Saturday, October 24, 2015

Alfio's Food Review

Sausage Pizze

Once upon a time, Italian restaurants such as Alfio's in Chevy Chase used to rule the roost. Most (Anna Maria's affectionally leaps to mind) served great food with stellar, old-school service and an elegant, romantic atmosphere. Fast forward to today, and only a few remain. How come? Read on, and (sadly) the answer(s) will become apparent transparent.

Alfio's sits on the street level of The Willoughby, a high rise apartment building that went condo back in the early 80's. The restaurant itself is a lovely, albeit dated space with an outdoor patio & close proximity to busy Wisconsin Avenue. It sports valet parking; but when my friend and I arrived for dinner, the valet never even bothered to look up (yes, he was sitting down) yet alone open the door for us. Scratch warm half-decent welcome off our bucket list. On any other night, we would have turned around & walked back to Chipotle, but we were pressed for time (and hungry.)

Complimentary Bread (served with butter)

What a pity, since the restaurant looked cozy and inviting. Exposed brick, lots of antiques and white tablecloths capture your eye and imagination. We chose a table by the front window, with a gorgeous Venus-like statue mere inches away. If not for my wobbly chair, the setting would have been perfect. Service was attentive as well (at first.) Complimentary bread (nice looking, but not warm) and water arrived promptly, as did our seasoned server. I explained we only had an hour to eat, and asked for everything (appetizers & entrees) to come out at the same time if necessary. No problem, we were told. So far, so good.

Calamari Fritti

We ordered Calamari Fritti and a cup of Minestrone Classico ($4.25) as well as an order of Spaghetti Bolognese with Italian Sausage ($13.75) and a small Sausage Pizze (only $8.95) for me. Simple enough, or so we thought. Just over 15 minutes elapsed before we received a sad selection of obviously frozen squid (soft, flavorless, void of color) and an admittedly tasty marinara, which was clearly (and thankfully) house-made. Unfortunately, the fried squid tasted worse than they looked. My advice? Opt for the fresh calamari instead, sautéed in wine sauce with pepperoncini (for the same $8.95.)

Charming interior

Then the real waiting began, simultaneous to a nearby table of four who were complaining over an even longer 30+ minute wait for their food. They pleaded several times, to no avail before giving up and leaving. Not cool. We waited almost 25 minutes for our entrees (don't forget, we asked for everything at once) and our server completely forgot my minestrone. Talia's spaghetti looked overcooked (although she didn't seem to mind) but she was never told about the salad bar (which is supposed to come with the pasta.) For the record, she loved the ragu (but barely finished a third of her plate, since we had to rush back for a movie.)

Me? I got lucky. The pizza (regular crust, and generously sized for less than a tenner) was delectable, courtesy of Alfio's brick oven pizza. It was piping hot, with a great char all about... and tons of flavor. The cheese was rich & gooey, and the sauce - zesty. Great crust too (glad I didn't opt for thin crust) and the sausage - spicy, thick and yummy. I'd gladly order it again (carry-out, not dine-in.)

We were able to get out (barely) in time; but the restaurant didn't appear to be very busy at all (half-a-dozen tables, tops) which provides the kitchen with zero excuses. Our server never took the time to say good-bye, or ask how we were doing (even once.) A busboy stopped by to offer a soda refill, but my empty water glass stayed empty all night. Nobody acknowledged us as we left, including especially the same valet guy who remained seated inside the doorway, as we opened the door ourselves. Kinda pathetic, don't you think?

Upon exiting, we stopped to talk with the family of four who had walked out a few minutes earlier (I think they were waiting for a taxi.) I apologized for their misfortune (someone had to) and they explained they had come before with much better results, but were shocked at the lack of service (and food) on this occasion. Sadly, I wasn't shocked at all. $45 isn't a lot to fork over for dinner-for-two; but bad memories cost even more. So much for living (and dining) in the past.