I could start by saying that short of a complete overhaul of its kitchen staff, ingredients and cooking practices, Braccia Pizzeria & Ristorante should close immediately and let a more worthy restaurant open in its place. But that would sound unreservedly harsh, so I'll just say this: You're free to take that culinary death wish of yours and go try Braccia for yourself. Naturally, I'd highly advise against such a reckless act of gastronomic masochism, but if the notion is one being taken into serious consideration, then I sincerely hope the ensuing words will help sway your decision. So, with apologies to the ink, paper and online real estate without which this review wouldn't exist, here goes.
Braccia isn't hard to find – just look for the server standing outside coyly doing his or her best to lure patrons into this (admittedly inviting) sanctuary of second-rate fare. It once housed the much better Café 118°, but now pizza and pasta with Brazilian leanings is the cuisine du jour. That's not necessarily a bad thing. But when the carpaccio ($13.50) is copiously drizzled with a honey-mustard "caper sauce," and the accompanying mixed greens smell and taste like fish – that is a bad thing.
Perhaps the fishy essence came from the plate's close proximity to the fish en croûte ($26.90), a pricey piece of chestnut-crusted cod nuzzled up next to a mound of risotto. Now, the flesh of cod is typically white, with a texture that's firm yet flaky. What we got instead was a fibrous lump of stringy pink flesh, which, on digging through my memory banks, wound up being the worst piece of fish I've ever had the displeasure of bringing to my mouth. Out of curiosity, I asked where they sourced their cod, expecting "North Atlantic" or "Pacific" to be the response. Instead, the server busts out, "It's from Sysco." OK, then. The servers, bless their hearts, really do their best, but it's a losing battle given what they have to work with.
On to the pasta. The fettucine puttanesca ($12.90) was the most digestible of the dishes we ordered, but any college stoner worth his weight in weed could do better. Pizzas drew a mixed reaction – some in my party didn't mind the crackly crust; I took more negatively to it. One thing we all agreed on: The overpriced pizzas, like chicken with catupiry ($16.50), looked just plain ugly. Shredded fowl with drizzles of soft Brazilian processed cheese don't make for a looker of a pie, and the fact that the flavors were so bland made it altogether a waste of time and effort. It's not like the calabresa ($13.90) with smoked sausage, olives, mozzarella and pomodoro was much better, but at least it wasn't any worse; the toppings just didn't look or taste fresh. There is a grace note: If you're repulsed at the thought of touching said toppings, plastic gloves – that's right, plastic gloves – are available at every table for diners to wear while eating. Hey, at least Braccia won't pose a threat to real pizzerias like Rome's Flavours across the street or Prato around the corner. They've got nothing to fear.
I could end by talking about goopy chocolate dessert pizza ($12.90) or ho-hum homemade churros with dulce de leche ($6.90), but I want to end in a more positive fashion by saying this: I will make a return trip to Braccia. No, not for the food – don't be crazy – but for the fresh-squeezed juice of pineapple and mint ($6.10 per glass; $8.10 per jar). Braccia Juice Bar – has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?