So long Stugazzi’s Restaurant


The last thing I ever want is for a local, small business in my town to fail.  But just because a business opens, doesn’t mean it will be successful, or deserve to succeed.  It is especially difficult for a restaurant.  One in four restaurants fail (or change ownership) in the first year.

Maine is place where even international chain restaurants like “Chili’s” can’t even stay open,  so a small, private restaurant has to have a lot of luck and something very special to offer the public if it’s ever going to make it.

I wrote a few reviews of Stugazzi’s Restaurant in Springvale, Maine.  I was harsh, and it spurned some lively debate.  That’s a nice word for “arguing”.  My reviews had hit a nerve.  I wasn’t being snarky.  I was being honest.  It it was awesome, I would have said so.

By all accounts, even by those who stood up for this restaurant, if anyone took an honest look at this restaurant, had to admit it was below average.   The truth hurts, I know.  Maybe one or two of their food items were good, but overall, a restaurant can’t call itself an “authentic” Italian restaurant and serve “chicken fingers”.  I don’t care if some people think that restaurants need to cater to the kids; Italian mothers in  “authentic” Italian kitchens in the Tuscan countryside don’t feed their kids chicken finger.  If you want to serve kids a crunchy, chicken appetizer, cut up an “authentic” chicken cutlet, pounded thinly, pan-fried in a very light and delicious coating, quick-cooked to perfection.  Top it with fresh buffalo mozzarella and a side of home-made marinara sauce, and you are good to go – without compromising your “authentic” principles.  It’s not more expensive for the chef to cook the real version than the insipid American concoction known  (which by the way started in American-Chinese restaurants) unless that restaurant is buying them frozen from a restaurant bulk frozen food supply house, in which case you’ve lost your way on the “authentic” road anyway so you should pack it in.

The food itself wasn’t the real problem with Stugazzi’s, it was the design of the customer experience.  Nothing worked.  From confusing self-seating, to “where the hell do I park”, to an uncomfortable entrance where the patrons landed right at the bar, to the rude staff, to the restaurant’s inability to properly pack take-out food —  the gaping holes in service were endless.  This isn’t rocket science.  And if there is one thing that Sanford/Springvale needs is more quality restaurant choices.  For god’s sake, the hot dog truck on Main Street is one of the better establishments.

It’s not my job to tell a restaurant owner how to run his restaurant.  But if the owners and their friends had read the clues (which could hardly be called clues since they were not inconspicuous in my writing; they were direct and on point) instead of firing off nasty emails and comments about my comments, then maybe their authentic Italian restaurant would still be open – and successful.  That would have been awesome!

I truly am sorry that a local business failed.  I really am.  It’s the last thing our little town needs. But I’m not sad to see a low-quality restaurant with poor service close up shop;  in my neighborhood or anywhere else.

Now, if the owners would like to re-open, with a new attitude, and a new outlook on how to serve quality food to the public, in a unique, satisfying, affordable, and authentic way, I’d be happy to help wherever I can.

The biggest problem with Stugazzi’s is that it appeared as if the owners never walked into their own establishment as a customer (incognito, or send in a mole with a hidden camera), as if they never had seen the place before, and experienced it from the customer’s perspective.  They needed to do that objectively.  Call in an order for pickup. Sit and order food, on several occasions on several different days and times.  Eat at the bar, and eat in the dining room.  Then they would have seen what most of us saw.  A successful restaurant is about its customers, not its owner’s ego.

I do wish the owners well, and I hope, maybe, they learned something that can take them on to their next endeavor, which will be successful.

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Third and final visit to Stugazzi’s – for good


I did as I promised.  I at inside the restaurant.  No takeout this time and ergo no excuses.

The experience was, unfortunately, the same or worse than expected.  Starting from walking in the joint and seeing the “Please wait to be seated” sign.  We waited for a few seconds and the waitress said “Are you here for lunch, just sit anywhere”.  Why did I wait to be seated only to be told “sit anywhere”.

I took my  mother out for her birthday.  When we walked into the dining room there was one very large table of about 12 to 14 people.  And that was it.  Because it was about 140 degrees in the dining room, my mother and I decided to sit by the front door, which was open and offered the only respite from the heat.  This door was not supposed to be an entrance, more like a fire door.  As a result of that door being opened, they had to put a big hand-made sign at the front of the restaurant, in front of that door, that said “Use other door”.  It was a very nice sign, hand-written on scrap paper.

