italian


A few years ago (2-3), I went to Odeon Cafe and had a really great Italian dinner.  The food was delicious, service was good, and had an overall positive experience.  When a couple of friends wanted to go to brunch one Sunday, I didn’t hesitate to mention Odeon Cafe since a different friend had recommended the place.  Since I enjoyed my meal the last time I was there and so did she, I thought this would be a great brunch…

  • Food:I ordered the Cafe Odeon Benedict eggs.  The entire plate was cold and the poached eggs were terribly overcooked (the yolk was completely hard).  The potatoes had no flavor.  One friend ordered the salmon crepes which was the loser of the table.  The crepes were too thick, doughy, and chewy.  There was no salmon flavor whatsoever.   The winning plate was the salmon egg white omelet, but it was also cold.  However, the eggs were nicely cooked with a nice salmon flavor. 
  • Service: Despite an empty restaurant, the server rarely appeared.  When he did stop by the table, he was nice.
  • Atmosphere: There are two stories and in the summer, the windows in the front open.  On the left-hand side, there’s a bar (about 12-15 stools). 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall:Did the restaurant change owners?  Did they get a new chef?  Who knows?  Stick to the egg white omelet with salmon for brunch and it’ll be OK.   I haven’t been in a long time for dinner but would love to hear from you about your experiences…

Details:

  • Hours: Brunch: Saturday & Sunday: 9:00am – 4:00pm; Lunch: Daily: 11:30am – 4:00pm; Dinner: Nightly: 4:00pm – 12:00am
  • Address: 1714 Connecticut Ave N.W.; Washington, DC 20009
  • Ph: (202) 328-6228
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I’ve been to Olives a handful of times and have never gotten anything but a really good (albeit expensive) meal. 

  • Food:I ordered the Greek-style Baby Red Romaine Salad with tomatoes, cucumber, mixed olives, red onions, oregano, and crispy phyllo-wrapped feta.  But the star salad was the grilled squid and octopus with a vinaigrette of chickpeas, tomatoes, toasted garlic, and parsley.  I ordered their grilled salmon special with Israeli couscous which was spectacular.  Their fig and prosciutto pizza is amazing too.
  • Service:It’s not bad, but considering the price tag, you’d think they’d be a little more attentive.  I’ve also witnessed several times when they’d rush people eating.  If you’re eating a salad, they might bring your entree before you’re ready.
  • Atmosphere: When you walk in, on the right is their bar and on the left are tables (and their open kitchen).  If you walk straight ahead, you’ll see their stairs to their downstairs dining room.  The restaurant has an open, warm feeling and tons of windows on the first floor (meaning great sun…if it’s out).  I love their open kitchen with their wood-burning oven and their chef was cute. 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall: Like I said, I’ve never gotten anything but a solid, yummy meal here.  Thankfully, I’ve also never had to pay either.  Ha! 

Details:

  • Reservations strongly recommended.
  • Hours: Lunch: Monday – Friday: 11:30am – 2:30pm Dinner: Monday – Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm Closed for lunch on Saturdays, all day Sundays
  • Address: 1600 K Street, NW; Washington, DC 20006
  • Ph: (202) 452-1866

Another place I went during Restaurant Week was Il Mulino New York

  • Food: Recognizing it’s RW and their “free appetizers” aren’t around, they did offer a mixture of cooked eggplant, squash, and some other veggies.  It had no flavor and the fact it was already there when we sat down didn’t add to the appealing factor.  Then I ordered the Inslata Caprese which was really good because of the fresh mozzarella.  Then I ordered parpadelle pasta with sausage.  It was an enormous portion and the sauce (primarily canned tomatoes with a few fresh mixed in) was pretty good because it had a sausage flavor throughout.  I can’t seem to find anything on their Web site that would indicate that the pasta is homemade (which a friend insisted since it’s Il Mulino’s), but I think it was boxed (which is fine).  I make this point now because my friend ordered a salad (which she wasn’t too pleased with) and then mushroom ravioli which was in a heavy cream sauce.  I tried it and thought it was good, but I preferred the one I had at Locanda (with the homemade pasta and light sauce).  Then we both ordered their very good tiramisu which came with a pudding-style Bailey’s on the side and a Pirouline Hazelnut Chocolate.  I know my description is lame, but it’s all I can remember. 😦
  • Service: Our server was strange and that’s the best way I can describe it.  You could tell he clearly detested Restaurant Week by his snide comments (e.g. “You can have that if you pay me an extra dollar.” Umm, seriously?).  Then I also noticed that the servers and busboys were arguing over a table — folks, that’s not something you do in front of customers. 
  • Atmosphere:The front of the restaurant seems a bit generic, but if you can get seated in the back, it has a much more cozy and quaint feel. 
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$$
  • Overall:I am intrigued to go back for all the freebies I seem to keep hearing about and their supposedly impeccable service, but my experience at Restaurant Week definitely makes me hesitate.  Plus, the food they prepared for RW — a time to put your “best foot forward” — didn’t really impress me.  

