regular customers will be less forgiving and won’t be back for a “second chance” nor should they be expected to. The hope is that my negative review will spur Spaggi’s to correct the points I criticized. That way customers who eat there can write me letters telling me how wrong I am. Better that than me writing a favorable review based on my hope of what the restaurant offers and have a customer dine there and receive the same sub-par experience I did. I’ll get the same letters telling me how wrong I am, but in this scenario I’ve wasted their money.

As for my Del Taco comment, I don’t know how to explain it without sounding condescending so I’ll just say that if you haven’t eaten there you don’t know what you’re missing. Their chili-cheddar fries are some of the best.

Thanks for reading. Please come by again.

René