It was so stifling that we decided to leave.  When the waitress came over with the menu we told her that we were going to leave because of the heat.  We said it nicely.  We realized it was a warm day.  The waitress however couldn’t hear what we were saying because motorcycles without mufflers and cars that hadn’t had a tune up since the late 70’s were speeding by right outside this door we were near.  She asked us if we wanted to relocate to the table in the back away from the door; and right next to the boisterous table of 14.  We passed on that.

It turned out OK.  She closed the door and turned the air conditioning on.  We decided to stay and make the best of it.  I didn’t say a word to my mother regarding my reviews of  Stugazzis and I really wanted to finish up the 3 part series by eating inside the restaurant as I promised I would.

It is far too exhausting at this point to write yet another review about the lackluster food at Stugazzis.  Suffice it to say my mother’s veggie pizza was soggy, undercooked on the bottom, but had scorched veggies on the top.  My chicken parmesan was obviously re-heated from something they made the night before.  The chicken’s coating wouldn’t adhere to the meat and the whole dish had no flavor.

At the end of the meal when the waitress asked us if we wanted to take the leftovers home, we politely said no.

I’m a little sick of getting comments about how wonderful Stugazzis is.  After 3 attempts, there is no way you can convince me that the food there is good.  It seems to me that if a restaurant gives out huge portions, regardless of how bad the quality of those portions is, Americans are happy.  Over-eating, glutinous, fat American sloths are happier than a pig in shit as long as they have enough food in a doggie bag to eat for 2 more days.  You know who you are and you disgust me.

Stugazzis is not a restaurant, it’s a place where you can stuff you face on what can only qualify as food by the FDA, but not by me.  I’ve eaten there enough now that I know the deal.  So don’t bother commenting on this post.  Case is closed.

It should be legal to shoot at people driving loud motorcycles


This is mostly directed at those who choose to drive Harleys, and especially to those who modify their bikes to make them louder, Harley or not.  If these people don’t care about my health and well-being, not to mention my right to live in peace and quiet, then why should I care about theirs.  If they are intentionally going to ride a loud motorcycle, knowing full well that they are pissing people off with the noise, and truly don’t give a shit, then why can’t I take a BB Gun or a 12-Gage shotgun and take target practice.  I don’t want them to die from the gunshot any more than they want me to die from the noise.  But they don’t care if they disrupt my day, or night, so why am I not allowed to disrupt theirs.

I live in Maine.  I don’t really understand the motorcycle culture here but it’s something I never experienced until I moved here.  Recently I wrote a letter to my State Senator and State Representative because I heard that some group was trying to get a law passed to crack down on loud motorcycles.  My story, and my letter, goes as follows:

I live in Springvale, Maine in an apartment, set back from the road a bit, but in the center of town.

 As a result of excessive motorcycle noise, I literally cannot live my life in my home with my windows open.

 It’s winter now, so not much of an issue.  But as soon as the weather turns warmer just a bit, or even if we have one warm winter day, the motorcycles appear like moths to a flame.  By April and right through to November, I cannot open the windows in my home.  No fresh air, no sleeping with a cool breeze coming in the windows, it is literally impossible.

 Why?  Loud motorcycles.  Not only do they get some thrill out of making their motorcycles as loud as possible, the will sit at the traffic light and rev their already loud engines.  When they take off, it’s as if a drill-bit is being jammed into my temple.   I cannot fall asleep, nor stay asleep during the night with my windows open and god forbid if I want to take a nap on a Saturday afternoon with the window open.

It is absolutely ridiculous, uncalled for, and as far as I am concerned, it is selfish on the part of the motorcycle owner, not to mention criminal in how they think they own the road. 

 Along with the noise is the attitude.  Why are motorcyclists allowed to travel in packs of sometimes hundreds?  There was one occasion last summer where I was trying to pull out of a side street onto Pleasant Street in Springvale.  I was trying to get to the doctor as I was dealing with an urgent medical issue.  I sat there as hundreds of motorcycles went by, one after the other, mile after mile, for 32 minutes.  Thirty-two minutes.  That is how long I waited trying to pull out on to the main road so I could get to an urgent doctor visit.  I tried inching my way out hoping somebody would have the smarts to know to let me out.  But no.  Not one single cyclist had the foresight to say “hey other people might need to get somewhere”.   I do not care if it was a joyride or a charity ride.  Groups of motorcycles do not need to travel in unending packs of obnoxious noise and a sense of entitlement.

 But my biggest issue is the noise.  Can they not tell how loud the bike is?  Are they deaf from the noise or do they just not care?  I see how they behave, revving up their engines at traffic lights.  If I’m next to one at a light, I have to close the windows in my car because I can’t hear the radio.  Or my passenger.  That’s just plain wrong.

