Nizza La Bella (specifically) and the cost of eating out / restaurants surviving (generally)

We recently visited Nizza la Bella for the first time in quite some time. It was one of our semi-regular favorites, and now we don’t know when we’ll be returning.

One green salad (basically, the green mix you see everywhere, with some vinaigrette - an insult at $9)
One burger/fries (done per request to medium rare, but not juicy at all somehow, and not nearly the satisfying feeling of before).
One pizza (crust on the bottom seemed proper but the crust just “wasn’t the same.”)
One bottle of wine (I believe the cheapest red on the menu) The wine was $34 and was a retail of $8 or so.
$91, before the tip.
Service was scattered, although server was nice. We didn’t recognize a single employee from times past. When I paid, we looked at each other and said “this dinner was a hundred and something with a tip? It wasn’t worth it.”

Place was packed, which I was glad to see. We also have been discussing if pricing like this is the “new normal” which if the food is great, is fine. Actually, the pizza and burger prices, for what they are (and it wouldn’t have taken much for those two items to be at the top of their game, perhaps oven temp was off, etc.) were fine. But nearly 4x retail markup on wine, to be served in industrial glassware, $9 for that salad … and corkage is now $22, which just seemed really high for this place (it was always relatively high there, but $22 is a new high, and with industrial stemware, not right).

So on the one hand, we felt totally unsatisfied and felt no value for our meal. On the other hand, operating costs, including quality ingredients, for even moderate dining are through the roof. On the other other hand, our dinner was just ok, even at any price. On the other other other hand, it isn’t worth it for places to stay open if they can’t make a living. I’ve been expecting real restaurant inflation for some time, and it is finally happening.

For recent comparison’s sake, we finally tried Kronnerburger (and our burger dinner for 2 was pretty steep before we were done) but we felt good when we left, and will gladly return.

Thoughts specifically about the meal reviewed, and the other more general comments welcomed.

I’m usually there for Sunday brunch, and it’s been mostly fine. They’re never crowded, and you can spread out with your newspapers and listen to jazz while eating.

They’ve had the problem with dry hamburgers for some time now, perfectly pink inside but dry. The secret to the pizza is to ask for the crust to be well-cooked.

I think their head chef isn’t working every night now, and she rarely works the weekend brunches, so this could be a training or experience problem. I’d write a polite note to the owner.

And restaurant inflation has really hit big, with high ingredients costs and the new minimum wage policies. Bucci used to have their lunch pizzas priced at about half the dinner prices, but they’re the same now (I don’t know if they’ve closed down yet). Everything seems to be about 20% more expensive than just a couple of years ago.

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I’ve had a couple of pizzas in the past year and they were as good as ever, didn’t have to say anything. I never thought the burger was on the same level as other dishes and the basic green salad was always overpriced.

The steep markup and the high corkage are a response to the problem of a high percentage of customers grabbing a bottle of plonk at Bevmo, which is literally across the street. The chalkboard specials are sometimes decent values. It’s sad given how great (though expensive) the wine list used to be, I splurged on all too many bottles of Palette back in its heyday.

Expecting anything but sturdy diswasher-safe wine glasses at a place where you can get steak-frites or bouillabaisse for under $26 seems unrealistic. Restaurant prices have gone up a lot in the last five years, though not as much as the rents the staff have to pay.

(1) Good to hear that the pizza crust might have been a one-off. It wasn’t “send it back” off, but it was not the same. And we’ve never ordered it (nor had the need to order it) well cooked.
(2) Not happy to hear that the burger is something that is now probably “off the list.”
(3) The wine glass issue is in relation to the wine markups and corkage charge, not in relation to the food prices.
(4) The “Bevmo effect” is interesting, and I’m sure you’ve spoken to them about it, since you know it is an issue there. But then, it should go to steep corkage only.
(5) I’ll continue the other issues in the new thread.

we felt Nizza went downhill at least 5 years ago, and we used to be
regulars too. the last time we went back, maybe a year and a half ago (even though we already felt
it had lost its touch) we said never again. It’s a shame - such a great
space, love the cocktails, great frenchy concept… yeah, it’s a shame.

There was a menu makeover a few years ago (after the mortgage-bubble collapse) in which they lowered prices, switched some dishes (such as the steak) to cheaper ingredients, and switched the wine list’s focus from good French ti so-so Italian, but the pizzas, salads, and mac-n-cheese have seemed the same as ever to me.

we’ve disagreed on this before. we really felt the pizzas took a turn for the worse back then too. the mac and cheese was somewhat the same. it’s just not worth the $ to me to be mostly disappointed.

The pizzas have been consistently good for me, but it certainly sounds like they’re not as consistent as they used to be, so maybe I’ve been lucky.

Nizza La Bella is now closed. The owner retired this week.

I wish I’d known so I could have had one last pizza. Oh well.

It was pretty sudden. Last Sunday at brunch the waitress mentioned that they were discontinuing Saturday brunch, but a friend went by on Bastille Day for a drink and found it closed.

Sorry to hear. I wish Ev and El the best. Nice people

Liquor license transfer app is up in the space. Looks like one of the folks from the former Local123 is involved.

Berkeleyside reported last month that Frieda Hoffman and Daniel Polsby are the new owners but had no specific plans yet. Daniel was a regular at my restaurant.

Don’t know what happened, but the place is back on the market.

Still has all the furniture and even the liquor bottles. It looks untouched.

“New water heater, skylights and roof improvements in 2017.”

Seems like a great opportunity for the right person.

Construction going on, Liquor license transfer up.

Scott Eastman is a former Corso chef. I think Ariane Owens is his wife.

Looked like mostly painting when I drove by the other day. Maybe they’re getting near the end of remodeling.