Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Arucola Food Review

Pizza Con Salsiccia

It's not easy finding a great Italian restaurant. I had one for years, Anna Maria's on Connecticut Avenue, but that's since been replaced by the Board Room. I've been to Chevy Chase mainstay Arucola thrice before, and come away impressed with its old school charm. Would a fourth visit discover a successor to Anna's crown?

Sadly, no. Don't get me wrong: There's plenty to like about Arucola; but if you struggle with pizza, it's hard to fall in love with the rest. We stopped by on a Saturday afternoon, around 1:30 PM; and had no trouble finding a seat. Service was stellar as always: Two waiters worked the room like chiseled veterans, combining courtesy and speed with equal aplomb. I was especially impressed with one's ability to refill my water glass in tight quarters (with a side pour, no less.) I placed an order for a Pizza Con Salsiccia (Tomato Basil sauce, Sausage, Peppers & Mozzarella) for $12; and took time to admire the rustic charm of the place, while we waited for our food.

It took just under 15 minutes for our food to arrive (no bread to keep us occupied... -1 if you're keeping score.) When my pie arrived, I quickly noticed two things. First, it was undercooked (the cheese says it all) and almost half the pizza had little to no toppings. It's a great size; but I'd prefer smaller and good, than bigger and not.

Before I tear apart the crust (literally) let's discuss the good. Great cheese and even better sausage (well-cooked, zesty and thick cut) topped a vibrantly colored (but meager portioned) sauce. I'm not big on yellow peppers, but the red ones were fresh and tasty. Unfortunately, all those positives meant little to nothing when you consider the disastrous crust underneath. This pizza needed an extra 3-4 minutes under high heat, and some sort of quality control. For one thing, toppings should always be evenly distributed (which wasn't the case with this pie.) Second, timing is everything; and clearly the pizza maker wasn't paying proper attention. The dough was way undercooked... very, very flimsy. I literally had to roll each slice like a taquito. Good quality toppings were lost amidst the poor taste of almost raw dough (especially towards the center of the pizza.) No excuse.

Stranger still, my relative's pizza was cooked properly (a little flimsy, but nowhere near as bad as mine.) It's bad enough to have to eat subpar food; but even worse, when you're sitting inches away from something much, much better. Service was close to incredible, and I especially dug the smart inclusion of 15, 20 and 25% tip amounts on the guest check.

Next time (five's my magic number) I'll be sure to request bread (SHOULD BE AUTOMATIC at an Italian restaurant) and send back my pizza if it arrives undercooked. Too bad (for Arucola) this was a review meal.

Atmosphere: B (Old school charm, but better with less people.)
Service: B+ (Top notch)
Crust: F (Not sure how this made it past the pass.)
Toppings: B (Terrific cheese and sausage, although almost half had nothing but cheese.)
Value: D ($12 is fine, but even FREE is too costly for a poorly made pizza.)
Overall: D+ (Easily could have been two full grades higher, but pizza maker dropped the ball... badly.)