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Really Good -- or Really Bad Italian


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Ciao All,

In gastromic preparation for our upcoming cooking trip in Italy next month, my husband and I have been selectively trying out some of the Italian restaurants nearby. Some fancy, some modest, there are some little charmers but there are many mediocre ones in DC. Our experience at a highly recommended place last night made me want to cry, and I thought I would throw it out to you guys for feedback and suggestions.

Many of my Silver Spring friends have suggested Sergios Ristorante Italiano in the Hilton on Colesville Road. It sounded strange to me that a good restaurant would be in a chain hotel, but I'm willing to brave many things for a good meal, so off we went.

The evening started out pleasantly enough. The waiter greeted my 3-year-old and I, singing in Italian, and showed us right to our table where we waited for my husband. We were served water but my son's glass had lipstick on it. Not a big deal, it was replaced right away when I brought it to their attention. My son happily and relatively quietly played with a few toys.

My husband arrived 10 minutes later, about 6:50 pm, as a few other diners also started to arrive.

There appeared to be two waiters and a busboy and about 5 tables at the time.

We ordered quickly, knowing that when a kid is ready to go, everyone must go when you're at a white table kind of spot. We ordered one glass of wine, a special zucchini and mozzerella appetizer, two special raviolis of the day (mine shrimp, his veal and mushroom) and plain ziti with butter and cheese for the kid.

Within 10 minutes, out came our appetizer, wine, and the pasta for the child, for which we were most grateful. Smiles all around, more singing, fresh ground pepper. I was beginning to like this place, despite it's odd basement of a hotel location.

But then, the music stopped.

After nearly an hour and several nervous glances at our table by our waiter who never came over to check on us or respond to my attempts to flag him down, we were served our lukewarm pastas on hot plates. If you've worked in a restaurant, you know what that means--they'd been sitting under the heat lamp.

To be fair, during that hour, about 10 more tables showed up, mostly twos, a few fours and a six, but nothing that would have indicated a complete meltdown.

Of course, by the time we got our food we were too busy shovelling it in while taking turns juggling the kid who was D-O-N-E to make a fuss. We just asked for our check.

The bill came, my husband took my son out to the lobby, and I noticed they had charged us for two glasses of wine when we had one. Again, on another night, no big deal, but this was starting to tick me off. I got the waiter's attention, explained about the wine, and then said that we would have liked to stay longer but our food took so long that our son had to leave. He said nothing.

Now, I'm not the type looking for free food or whatever every time I go out, but this guy didn't even apologize. He said absolutely NOTHING but took the second wine off the bill.

I don't even know if the food was good I ate it so fast.

Please tell me this is an isolated incident.

And tell me some other Italian places you like around DC where the food and the service is good.

I can recommend Mia's and Centro in Bethesda on both counts, but downtown DC? Haven't found one yet.

Eat-Drink-Write-Repeat

The Food Scribe

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Ciao All,

In gastromic preparation for our upcoming cooking trip in Italy next month, my husband and I have been selectively trying out some of the Italian restaurants nearby. Some fancy, some modest, there are some little charmers but there are many mediocre ones in DC. Our experience at a highly recommended place last night made me want to cry, and I thought I would throw it out to you guys for feedback and suggestions.

Many of my Silver Spring friends have suggested Sergios Ristorante Italiano in the Hilton on Colesville Road. It sounded strange to me that a good restaurant would be in a chain hotel, but I'm willing to brave many things for a good meal, so off we went.

The evening started out pleasantly enough. The waiter greeted my 3-year-old and I, singing in Italian, and showed us right to our table where we waited for my husband. We were served water but my son's glass had lipstick on it. Not a big deal, it was replaced right away when I brought it to their attention. My son happily and relatively quietly played with a few toys.

My husband arrived 10 minutes later, about 6:50 pm, as a few other diners also started to arrive. There appeared to be two waiters and a busboy and about 5 tables at the time.

We ordered quickly, knowing that when a kid is ready to go, everyone must go when you're at a white table kind of spot. We ordered one glass of wine, a special zucchini and mozzerella appetizer,  two special raviolis of the day (mine shrimp, his veal and mushroom) and plain ziti with butter and cheese for the kid.

Within 10 minutes, out came our appetizer, wine, and the pasta for the child, for which we were most grateful. Smiles all around, more singing, fresh ground pepper. I was beginning to like this place, despite it's odd basement of a hotel location.