I will do ANYTHING to help your cause.  I will call whomever you need me to call.  I will write to whomever you need me to write.  I will go to the State House and stand in front of a committee.  You just let me know.

 I have a blog that I can put to work on this topic.  And I will contact media outlets if need be.

 I was so shocked, and excited, that somebody is finally doing something about this.  I had no idea your organization even existed until I saw a news piece on WMTW and then did some Internet searches based on that. 

 Please sign me up to help.

Obviously, I am not serious about taking pot shots at bikers.  I don’t believe in violence.  Especially violence to fight stupidity.  However, there are many days that I think about it when a Harley goes SCREAMING by my home.  Being exposed to loud noises has been proven to cause sleep deprivation, chronic fatigue, anxiety, hostility, depression and hypertension.  At a recent doctor visit for a regular checkup, the thing withwhich my doctor was most concerned was my lack of sleep.

I feel like the old guy in the neighborhood who says “you kids get off my lawn” (said in an old man voice, of course) .  I am only in my early forties but have been bothered by loud noises like this for most of my life.  I hate loud TV’s and loud radios, too.  I honesty wouldn’t care so much about this if the root cause was not based in the bike owner’s sense of entitlement.  The U.S. Constitution says we have a right to live our lives freely, but it can’t be at the expense of other citizens right to the same.

If you would like to support MECALM , and would like to support the few Maine Legislators that are backing this bill (LD-1675), or if you simply would like more information, please go to www.mecalm.org

Back to Stugazzi’s, Restaurant Review Part 2


After my first review of Stugazzi’s Italian AMERICAN restaurant, I received a lot of disagreeable comments.   I always try to be fair and don’t have any reservations about admitting I’m wrong.  So I decided to give Stugazzi’s another try.

I know that in order to have credibility, I would have to order a small variety of dishes and on different nights.  In the meantime I asked one of the cashiers at Rite-Aid (across the street from Stugazzi’s) if she had ever been to Stugazzi’s.  She said yes, and I asked what she had and was it good.  She raved about one dish; it was pasta with chicken and broccoli in what she called an alfredo sauce.  So I gave it a shot.  The next evening after work, I called in a to-go order.  I order the chicken and broccoli over linguini.  I also ordered a caesar salad.  When I arrived to pick it up I noticed they had renovated a bit from the last time I was there.  What didn’t change was the confusion.  Not only I, but other customers who walked in, had no idea where to go, where to stand, do we seat ourselves, where do I go to pick up my take out.  The only thing that changed is that they had added a big wooden bar on the left side of “the room”.  I still don’t know if you are supposed to seat yourself or wait for the waitress.  I remember people asking what they should do but I was more concerned about my order and since I wasn’t eating in, I didn’t care.

Back to the food.  After asking what I had to do to pick up my take out order, I walked over to the “window”.  Both the pasta dish and the caesar salad came in a typical supermarket, salad bar, aluminum, round thing with a see-through plastic cover.  In addition, each aluminum “bowl” was covered in layers of plastic wrap.  I knew at that moment the packaging would come back to haunt me but wasn’t sure how or why, yet.   The salad (cold) was placed on top of the pasta dish (hot).  So the heat from the pasta dish wilted the caesar salad.  Anyone in the food industry with any experience at all knows that you put cold on the bottom, then a piece of cardboard, then the hot stuff on top.  When you do it the other way, heat rises and so does the heat’s wilting ability. DUH!

Because I live close by I just paid and took my stuff and went home quickly.  I tried hard to salvage the salad but to no avail.  I threw it in the fridge as soon as I got home but in checking it later, the dry, wilted, dressing-less salad could not be salvaged.  That’s $7.00 I’ll never get back.

Next, I unwrapped the pasta dish as if it were a mummy at an archeological dig.  Luckily, the “sauce” was not really alfredo.  It was more like a light butter sauce with some lemon, maybe white wine, and garlic.  I started to have renewed faith that maybe Stugazzi’s would surprise me.  Barring the caesar salad incident, and the fact that my first visit ever was opening week, this pasta dish was pretty good.  I enjoyed it.  It’s not something I would crave but I enjoyed it enough for a last-minute meal decision on the way home from work.  The salad gave its life for me that night.  I buried it in my garbage can.

So I had one really bad experience a few months ago, followed by one OK experience on Wednesday, earlier this week.  I was thinking about this blog and the comments and I really wanted to have a fantastic experience. 

So yesterday, on Friday night, just two days after my pasta experience, I tried again. 

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