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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Thing 23: Pasta Mia Anna Maria's

I like to break Passover by gorging on Italian food. As far as I’m concerned, Italians have the monopoly on all the best carbs – pasta, pizza, garlic bread, and tiramisu – and after eight days without, all I want is a big ol’ plate of spaghetti and a rich, buttery hunk of aromatic garlic bread.

Umm...why are we standing outside Pasta Mia? Why have we been standing here for an hour?This year, I chose Pasta Mia as my place of choice for my Italian feast. I’d never been, and people keep telling me how wonderful it is, so I figured that it was a perfect place to break Passover. “It’s so worth the wait!” people tell me.

Well, I can’t tell you if it is or not. We arrived at 8:15, and after 45 minutes of waiting outside – not even making it to the indoor waiting foyer, my party and I gave up. At that point it was 9pm, the Boyfriend was cranky from not having eaten, I was cranky because I was wasting precious grain-eating moments, and GFD could only attest that the food was “fine” and was waiting just to humor me. Am I willing to wait over an hour for a plate of spaghetti? Apparently not.

So, we bailed, and ate mediocre Italian food at Anna Maria’s on Connecticut Avenue. Anna Maria’s is an institution in its own right. It’s been around for over forty years, and was well known in the ‘60s and ‘70s as a late night stop for celebrities such as Bob Hope or Muhammad Ali. As proof, the walls are lined with signed photographs from the likes of Dom Delouise, Tiger Woods and LL Cool J. The restaurant is quiet and cozy, not at all crowded (no line!) and the service is good enough. If only the food were good. Sadly, it is woefully under-seasoned and nothing special.


The Wall o' Stars at Anna Maria's
We ordered garlic bread to start since we were all hungry and cranky at this point. It arrived buttery and crisp, and loaded with garlic and parsley. A promising start, for sure. On the other hand, I was just happy it wasn’t matzo. We wolfed it down while we waited for our main meals.

I stuck to the basics – spaghetti with meat balls. The Boyfriend ordered meat lasagna, GFD Spaghetti...ordered linguini with calamari, and his boyfriend ordered meat ravioli. It was all…fine. Just, fine. Nothing that I couldn’t have made at home and some of it considerably worse than what I could have made. Everything needed salt. The best part of the Boyfriend’s lasagna was the sausage that was inexplicably served as a side. GFD’s linguini was bland. We ordered tiramisu and cannoli for dessert. The cannoli was wonderful, like a crunchy, cream filled donut, the taste of sweet fried dough lingering on the tongue. ...and cannoli.The tiramisu, like most everything else, was just OK.

LL Cool J, next time you come to town, let me show you around. We will eat at much better places, you and I.

So my question to the masses is this: should we have waited for Pasta Mia? I’m sure the food would have been better, but is a plate of spaghetti worth an hour or more of waiting? I will attempt a return visit if people can convince me it’s worth it. Are there any other Italian joints I should put on my list? In a city that does Thai, Ethiopian and Indian so well, where can a girl go for good fettuccini or veal saltimbocca?

7 comments:

Jess said...

Honestly here's my take on Pasta Mia--it's good and worth a wait but even I'm hard pressed to leave after an hour. Usually my plan of attack is to arrive early--generally around 5:30 or 6, wait the 15-30 minutes until they open and then get a seat immediately. Also, never go with more than 4 people--if you have a group larger than 2 arriving early is the best way to go.
Don't expect anything other than pata but if it's carbs you are after there is no better place to go for a carb fest--it's good and cheap.
If you want to go pricey the gnocchi at Filomena is some of the best I've had since I left Italy.

GFD said...

You failed to mention how friendly the Anna Maria's clientele is. Our table neighbors gave us half their bottle of wine on the way out!! Whether it was poisoned or not, I guess we'll find out if your BF makes it through the day.

Jessica said...

I've never actually BEEN to Pasta Mia, however I tend to find with very hyped restaurants particularly in the DC area that the more hype and longer wait time, the more I'm disappointed with the food. I think with Italian food in particular, hole in the wall places are the only way to go. I'm yet to find a great Italian joint in DC myself. However anywhere the clientele is sharing free wine, I'm sure to be a repeat customer...

Anonymous said...

I know its commercial, but what about Buca di Beppo's. I have only ever had wonderful food there AND you can sit with the pope. -GFL

dc365 said...

GFL brings up a good point...Buca's is a chain, and therefore automatically out of the 365 running, but is it the best Italian food in the area? I have a hard time believing that a local place can't do any better...then again, I've always had a good experience there. And that Pope's head is pretty awesome...

Anonymous said...

You didn't mention how your hand was almost bitten off.

-GFD's Boyfriend

gfd said...

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/355011