But then, the music stopped.

After nearly an hour and several nervous glances at our table by our waiter who never came over to check on us or respond to my attempts to flag him down, we were served our lukewarm pastas on hot plates. If you've worked in a restaurant, you know what that means--they'd been sitting under the heat lamp.

To be fair, during that hour, about 10 more tables showed up, mostly twos, a few fours and a six, but nothing that would have indicated a complete meltdown.

Of course, by the time we got our food we were too busy shovelling it in while taking turns juggling the kid who was D-O-N-E to make a fuss. We just asked for our check.

The bill came, my husband took my son out to the lobby, and I noticed they had charged us for two glasses of wine when we had one. Again, on another night, no big deal, but this was starting to tick me off. I got the waiter's attention, explained about the wine, and then said that we would have liked to stay longer but our food took so long that our son had to leave. He said nothing.

Now, I'm not the type looking for free food or whatever every time I go out, but this guy didn't even apologize. He said absolutely NOTHING but took the second wine off the bill.

I don't even know if the food was good I ate it so fast.

Please tell me this is an isolated incident.

And tell me some other Italian places you like around DC where the food and the service is good.

I can recommend Mia's and Centro in Bethesda on both counts, but downtown DC? Haven't found one yet.

I very much HOPE it's an isolated incident. Though it's been about 8 months since I've been, I have had consistently good meals at Sergio's. From the service to the food (excellent specials such as soft-shells and braciole) I've never had a bad experience and many friends who I've sent there have also liked it very much.

Very sorry to read about your experience :sad:

Thanks,

Kevin

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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I am glad that you posted about your experience so others may learn (be warned?) ... this being said ARE there any good/great Italian restaurants in the Mclean, Vienna or Tyson's Corner area?

The only one I've found so far that I like is Fiore De Luna in Great Falls and I hear that the new owners took it over about 7 wks ago so I haven't tried it under the new ownership yet.

Friends of ours are getting married shortly and I would like to take them to a "non-red sauce" Italian restaurant that is good and local and NOT in DC. (No Not Maggiano's either please!) Something with a nice garlic or cream sauce with a variety of toppings/sauces or choices would be wonderful. Just say NO to marinara. :laugh: If you know any places that is semi-romantic please let me know. Prefer Vienna or points north in VA no Alexandria. Thanks everyone.

Stacey C-Anonymouze@aol.com

*Censorship ends in logical completeness when nobody is allowed to read any books except the books that nobody reads!-G. B. SHAW

JUST say NO... to CENSORSHIP*!

Also member of LinkedIn, Erexchange and DonRockwell.

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I am glad that you posted about your experience so others may learn (be warned?) ... this being said ARE there any good/great Italian restaurants in the Mclean, Vienna or Tyson's Corner area? 

The only one I've found so far that I like is Fiore De Luna in Great Falls and I hear that the new owners took it over about 7 wks ago so I haven't tried it under the new ownership yet.

Friends of ours are getting married shortly and I would like to take them to a "non-red sauce" Italian restaurant that is good and local and NOT in DC.  (No Not Maggiano's either please!) Something with a nice garlic or cream sauce with a variety of toppings/sauces or choices would be wonderful.  Just say NO to marinara.  :laugh:  If you know any places that is semi-romantic please let me know.  Prefer Vienna or points north in VA no Alexandria.  Thanks everyone.

I have always heard very good things about Da Domenico (link below). It's been in Tyson's Corner for ever, though in all my times passing it, I never actually saw anyone go in or out.

They do have some red sauce dishes, but also garlic/cream/wine sauces. If you haven't already sussed it out and written it off, it may work as it's nicer than chain type places and even mom & pop red sauce places from what I gather.

Thanks,

Kevin

http://www.da-domenico.com/index.html

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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Sorry for your bad experience, but it sounds very uncharacteristic to me. We've been eating at Sergio's for years and never had a similar experience. They certainly handle that volume on many occasions that we have been there, so I am guessing that they were a waiter short that night. (They've been having the same waiters there for years, too).

Edited by My Confusing Horoscope (log)

Scorpio

You'll be surprised to find out that Congress is empowered to forcibly sublet your apartment for the summer.

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I'm a 99.9% lurker, but I couldn't let this one go. I've been dating a Italian New Yorker for seven years, who moved in with me in the DC 'burbs 3 years ago, AND who's only regret about leaving Queens is the lack of good Italian restaurants in the area.

