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Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Table for How Many? at Sugo's Spaghetteria

Posted By on Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 2:10 PM

Stefani Pollack is the author of the food blogs Cupcake Project and Food Interviews. She is also a member of the St. Louis Dinner Club. She blogs about her large-group dining experiences twice a month for Gut Check.

Sugo's Spaghetteria

10419 Clayton Road, Frontenac

I kept expecting things to go wrong. I know -- I should follow the mantra of innocent until proven guilty, but with a recent rash of restaurants having trouble serving our large group, I was prepared for the worst. It wasn't just me. One of our Dinner Club regulars asked how many people were coming (sixteen) and decided to opt out, fearing that it would take too long.

Sugo's service was flawless.

Below, you'll find the items that had me squirming in my spaghetti and how Sugo's put me at ease:

Cause for Concern: Sugo's Doesn't Take Reservations

Many restaurants will amend a no-reservations policy when they hear that a large party is coming. Sugo's wouldn't budge. They don't take reservations -- period. I even tried calling ahead one hour before our group was set to arrive and was told that they wouldn't get the table ready until somebody showed up.

My husband and I made a point of getting to the restaurant thirty minutes early, and they happily pushed tables together in a side room for us. We had the room all to ourselves, and we were even able to have the server adjust the lighting to accommodate some members' desire for a brighter atmosphere.

Cause for Concern: Water was Served in Wine Bottles

The last time we dined somewhere with water in wine bottles, we were always thirsty. We had to consistently track down our server to replenish our water. This time, the wine bottles were transparent so the server could easily see when they were empty. Bottles disappeared and reappeared throughout the whole evening without us ever once having to ask.

Cause for Concern: No Separate Checks

Our server told us right away that separate checks wouldn't be possible, but then when we questioned it, he backed down and said he could write a separate check for each person (not small groups or couples).

This worked perfectly, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that even after saying that, my meal appeared on a joint check with my husband's food!

Cause for Concern: Our Appetizer was Served Before Any Other Food

The eggplant parmigiano appetizer that my husband ordered was brought to the table prior to any other food. Before I had even stuck my fork in it, all of the other appetizers were on the table. Everyone's apps were served at the same time, everyone's salads were served at the same time, and all of the entrees were served at the same time. This might seem like nothing to people used to dining in small groups. But for our large Dinner Club, this was very rare indeed! I wanted to give our server a standing ovation.

A Note on the Food

A place can have good speed and service, but that doesn't always guarantee that you will want to take your group there. (I'm not rushing to Mickey D's because they serve their food quickly.) Sugo's seems to achieve its speed by keeping things simple. They have a rather small menu consisting mostly of pizzas and pastas, and as our server pointed out, they only use three different types of pasta: spaghetti, linguini, and lasagna noodles. No one in our group seemed wowed by Sugo's food, but no one was really disappointed, either.

Don't let Sugo's Frontenac location scare you into thinking that the prices will be outrageous. Our server shared that Sugo's takes pride in keeping its portions huge and its prices low. Two people could easily stuff themselves off of one piece of $10 lasagna.

If you are looking for some place cheap with decent food to bring the gang, this may be your spot. As one Dinner Cub member put it, "Why can't we come here every time?"

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