Monday, June 06, 2005

Bistro Italiano

I've been remiss. I have been going to Bistro Italiano all of these months and never once reviewed it. Well here it is. M, J's co-worker had been telling us about Bistro Italiano for months before we went there. It's on the Northeast side of Capitol Hill, so we'd actually have ot make an effort to go there. But it was well worth it and hella cheap.

If any restaurant is a neighborhood place, it's Bistro Italiano. Tucked into DC street behind the retail block of Mass Ave., you could easily miss it. It's small, seating 30 at most. The decor is on the tacky side with toothpaste green walls and travel agency pictures of Italy. The service and food is lovely. We've had consistently friendly service with our water glasses filled and our food served promtly.

The food is totally unpretentious. We're talking iceberg lettuce salads with a big tomato wedge. The best I can compare it to is Dupont Italian Kitchen before the DIK decided to serve completely crap food. Friday night, I had the Caesar salad and J had the house salad with the balsalmic vinaigrette. Both were decent. Our pastas however, were very satisfying. J had the pasta with meat sauce. The sauce was interesting because it was presented as the spaghetti on the bottom with a layer of ground meat and a layer of tomato sauce. It was quite wonderful. The meat actually tasted like SOMETHING. It didn't just add texture to the tomato sauce which had that texture of coarsely pureed tomatoes that indicates the sauce didn't come out of a jar. I had that manicotti which was hearty but I wasn't crazy about the ground meat and ricotta filling. It was somewhat solid so that the meat and ricotta were in one block. I thought the two textures weren't blending well. But the tomato sauce was making up for a so-so filling.

Although we didn't get it Friday, I highly recommend the pizza. It's exactly what you want your neighborhood pizza place pizza to taste like. The crust is not that thin cracker crust like Pizerria Paradiso but much more doughy. And the sauce and toppings are all top notch. And we totally, unabashedly recommend the cannoli, which have the light crisp cookie surrounding the sweet (but not too sweet) and rich marscapone and ricotta filling.

This food is not about osso buco and balsalmic reductions. In an earlier era, you'd have checked tablecloths and drippy candles in chianti bottles. It's the spaghetti and meatballs and friendly service. Things look like they're supposed to look and taste like they're supposed to taste.

Bistro Italiano
320 D Street Northeast
Washington, DC 20002-5722


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Anonymous said...

Great review. I love this restaurant too. I posted about it at and linked to your post.

Anonymous said...

Great review. I love this restaurant too. I posted about it at and linked to your post - here -,pizza

Julie said...

I agree with your description of the food, which is wonderful, but unfortunately not the service. While friendly, the entire restaurant is only serviced by a single waiter. The service is very inconsistent, and it is not nearly enough to keep everybody happy.

For example, I usually count on spending 5-10 minutes at the door waiting to be acknowledged and seated, another 20 minutes waiting to order, 30 minutes waiting for food, and another 30 minutes waiting for the check.

There have actually been a few times when nobody helped us at all after walking through the door, and we eventually left after standing there 10-15 minutes. The waiter would not make eye contact.

We love the pizza, but often when we call for take-out, nobody answers. And when we arrive to pick it up, again, it's a 10 minute wait to be acknowledged, while the pizza is getting cold.

The restaurant needs to hire another waiter part time, and pay attention to its customers. The busboy is kind of creepy and doesn't really understand English.

In any case, they'll have a great restaurant once these kinks get worked out.

Anonymous said...

I have to completely disagree with the last post... while the place can be very busy, I've never had anything but the friendliest service. it's no big deal to walk in and seat yourself at an available table. their waiter is the nicest guy you'll meet and is working his tail off. the busboy isn't creepy just because he doesn't speak english well. He's new and quiet. he does his job well.

a good local place and by all means give it a shot. the pizza is great, especially with a carafe of the house red to accompany it!

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