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Portofinos in Quebec City - tourists stay away

Portofinos in Quebec City - tourists stay away

Oct 2nd, 2003, 11:53 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 21
Portofinos in Quebec City - tourists stay away

My husband and I recently returned from a short trip to lovely Quebec City. We loved this charming city. We decided to dine at Portofino's Italian restaurant after we read in a Quebec tourist guide in our hotel that it had won Best Italian Food award 7 years in a row. We were staying at the Chateau Frontenac and the concierge recommended making reservations for us. When we approached the restaurant, I thought I had made a good choice as it looked very busy (this was Sept. and QC was relatively quiet and a lot of other restaurants didn't look very busy, I didn't think we would need reservations). We were shown to our table immediately, asked if we wanted something to drink, and then we waited and waited and waited for service. The table next to us was empty when we arrived but people arrived, people ordered, people ate and we still had no waiter. I asked the waiter serving this other table if our table had no waiter and he said it was the waiter who was busy socializing at the table behind ours. It appeared that a "regular" and "friend" of the restaurant was sitting next to us - at times there would be 2-3 waiters standing around his table just chit-chatting away. Finally, another waiter (not the one assigned to our table, he was still busy chit-chatting) came to our table (my husband and I were about to leave). I asked him how the "manicotti" was prepared, he replied "You never had manicotti before?" Real class act! We ordered our food and drink. Our food arrived (which was OK, nothing special) and throughout the whole meal, not once did our waiter come by to ask if we wanted more wine or beer or anything. He too joined the party going on at the next table. I realized the place was filled w/"locals" and the waiters were very friendly (lots of cheek kissing!) w/many of the patrons. I guess the problem w/me and my husband was that we were tourists and the waiters figured we probably won't be back. When our waiter brought us the dessert menu, I just responsed "Non, merci,nous sommes fini, le countant(sp?) svp." The bill was something like $49.69, we left a $50. Walking out of the restaurant, my husband stopped and spoke to the maitre d' and asked if our waiter was an owner in the restaurant (he obviously was acting like an owner). Naturally, the maitre d'was surprised by the comment and my husband explained the awful service we received and to tell the waiter that he should ask his "friend" at the next table for his tip. Never, ever have we experienced such disrespectful service - it really ruined our evening in Quebec City, we walked back to the Chateau in silence because we were trying very hard to get over our anger, thankfully, one look at the Chateau lite up at night, helped a lot in getting over our awful dining experience.I wanted to tell the concierge at the Chateau about our experience, just in case someone else asked her about the place, but she was very busy helping out people so I decided not to bother her. Thankfully, this was the only "rotten" experience we had in Quebec City. Other waiters, waitresses, store clerks, etc., were all very friendly and attentive but one bad apple can really sour a lovely vacation. We went to Montreal later and told friends there of our experience at Portofinos. They were not surprised and told us that this is often the case w/restaurants in QC where they do good business w/locals - they don't need tourists! There are so many restaurants in Quebec City and I am sure the food is terrific almost every where that us tourists do not need to patronize a place like Portofinos which obviously does not need or want tourists (there were a couple American business men at the bar, having a good time, but it was obvious they were regulars by the way they were joking w/the bartender). We would gladly go back to QC but will steer far way from Portofinos.
lmyers is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2003, 01:48 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,044
Sorry to hear about your experience. QC is full of great restaurants. You are quite right when you say that visitors need not patron an establishment like this when there are so many other terrific options.

LordBalfor is offline  
Oct 5th, 2003, 05:34 PM
Join Date: Sep 2003
Posts: 9
I'm sorry you had a bad experience but I am thankful you were able to post and report it through fodors. We will be in Quebec City soon and my husband wants to stay in Chateau Frontenac as well. Will heed your advice, Portofino blacklisted then ... tsk tsk tsk ...
UditGa2001 is offline  
Oct 5th, 2003, 06:58 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 2,881
I am curious why you didn't complain to the maitre'd DURING your meal instead of waiting until you walking out? It seems ashame to suffer in silence when you could have talked to a manager or just walked out.
MikeT is offline  
Oct 6th, 2003, 12:13 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 21
Hi Mike, we were silly not to complain to the maitre 'd. My husband wanted to leave but I hate to make "waves" and did not want to go looking for another restaurant (I was starving!). I was surprised when we walked out of the restaurant and my husband was not behind me - that's because he did stop to complain. I was hoping the food would have been worth the trouble, but no food is worth this kind of service. Live and learn, we certainly won't put up with this kind of service ever again. To "UditGa" enjoy your stay at Chateau Frontenac. We booked a regular Fairmont room, got a very good rate through destina.ca (someone else recommended them on these posts) and were expecting a room the size of a broom closet but when we checked in we asked if we could get a king bed, which we did and the room was much, much bigger than we expected (w/a large bathroom. We didn't care so much for the colors (pea green and burgundy) but it was a very nice room. Unfortunately, there were a lot of meetings going on so we did not get a chance to see the ball room but we did take the hotel tour ($7/person even if you are a guest) but our tour guide was very intersting (and amusing) and we got to see a few more rooms but still not the one where meetings were going on. You'll have a lovely time.
lmyers is offline  
Oct 16th, 2003, 11:49 PM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 7
You know I am a regular in the Old City. I live in Ste-Foy and have dined at Portofino many a time. The service seemed to have been given to you is definately not something the owners would be proud of, so I am typing out this page and giving it to Francois myself. I don't think this is the norm. I think you would agree with me that a bad senario like that could happen anywhere in the tourist world. Unfortunately, one bad waiter makes a big ripple in the pond. I have a feeling that the person in question was a local and maybe a regular. It is important to take care of those that treat you well all year around but not at the expense of tourists.
Email me if you would like to know my out of the tourist path choices for dining in Quebec.

SamChamplain is offline  
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