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  1. I finally got around to try Cinghiale near the harbor. It's an Italian restaurant that is part of Cindy Wolf's Charleston group in Baltimore. The place divided into 2 sections, the more casual bistro-like Osteria, and the fancy Enoteca. However, you can order off both menus no matter where you sit. Since we were more slobbed out, we ate in the Osteria, but I ended up ordering off the Enoteca menu, which is like a prix fixe that you can also add wine pairings with each course. The food was really delicious- I started with La Carne Cruda- a raw veal tenderloin topped with poached quail egg. My next course was some boar ravioli with a brown butter sauce. The main dish was amazing - Il Maiale- a roasted Berkshire pork rack with red wine sauce, grilled peaches and an arugula salad. My dining companions had a pretty amazing heirloom tomato salad with gorgonzola. All in all, it's definitely got the impressive food the Charleston group is known for. Pics
  2. Osteria Marzano is going to be opening in Kingstowne very soon, story here. It is going to be in he office plex where the NOVA Urgent Care place is located. The Executive Chef is Carmine Marzano. A quick Google search indicates that he was at Luigino downtown.
  3. Over Christmas Mr. MV and I visited Osteria. In a word: fantastic. We started with the bread- two kinds of rustic bread and grissini, served with a light fruity olive oil. The salted bread was soft, chewy and fresh. The pizza was simply the best I've ever had. Seriously. We had the Lombarda which has mozzarella, bitto cheese, cotechino sausage and a baked egg in the middle. The pizza dough was thin and done perfectly throughout the pizza. The crust had some nice blisters and the egg was immensly rich. The size is about 12 inches around, in case anyone goes and wants to gauge how much to order. Pizzas are cooked in a 700 degree wood fired brick oven. We will be back for the pizza alone, let alone the rest of the menu. We also split a lobster spaghetti special, which has a whole lobster with meat taken out, shell on bottom topped with spaghetti and chunks of lobster in a light tomato sauce. This was a big dish. Next we had suckling pig which was brined and braised. It was intensely flavored with fennel and a hint of garlic. We ended with a cranberry and hickory nut tart/cake toppped with zabaglione gelato. All meats (except proscuitto which is cut to order on a killer Berkel slicer positioned among the tables), gelato and many pastas are made in house. I am now in search of cotechino sausage. It's flavored with cloves and nutmeg. The space is warehouse meets warm tones and wood on a red wine stained concrete floor. There are 2 bars- one around the L-shaped kitchen and one in the back. For the above meal plus two glasses of prosecco we paid around $150. We were stuffed. I can not wait to go back. Between the pizza, antipasto, primi, secondi, contorno, dolci and daily specials, there are too many ways to enjoy this gem to go only once. And...of course we had a roast pork with sharp provolone and rabe at DiNic's in Reading Terminal Market.
  4. Lupa may fit the bill. It is casual and I do not think they do brunch like you may find at many other places on a Sunday (you may want to call and verify). They expertly handled our party of 9 a year or so ago on a weekday afternoon for a long late lunch/early dinner. We basically just picked the wine and asked them to have the chef select what we should eat and they should keep bring new dishes and we would tell them when we were full. They handled the request with aplomb, and we had a most enjoyable time.