We tried Baltimore, but we both hate Baltimore. A lot. It's hard to enjoy a meal in a city you despise and hate being in even if we could find really great Italian food (which we did not).

Then a friend recommended Pasta Plus in Laurel, and we were very glad. It is wonderful.

Now, I'm a Southerner. My idea of great Italian for the majority of my life was Chef BoyRDee, and my grandmother's baked spaghetti (which is AWESOME, but has nothing to do with Italy). But my sweetie grew up with a first-generation Italian grandmother, and apparently Pasta Plus passes the NY Italian grandma test.

For what it is worth, I like it too.

Also, we get sandwiches at Marchone's in Wheaton, and we always get extra meat. They also have some carry-out "heat and serve" dinners which are pretty decent. But the best is the frozen sfogliatelle. I made it almost 40 years of age without ever trying sfogliatelle, and I didn't know what I was missing. Marchone's sells them frozen, so you can pop them in the freezer and bake them up on a whim on, say, Sunday night watching the Sopranos or on a snowy Saturday morning. Sfogliatelle on demand! They make me very happy indeed.

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  • 4 months later...

Il Pizzico is great for the pasta. The other dishes...meh. It's always crowded on Friday and Saturday nights...no rezzies so get there early or be prepared to wait.

What else? Notte Bianche...very average. Al Tiramisu...ditto

While it sounds kinds stupid to go all the way out to Rockville/G'burg for great pasta, give Il Pizzico a try.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Pasta Plus is pretty good, it was featured on the food network awhile back so unfortunately gets really busy now. Their menu is HUGE with lots of authentic looking pasta dishes.

Baltimore has only disappointed.

My favorite so far (moved here 3 years ago) is Aida Bistro in Columbia. It's in the strip mall of a business area but once you walk inside your impression chain-restaurant Columbia will be shattered. It's owned by a really nice American Italian couple with an extensive knowledge of wine and Italian food. Word of warning though it is not your typical American Italian cuisine - I think it takes more influence from Piedmont. Lots of big meaty dishes, risottos, and stuffed pastas. They do have some standbys like eggplant parm. The pasta is made there fresh by some old Italian woman, as well as the canolis. They have a frequently rotating 3 or 4 course small plate menu paired with wines. And it's gorgeous inside. Prices are decent, you could spend from $8 for a small plate of pasta to $25 for something like a veal shank. Needless to say, I recommend this place.

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Torta della Donna Aprile:

To prepare for your upcoming trip to Italy, I would recommend learning about the traditional cooking of each Italian region you visit in Italy and identifying dishes and foods that are local specialties with a special emphasis on the unfamiliar, that is, tastes you can't experience here.

Fred Plotkin has written an excellent guide for Italian food lovers that he's just revised, so all the entries on individual restaurants should be up to date. The book is divided into regions (Tuscany, The Veneto, Lazio...) with one or two cities or towns featured in each overview.

The latest edition of Slow Food's guide to Italy comes highly recommended by John Talbott (forum host, France) among others.

There are plenty of other options online, of course, including Mario Batali's personal web site which has a section devoted to discrete Italian regions.

While eGullet's members do not record trips to Italian tables in great volume, the Italian forum here does have a number of recent posts. I highly recommend a glance or two, especially since you might wish to consider Erba Luna, a new restaurant in Umbria. An Italian-trained American, our own Hathor, runs the kitchen together with a Roman partner.

A rather exhaustive documentation of the nine weeks tupac17616 spent gaining 20 pounds in between college and grad school was put together this summer: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=103259.

Browsing through the site, you will also run into discrete topics whose titles begin "The Cooking & Cuisine of" and finish with the name of a region. Most begin with overviews of the region's specialties.

ETA: Hmmm. I see that this topic was begun in April, so the trip to Italy was in May. So, advice was too late. Instead, might I ask what other local restaurants you visited, where you went in Italy and what the relationship was between local and distant meals?

Edited by Pontormo (log)

"Viciousness in the kitchen.

The potatoes hiss." --Sylvia Plath

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Pane e Vino in Lorton Town Center is wonderful. Sicilian family owned, beautiful bar, great wine list and excellent food. The Sunday brunch buffet is awesome - fantastic quality and variety, beautifully presented. $18.99 for all you can eat, includes one mimosa.

Check out their Web site: paneevino-ristorante.com

I love cooking with wine. Sometimes I even put it in the food.

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