Like a large majority (from what I read from their Yelp reviews) of customers who visit Panza, we were here because we didn’t want to stand in line at Giacomo’s (across the street) after work on a Friday night, and Panza accepted reservations. I made a reservation on Friday at 2-ish in the afternoon for dinner than night and was shocked that the only available time left for a party of two, was 9pm in the evening. After checking with J that a late dinner (we usually have dinner at around 7pm) was okay, I decided to go ahead and book a reservation, thinking to myself that if the place is so booked out, it must be good. I probably inherited that mentality from my mom, who would stand in line in lines without knowing what was going on, because lines means it had to be something good. When we got there at 8.45pm, there was a line out the door at Panza. Nothing new there, this is Boston’s North End we’re talking about. So we joined the line, after asking the person in front of us if this was the line for reservations. They didn’t know, but they also had reservations for 9pm. It looked like we were in the right place. A good 15 to 20 minutes went by without the maitre d’ or hostess coming out to ask if anyone had reservations, or how many were in a party etc. When the maitre d’ finally came at 9pm, we learned that they were still seating 8.30pm tables, and that there would be a wait for 9pm reservations. Fine. We waited another 15 minutes before we were seated. The people behind us who did not have reservations were also seated ahead of others who had reservations that were behind them in line. That made no sense to me, because what is the point of reserving tables if everyone still has to stand in line and wait to get seated and there is no priority for reservations? That said, we got seated, so the rest really didn’t matter. Note: Prices in the menu are higher than prices on their website. Panza Spare Ribs – $10: I was going to get a fried calamari appetizer, because I just love fried calamari, but because it was so late at night for us, I decided to go for what I felt was a less greasy option that would also cater to the husband (who then, did not yet eat fried calamari.) We picked the spare ribs because the table next to us seemed to have ordered them, and they looked good. When we got the ribs, we realized that they did not get the spare ribs like we thought they did, but that was no problem, because what we ordered looked somewhat appetizing as well. We got three spare ribs that ranged from meaty to bony. They were doused in an alcoholic barbecue sauce that was a little overpowering for my taste. The ribs themselves were not flavorful otherwise, but were sufficiently off-the-bone. It was okay. Nothing much to cry about, and I probably won’t order this again because the meat was flavorless without the sauce. It was also too heavy as a starter, IMHO. Linguine and Littleneck Clams in white sauce– $18: As a sucker for littleneck clams, I decided to go with this for my starter. It was $3 more expensive on the menu than on the website, which I was not very happy about. (As you guys can probably tell, we like to eat good food, but can only afford the inexpensive varieties of good food. A $3 difference on one food item, or $2 or $1 difference does add up quickly.) Also, ‘white sauce’ is a wrong description when what it really is is ‘scampi sauce’. When the plate arrived, I was very excited. I saw clams! However, my first bite was very disappointing. It was bland and tasteless! I did not want to disappoint J, because he seemed to be enjoying his food, and this was our one fancy (in our books) date night in forever. The server came with a bowl of parmesan cheese and I happily dumped more than 3/4 of the bow of cheese into my linguine. That helped with the blandness, so it was fine. Without the cheese though, it would have been awful. As you can see on the plate, there were 6 littlenecks on the shell. There were maybe a half dozen more littlenecks in there without the shell, but these without-shell littlenecks were much smaller, and were significantly less juicy than the ones on the shell. Maybe they were frozen before? Who knows. I had no idea what to expect, so this was fine for a night. The next evening, we went to have dinner at Giacomo’s and realized that this meal was really poor quality in comparison. Thank goodness we came to Panza before Giacomo’s! Veal Saltimbocca – $19: This was J’s meal. When it arrived, I was shocked at how little there was on the plate. Just two super super thin half slices of veal on the plate! I was so worried that he would still be hungry after this. There was also a lot of grilled veggies, so that at least was decent. In the description, there was supposed to be proscuitto, but we did not see or taste any on the plate. The sage sauce was quite sour, and made the vinegar brushed grilled veggies even more sour. I did not know this before, but J also tried to make it seem like he enjoyed his food. He thought I was, and didn’t want to ruin the moment either. Oh what a sweet husband! It was not until we left the restaurant and finally discussed the meal that we learned about how disappointed we both were with the meal. Linguine in Red Sauce (comes with the Veal Saltimbocca): J said that it tasted like boxed ravioli in a red sauce that was worse than our usual red sauce. Our usual red sauce being the Francesco Rinaldi (tomato, garlic and onion) that we sometimes find for $1 in our grocery store. That was how unamazing it was. On the whole, I would never visit Panza again. The experiences of the wait (just having to wait 20 minutes with a reservation, plus not how confusing the wait was), the bland and normal food, the raised prices that were different from the website’s was not worth spending a Friday night on. That said, our waiter was very friendly, so we’ll give him that. I felt very bad that I had suggested this place for dinner. 😦
Panza Address: 326 Hanover Street Boston, MA 02113 Telephone: (617) 557-9248 Hours: M-Sa | 11.30am – 3pm, 5pm – 10pm Su | 11.30am – 3pm, 5 – 9.30pm Price Range: $$$ ($20 to $30 per person) Overall: Won’t be back!