Geneva is expensive. I am back in NYC and in severe culture shock that I can buy tons of things and pay one third of what I would for it in Geneva. So, when living in Geneva, I try to eat well but still be conscious of what I am spending. I started using something called the buy club which is basically like groupon. I get emails from the g-locals group I have signed up for which is great for listings and activities etc in Geneva. I saw a listing for Primo Caffe in Vandoeuvres, just a bit outside Geneva, a newly opened cafe (“the laid back sister of Cheval Blanc”). It’s Italian food, one of my faves and how wrong can you go with pizza and pasta?
Very, very, very dismally wrong. SO wrong that I am moved to actually blog about it.
Here is what the listing said:
Primo Caffe and Cheval Blanc are both owned and managed by the same team, they are located right next to each other (in Vandoeuvres village, 5 kilometeres from Geneva center), and they even share the same kitchen, so you can be sure that the food at Primo Caffe is Italian, authentic and superb.
With such a lovely write up, we were prepared for lovely food. We walked in and were asked if we wanted to sit upstairs even though the whole downstairs was empty. We said yes (OK, it was me who said yes to upstairs…I thought it might be nicer). It felt like a school room store room upstairs. Small space, which I don’t have issues with since I live in NYC part of the time and most of our spaces are small here…but we DO something with them…there was a table just by us with napkins just stacked on it. Like a storage facility. If you are going to seat guests in a space, at least make them feel like you care and make the space nice. No music was playing and when it did play, we could hear it from downstairs. Ambiance therefore gets a ZERO from us. You may ask: why didn’t you just go downstairs then, doofus? My defense: I was in shock. And you know what? It’s right on the main road (ok, a country road but still), and I didn’t want to sit and look at cars going by. I looked at a stack of napkins mocking me in the corner instead.
Moving on to service: It was…Swiss. That actually sums it up nicely. No points scored there but no surprise either. Note on the bread: it was fresh but not served with anything (we looked downstairs and they were served either butter or oil).
The menu: The website for the cafe is actually the menu. And it lies. My pasta (arrabiata) was 24 francs, not 19 as listed on their website. Also, the menu itself was something you find at a Chinese takeout place or more recently as I saw, something you see in Pakistan (no offense, Pakistan…your food is good, your presentation of menu is not). Crappy photos of food that might have been taken from a food mag rather than from actual plates of food but really, I don’t want colored pictures to show me my food. It just feels…amusement park-ish. I want to look at a professional menu where you tell me what I am eating. If you want to get fancy with it, tell me where your ingredients are from. Be a real eating establishment, not a cheap knock off (which by the way, is not cheap). Prices on the wine were astronomical but we still ordered a bottle of French wine for 50 CHF. Again, a ZERO on the menu and a definite zero on ranges of wine to choose from. We settled on some basic things to order: A pasta with creme a la maison, tagliatelle with arrabiata sauce and a mushroom pizza.
The Food: We traveled a bit to get to this place. It was reviewed well. I dragged my two companions with me. I wanted this to be good…even marginally good. I needed this to be good and I was going to suspend all belief and make it good. IT SUCKED! It sucked so bad that my sister didn’t even finish her food and she was starving. It sucked so bad that my belief, normally very strong and open when it comes to food, could not be suspended. I even said mmm at my first bite. And fell from a great dizzying height on the second bite. The pasta was cooked but tasted uncooked. It was really strange. I could taste flour but the texture let me know I wasn’t eating raw pasta. The whole bite in my mouth as a result was pasty pasta. GROSS. It was easily and by far the worst pasta I have ever eaten in my life. I have no idea if this was because we were “voucher” people (the deal wasn’t that great to make us suffer so) or what, but they must have a reject pasta section in the kitchen and either by mistake or for real, that’s what they fed us. No real chef would let something like that come out of their kitchen. My pasta sauce had some taste to it by virtue of being a spicy one but the creme de la maison was completely tasteless and my sister added salt and cheese and spicy oil to it, just so that she could eat something that night, but it was still inedible. The pizza was standard fare and for the amount we had to travel, and the indignity of being served nasty pasta, not worth it at all. Crust was burnt and we could have had better pizza in Geneva itself (for the same price).
The whole experience would have made me unbearably sad if not for my stalwart dinner companions who stuck it out with me and in that way, with all the moaning and grumbling and ultimately laughing about it, made it a memorable experience. I still wish the food had just been even a bit good to redeem something foodie out of it but alas, it holistically sucked with nothing at all that I can recommend about it.
Don’t eat there. Seriously, don’t do it. Coupon or no coupon. That kitchen has issues if you ask me.