Throughout my culinary adventures I’ve been fortunate to dine at some pretty fantastic places. Some were more expensive than others, some were cute little hole in the walls where the cheap price was almost sinful, and some maybe had just average food but the atmosphere and service was so outstanding that you find yourself coming back again and again.
And then there’s Ecco. Or as I like to call it, Ecco e Brutto (here is bad in Italian). But let’s back up to the beginning…
Orange Coast Magazine recently did a review on the best places to get pizza in the OC, with Ecco being one of them. Ecco is one of the many popular in the SoBeCa area of Costa Mesa, and with a mention in Orange Coast magazine I figured it must be something to write home about. So when my friend decided she would like to dine there for her birthday, the Englishman and I jumped at the chance to try their pizza, namely their crown jewel: the Ecco Pizza made with squash blossoms and burrata.
Il Cattivo Inizio
We made reservations for a Saturday evening, and when we arrived we were quickly informed that the restaurant was “really busy” and we would have to wait 10-15 minutes for our table. It was of no concern to us as we perused the pizza menu eagerly and took in the vibe of the restaurant.
Once we were seated, my friend and I both ordered cocktails and the Englishman opted for a traditional Italian soda. Since Ecco is a bit on the pricey side, we all decided jut to stick to the pizzas and share amongst the table. My friend opted for the Ecco Pizza (which got the write up in Orange Coast Magazine), I went with the Mushroom and Truffle Oil, and the Englishman decided on a Sausage one. Some lackluster bread was brought to the table along with our cocktails and we waited. And waited. Finally after nearly 45 minutes of waiting (and being ignored), I managed to get our waitress’ attention.
I asked our waitress if she knew what the hold up was, considering we’d been waiting a long time and she basically snapped in my face that they were very busy. Granted, the restaurant was quite busy, but other tables around us were getting food at a decent-ish pace. After another 10 minutes or so of waiting the Mushroom and Sausage pizzas arrived. But no famous Ecco pizza. Another 5 minutes passed and the famous Ecco pizza appeared. And oh what a sad state it was. Not only were there NO squash blossoms, the dough was undercooked, the cheese and sauce were dripping all over the place, and some raw squash and zucchini were scattered across the top. There was also some raw zucchini and squash on top. What happened to the beautiful pizza I saw in Orange Coast magazine? Why was this delivered to us in such a sorry state?
Feeling bad because it was my friend’s birthday and she got the short end of the stick when it came to the pizza, I explained to the manager that we not only waited a long time for our food, but we had less than great service and were now served a pizza undercooked sans the famous squash blossoms! He brought our waitress over and when my friend asked her about the squash blossoms on the pizza, she rudely told her that the squash was there and didn’t understand what the problem was. She also told my friend that Ecco’s pizzas were served “al dente”, hence the vegetables should be raw. If anyone has ever had a pizza served to them al dente, please let me know.
Then the manager sauntered over and waxed poetic about how they had a big lunch service and they ran out of pizza dough hence our long wait for our food (which justifies being served undercooked pizza?) and offered to pay for our pizzas and throw in a free dessert, because hey, it was no skin off his back. My friend picked out her birthday dessert, an Amaretti cake and the sad-looking pizza was whisked away.
After yet another round of fun waiting (I’m convinced the waitress just wanted to get rid of us at this point), we were kindly told that sorry, we gave your birthday cake to someone else and could you please order something else off the menu? Italian Doughnuts it was. The fried balls of dough were brought out with melted vanilla ice cream and after a quick blow of a candle we took a few forkfuls, paid for our drinks, and hightailed it out of there. What a disappointing evening.
Normally I don’t write about sub-par restaurant experiences, but this one was just so beyond bad that I had to share. Everything – from the poor service, attitude from the staff, lackluster food and the fact that it was EXTREMELY overpriced left a bad taste in my mouth. My friend and I both worked restaurant jobs in the past and I can totally understand how a restaurant can be understaffed, busy with large parties, etc. but it just doesn’t excuse the bad attitude. I don’t know if this was a bad night or if the other reviews that I read had amazing experiences, but I do know that this place does NOT have the best pizza in Orange County and I will not be returning back.
Guess I’ll never know what those “famous” Squash Blossoms taste like…