  5. McLean is a fairly nice locale with a dearth of particularly good restaurants. Aside from one entree salad at J. Gilbert's that I happen to like, there is nothing in McLean that makes me want to head there for dinner. Or, at least, there wasn't anything in McLean worth the trip until Friday night. Assaggi Osteria in McLean (in the same shopping center as the Balducci's), related to the Assaggi Mozzarella Bar in Bethesda, is conducting its soft opening this weekend. One of the people involved in opening the McLean location is a client of mine, and I scored an invitation to the first night of the soft opening (12/11). The meal was complimentary, though my wife and I paid for drinks and tip. I must note that I am generally disinclined to go to Italian restaurants. I'm not a huge fan of pasta, and I don't like cheese. But my wife, who lived in Italy for a year, craves both pasta and cheese, so this was a good opportunity to appease her Italian craving. And appease the craving it did; my wife used phrases like "this is heaven," and "oh my god," and words like "fantastic" and "amazing." Before discussing the food, I will state for the record that the service is still working out some kinks. Our waiter, who was extremely pleasant, probably pointed out and explained 75% of the menu options, some unnecessarily. (I think most diners now know what gnocchi is.) This was likely connected to the fact that we were participating in the soft opening; I doubt the waiter will always be inclined to take up so much time going over the menu. On a somewhat more substantive note, the timing of the food service was off; our bread came out 20 or more minutes after we were seated, and every course took an eternity to arrive. Ultimately, our dinner became a two-and-a-half hour affair. But I cannot believe that this will be how the restaurant normally operates, and I think a restaurant's opening-night service and timing should be afforded a great deal of leeway. On to the food. Normally, I wouldn't remark on the bread because I tend to avoid the bread basket when I know I'm in for a three-course meal. But I was famished when the bread basket arrived, and gave it a whirl. I am in no way exaggerating when I say the bread was amazing. Hot, crusty, tender, flavorful; the bread was perfect, and we couldn't stop remarking on it. I started with a half-order of the sweet potato ravioli sprinkled with crushed amaretti cookies. Not an original menu item by any means, but the execution was notable. The ravioli were small, hot, and, if I had to guess, pan-fried. The sweet potato filling was satisfying, and the brown butter sauce was delicious, neither too thick nor too thin, making every bite a pleasure. My wife started with the carciofini salad, a mix of greens, artichokes, sunchokes, and cherry tomatoes, tossed in a simple vinaigrette (possibly with a faint lemon undertone). For an upcharge, the restaurant offers either buffalo mozzarella or burrata on the salad. My wife asked for mozzarella, and thought she received it, though we noted on the check at the end of the night that the waiter entered burrata on the ticket, so she is now unsure which she had. Regardless, she, for lack of a better expression, flipped out over how good the cheese was. The only pauses she took in eating the half-ball of cheese was to remark about it being utterly fantastic and heavenly. She hadn't had cheese on par with Assaggi's since she lived in Italy, and she is already planning on bringing her family to Assaggi to try the cheese. The entrees were very good, though not quite on par with the appetizers. My wife had the cavatelli with broccoli, which she enjoyed and about which she made uniformly positive remarks. We both felt that the menu could benefit from one or two more vegetarian entrees, including a simple pasta with red sauce. I had sea bass, but I'm not sure which preparation I ended up with. There were two striped sea bass entrees on the menu, and I believe the special was also a sea bass. I ordered the sea bass dish that should have come over a ragu of vegetables; I specifically avoided the sea bass dish that came with chopped potatoes and olives because I dislike olives. I ended up, however, with the latter dish, which I opted not to send back because (i) it was 10:00 p.m. by that point, (ii) I was not hungry enough to worry about the sides, and (iii) I'm not ungrateful for a free meal. I tried to spear a few of the chopped potato chunks, but they were so undercooked that getting a fork into each chunk was difficult. That is, however, a problem that I'm sure the kitchen can and will quickly remedy. The sea bass itself was very good; nothing innovative or amazing, but well-cooked, tasty, and worth ordering again. Dessert was top notch. My wife's deep dish of tiramisu consisted of a top layer of thick, sweet, frosting-like cream with layers of cake and rich espresso flavor beneath. She enjoyed it, though she didn't have room to finish it. I had a small, round, pumpkin-filled sweet cake served with cinnamon ice cream. It was an elegant little treat to end the meal. The restaurant's interior is classy, though not regal. The combination of bright yellow walls, dark wood trim, floors covered in a cork-like carpet, and white tablecloths leaves a slightly generic impression. Don't get me wrong; it looks and feels like a nice restaurant, one appropriate for business dinners or first dates. It just needs a little more personality, which may come with the addition of artwork on the walls. Assaggi in McLean impressed us, and I am sure it will become more impressive as it gets some time under its belt.
  6. Osteria Mozza: has anyone been? Willing to make a reservation for one (!) I was just told that I should not have a problem having dinner at the food bar on a Friday night in two weeks. I was/am shocked especially considering that I've made reservations for Chinois' food bar for 15+ years and, many times, been told there were no seats available. Is this a reflection on the restaurant? Is the economy in Southern CA that bad? I thought Osteria Mozza was among L. A.'s hardest reservations. I'm going but I'm still almost shocked that I may be able to have dinner there.