Details:

  • Reservations required.
  • Hours: Mon-Thurs 11:30 AM-10:30 PM; Friday 11:30 AM-11:30 PM; Sat 5-11:30 PM
  • Address: 1110 Vermont Ave. NW; Washington, DC 20005  
  • Ph: 202-293-1001

You know when you feel like a decent pie but don’t want to travel?  Or what about when your office is order pizza for the interns?  Before you hit the typical fast food pizza chain, check out Luigi’s Pizza.

  • Food: Most of the time, I’ve only gotten delivery pizza and salad.  Their crust is thin and the pie is huge (think NY-style) — it’s good.  They don’t put a ridiculous amout of tomato sauce and the toppings you order are nice and chunky (so you know what you’re eating).  I usually get the chicken, pine nuts, artichokes, and sun-dried tomato pizza.  A few years ago, I was there for a sit-down dinner, but I can’t remember what I ordered.
  • Service: Delivery is free (with a $15 minimum) and they’re prompt.
  • Atmosphere: With big wooden tables covered with checkered red and white clothes, this place has the feeling of an Italian restaurant you’d see on TV.   
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: Order the pizza the next time your office is throwing a party for the interns.  It’s decent pie for a good price.

Details:

  • Reservations accepted.
  • Hours: Mon-Sat 11 am-12am Sun 12pm-12am; Delivery Mon-Fri 11 AM-2 PM and 5 PM-11 PM, Saturday & Sun 5-11 PM
  • Address: 1132 19th St. NW, Washington, DC 20036
  • Ph: 202-331-7574

After a few of the cold evenings we’ve had, a few friends and I decided to hit Locanda Italian for some pasta, red wine, and good conversation.

  • Food:When you have 3 people coming from 3 different places around the city during rush hour, it makes it difficult to make it anywhere at the same time.  So while I was waiting for my other other dining companions, I sat at the bar with a glass of red.  The bartender was incredibly nice and super attentive (you’ll see why I’m giving her props later).  One of my friends came in and we decided to order their calamari.  Despite being incredibly heavy on the garlic powder, it was really good.  It was light (despite being fried) and came with two dipping sides of salsa verde and spicy anchovy aioli.  We decided we liked the aioli the best.  Then my last friend came and ordered the warm olives.  After looking at the menu, we were ready to order. I ordered the mushroom ravioli which was so light and full of mushroom goodness(and also was covered in a very light butter sauce); one friend ordered the pennette all’Arrabbiata (which was good and spicy); the other ordered maccheroncelli & cheese.  Now here’s where it gets interesting — she got the right food, but there was no pancetta with it.  So she had to ask for it on the side.  But when you look at the menu, it says it comes with pancetta.  What’s up with that?  Once she got her pancetta, it was excellent.  All three of us loved our entrees.  For dessert, we ordered the chocolate and hazelnut cake.  Let me tell you — I like bitter chocolate.  But this was bad.  There was absolutely no flavor
  • Service:Dismal.  I can’t begin to tell you how many times I asked for more water…where was our server?  Too bad the bartender didn’t serve our table.  Oh, and you know how Sietsema said you get cookies with your bill?  Yeah, we didn’t get any.
  • Atmosphere: It’s a narrow restaurant with 3-4 floor to ceiling windows in the front.  The interior is light with orange (comfortable) chairs.  In the back, there’s a bar with about 10 chairs that make it a perfect spot to wait for your friends.
  • Attire: Business casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: I’d definitely go again to get their calamari and pasta.  It was really good, but if I see the same server as we had this last time, I’ll run in the direction of the door. 

Details:

  • Reservations recommended.
  • Hours: Tue-Thu 11:30 am-2:30 pm, 6-10 pm, Fri 11:00 am-2:30 pm, 6-11 pm, Sat 6-11 pm, Sun 11:30 am-3 pm
  • Address: 633 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Washington, DC 20003
  • Ph: 202-547-0002

I enjoy a good pizza and have been eating a lot of it.  In fact, I was thinking I’ve been over-doing the pizza thing until I was recently in the 2Amys neighborhood.  Then I remembered their hot, yummy wood-burning pizza and I had to get one. 

