Bottega Giuliana is not a restaurant — it’s a shoe store. If you want to find Back Room @ Bottega, the restaurant that opened in late June, you might well have to sneak through the alley between Zinc and Ann Taylor to get there.
Owner Carla Maravelle, the daughter of Bottega Giuliana store owner Giuliana Maravelle, said she created the restaurant/bar/lounge near — but definitely not on — Chapel Street to fill a void she saw in New Haven’s night scene.
Apparently, the void she saw in New Haven was New York. Back Room looks like someone dropped a block of Manhattan’s Bleecker Street behind Blockbuster — it’s eccentric and eclectic, pink and purple, good and bad.
Back Room @ Bottega is a two-story affair. On the first floor is the bar — the place to chill, hang and imbibe some serious alcohol. On the second floor is another smaller bar and a sit-down restaurant. Finding yourself seated with the older second-floor crowd, you might just get up and go downstairs. But if you don’t, you’re in for an adventure.
The hipper-than-thou atmosphere hovers somewhere between faux chic and makes-me-sick. The white lights create an elegant, European atmosphere — which the red neon lamps cheapen. More importantly, the clunky lamps might just be R2-D2’s abandoned cousins. The junk pieces should be airmailed back to George Lucas, pronto.
Out on the balcony, where you might be seated by the waiters, who are all in basic black and look like actors in a performance art piece (i.e., too cheap for real costumes), a clear plastic tarp hangs over the railings, presumably to keep your drunken date from taking a dive onto the pavement. But if you happen to be clumsy and drop your knife, you can easily kick it off the balcony. This is not something you should do. It just might be something one would do if one were an accident-prone reporter.
Underneath the cheap, green, unlit, there-must-be-another-word-for-them –candelabra-things are dime-sized tables so low you’ll have to stoop to drink your Chianti. The tables look and feel like they’ve been covered in wax paper. This may or may not be cool, depending on how you feel about wax paper.
Overall, though, the atmosphere is tolerable for even the most conservative tastes. The food is something else.
Pricewise, you could pay anywhere from $6 to $15 for your main course. Don’t think you can split this. Unless you have a petite appetite or order the Pizetta Rustica, the meal portions simply aren’t large enough to split. The desserts, all $5 or $7, are also small. Alcohol ranges from $6 for a glass of port to $399 for a bottle of ’95 Cristal Rose, and they certainly aren’t stingy in the amounts they pour. Both the meals and desserts are gorgeously presented, but eating it is a whole different story.
Be warned. They claim the timballo is ravioli. It isn’t. With a consistency similar to salsa, the timballo has few noodles and less ricotta. This I find remarkable, since I can never think of a good reason not to use more ricotta. If you don’t agree, you have to be non-Italian and without a tongue.
The pizetta, however, wasn’t bad. Sweet, ripe tomato chunks replace the typical pizza tomato sauce and contrast nicely with the crunchy crust. Unfortunately, the flavorful mozzarella tasted more like goat cheese, and I found a mysterious white chunk of something in my pizetta that definitely didn’t belong there. If that grosses you out — well, me, too.
The dessert, on the other hand, is worth the money. Splurge on the Chocolate Profiteroles or, if your sweet tooth knows no limit, the ultra-sugary Semifreddo Torroncino.
So if you’re dying to get away from New Haven but can’t, Back Room is a good-as-Gotham substitute. While it may not be your cup of tea, it just might be your glass of Courvoisier.