  • Food:I’ve been several times and have always enjoyed the pizza.  Most recently, I ordered a Margherita pizza with tomato, mozzarella di bufala, and basil (pictures below).  The “big” thing about 2Amys is their wood-burning oven which gives the crust a unique flavor.  2Amys is the only pizzeria in Washington, DC that is recognized by the Neapolitan Pizza Police (officially called Verace Pizza Napoletana Association).  In order to be certified, they must use “only soft-grain flour, fresh yeast, water, and sea salt may be used for the dough, and only Italian plum tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, extra-virgin olive oil and fresh basil or dried oregano may be used for the toppings.” 

2Amys Margherita Pizza  2Amys Wood-burning Oven Pizza Bottom

While 2Amys doesn’t have happy hour, they do have a couple of “specials” that I thought should be mentioned.   Sfogliatelle is served on Tuesday nights with fiore di latte ice cream.   According to the Web site, it is a “clam-shaped pastry filled with a sweetened ricotta and semolina mixture surrounded by a flaky, crunch and shell.” 

They also serve homemade doughnuts on Saturday and Sunday at lunch. 

  • Service: They’re polite and courteous. 
  • Atmosphere: If you need to have an intimate conversation, this isn’t the place to go during their “rush hours” (which is really between 5:30-8:30 PM daily).  I haven’t ever been for lunch, but I have to believe it’s packed then too.  When you go and are told to wait (which you inevitably will be), go to the back and try to stand a spot at the bar. 
  • Attire: Casual
  • Price: $$
  • Overall: Everyone loves 2Amys and it’s easy to see why with their fresh dough and toppings.  

Details:

  • Reservations not accepted (total bummer if you go during peak times, just be prepared to wait).
  • Hours: Sun 12 noon-10 PM; Mon 5 PM-10 PM; Tues-Thurs 11 AM-10 PM; Fri & Sat 11 AM-11 PM
  • Address:3715 Macomb St NW; Washington, DC 20016
  • Ph: 202-885-5700

Primarily in international locations around the world, DC-metro area has the only Vapiano restaurants in the US (so far).  Their menu is here: Menu Page 1 and Menu Page 2.

  • Food:While their pasta is homemade and their salads look fresh, I always get the Crudo pizza with prosciutto di parma, tomato sauce, and mozzarella.  On top of the pizza are big hunks of parmesan cheese which gives it a bit of a strong, but perfect taste.  The crust is crunchy and thin.  There’s not a lot of tomato sauce which means the toppings are the star of the pizza — and appropriately so.  I think it’s a 12″ pie.

Vapiano Crudo Pizza  Vapiano Crudo Pizza

  • Service: There are no servers, only bussers.  Immediately after walking through the door, you get a Vapiano card.  Walk to the right and you’ll see the kitchen with huge chalkboards above with fun sayings.  The first section is salad, middle is pasta, and the end has pizza.  You walk up to whichever section (me, always pizza at the end), put your card against the register, and then order your food from the kitchen staff.  You then get this little buzzer and when your food is ready, the buzzer goes off (usually within 10-15 minutes).  When you’re ready to pay, give them your Vapiano card at the register at the front door. 
  • Atmosphere: With bright red accents and light wood interior, it’s a casual dining establishment.  During lunch, it can be tough to find a table!
  • Attire: Casual 
  • Price: $
  • Overall:I love their $9.25 crudo pizza and would be tough to change my mind.  I have tried their homemade pasta, but I didn’t enjoy it.  I prefer mine to be al dente.  Oh, they also have the little 8 oz Diet Coke bottles. 

Happy Hour: They offer house wines (Pinot Grigio and Merlot) for $3.50/glass from 5-8 PM Monday-Friday.  In addition, they have p.i.n.k. vodka for their ladies’ night martini happy hours on Wednesdays from 7-10 PM for $4.95.  In their ad, they say the Manolo Tonic is the new “it” drink and we’ll be seeing it in the Sex and the City movie.     

Details:

  • Hours: Mon.-Thurs. 11:00 AM- 11.00PM; Fri. 11:00 AM-12:00 AM; Sat. 12:00 PM -11:00 PM; Sun. 12:00 PM-10:00 PM
  • Address: 1800 M Street N.W.; Washington DC
  • Ph: 202-640-1868