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Acqua al 2, Eastern Market - a Remote Outpost of a Florence Pizzeria on Capitol Hill SE

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So a place called Acqua al Due is coming to a space across 7th Street from Eastern Market formerly occupied by two clothing stores. (Just up the block from Montmartre.)

(Here is a blurb.)

Has anyone eaten at this place, the original of which is in Florence and an outpost of which is in San Diego? I can't imagine this is bad news, given that neither Dottie's nor A&A Athletic had attracted my disposable income while they occupied the space. But how good is the news?

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I just about jumped out of my chair at this post. I spent some time in Florence during college and this place was right down the street from my apartment. The Florence location (at the time at least) was out of this world! They do this amazing price fixed pasta "sampler." They adjust the price and portions based on your party size and then the chef sends out, one at a time, fresh house-made pastas with sauces and additions of whatever happens to be in season currently. You would think an entire meal of pastas would be boring or overwhelming, but on the contrary, it was a beautiful showcase of the chef's talents and the versatility of pristine ingredients. I still dream of this farfalle with fresh pumpkin and bit of cinnamon and nutmeg.

I am unsure of how the American location measures up, as I've never been. But if it's anything like the Florence locale, we are in for some excellent Italian food!

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Sounds exciting...although the "franchising" link on their website might give one pause. However, considering I also have never stepped foot in A&A or Dottie's...it can only be a (hopefully) positive development!

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Sounds exciting...although the "franchising" link on their website might give one pause. However, considering I also have never stepped foot in A&A or Dottie's...it can only be a (hopefully) positive development!
I've set foot in both but never bought anything in either :lol:.

It's interesting that the San Diego location appears to be in the neighborhood that appeared on the 2007 Great Places list with Eastern Market.

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I'm wrong there. It looks like it's in the Gaslamp District, not Hillcrest. They look pretty close together on a map. And that place has been open 8 years. So much for my theory...

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So exciting!!! I studied in Florence in the fall of 2001 and this was one of our favorite restaurants when we were there. I'm blanking on a lot of what they offered, but I do remember sampler type things as mentioned above that were an awesome way to try a bunch of stuff. This is awesome.

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I ate at the one in Florence in 2002 and had an excellent meal. I too remember the pasta sampler in particular. I just hope the DC version can stand up to my memories of it. I'm sure my recollection of the place is impacted as much by the by the overall experience as by the food itself. Being on vacation in Florence paints everything in a different light than driving across town for dinner in SE DC on an average Friday night.

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I haven't read the paperwork on the outside carefully, but I'll guess they'll try to go for a sidewalk cafe. After dark (or, at least, in the summertime after dark), not much is open along there except Tunnicliffs, Ben and Jerrys, and Montmarte. It would really help the street scene along there to have another active restaurant open well into the night hours.

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I also spent time studying in Florence back in the late 90s and absolutely adored Acqua al Due. The five course sampler was amazing and always kept me wanting to go back and try new dishes. It was there that I was first introduced gnocchi and is probably the reason to this day that I'm a total snob about eating the dish in the U.S. :-)

I totally agree with Bags that being in Florence can taint your opinions since everything is amazing and inspiring, but for now I'm going to hold out hope that the D.C. version can be just as fantastic.

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This looks to be opening soon. They have a sign in the window saying that they are hiring for all positions. There was also a date given for a job fair. I think it was April 7th.

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We had an enjoyable dinner here last night. The space is beautiful. It's quite a transformation from the two businesses that occupied it before. I encountered a friend on the way in who had tried to get a table as a walk-in, but they were all booked. (This is the second person I've talked to who couldn't get in without a reservation in the days the restaurant has been open.) It wasn't packed full when we were there (except for the bar), but I gather the empty tables were being held for later reservations. In another words, a reservation is advisable if you're heading here for dinner, even on a Wednesday.

The food was wonderful (though not inexpensive). Service had some glitches, but they were handled well. For the most part, those issues were nothing exceptional for a place only open for a few days. We dealt briefly with one employee who was flat out rude, but maybe she was having a bad night. Everyone else was quite pleasant, especially our server. He handled every glitch/problem promptly and smoothly.

I'd recommend pretty much everything we had. The strozzapreti al pomodoro were wonderfully delicate, not at all heavy. For our primi course, we ordered the Assagio di primi, which is the chef's selection of five vegetarian pastas. Our server told us that they would come out over the course of the meal. I should have taken him more literally than I did, since the first one arrived before our antipasti and the last when we were nearly done our secondi. For both the first and the last, we thought we were being delivered something we hadn't ordered, the first because we didn't expect it so quickly and the last because the meal was almost over and we'd already had what should have been all five pasta dishes.

As best I can recall, the pastas were a penne or ziti coated with a cheese sauce; bowties with zucchini; gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce; riso with tomato sauce; fusilii with a dark sauce of some kind; and rigatoni. (I was full and didn't eat any of the last two.) My favorite was the riso. It was one of the best risottos I've had in some time. I liked the idea of this course--a tasting menu of pastas--though I had begun to fill up by the time of dish number five. I stopped eating pasta in order to be able to enjoy my veal chop with porcini mushrooms, which was delicious and worth the $29.

The weirdest problem of the night was with the Tagliata alla Robespierre in Focaccia, which doesn't come with focaccia :lol:. My husband hadn't ordered this for the focaccia, but found it odd that a component given in both the name of the dish and its description wasn't included. Presumably they will change something in the future to make the menu and actual dish served line up. (One of the owners came over and apologized when the server brought this to his attention.) We'd already had plenty of bread, which comes with olive oil for dipping. The first batch of bread (served in a paper bag) was great but the refill was mostly stale. We didn't really need any more bread, though, so it wasn't a problem.

Overall: good experience, even with some oddities. I'm sure the glitches will get straightened out in time, but I'd happily go back soon...except for maybe the cost.

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Overall: good experience, even with some oddities. I'm sure the glitches will get straightened out in time, but I'd happily go back soon...except for maybe the cost.

If I may ask, what about the cost gave you pause? The only number I see is the $29 veal chop, which you thought was worth it (and seems more than reasonable). Just asking, as I rode by on my bike last night and didn't stop to look at the menu last night (stupid rain).

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Unfortunately, my review of Aqua al 2 is not quite as glowing as Pat's. I LOVED this restaurant when I studied abroad in Florence the fall of 2001. Maybe I just loved everything about Italy and this restaurant fell into that, but I definitely went a handful of times with friends and remember thinking it was one of my favorite restaurants there. Alas, this new DC outpost did not live up to expectations. And even my friend who had not been to the original and did not have many expectations left disappointed.

We didn't have any service problems, and one of the owners (can't remember his name) came by a couple times to check on us and was very enthusiastic about making sure everything was ok. We actually were able to walk in and get a table for two around 6:15 or so, but it was definitely filling up by the time we left, so I would agree that reservations are recommended, even on a rainy Wednesday.

I was really disappointed in the bread. Maybe we just got one of the stale bags, and a different bag would've been better, but even the olive oil couldn't really perk it up. I also think the bag is a bit obtrusive and would have preferred a smaller basket that would take up less room on the table. My Insalata Caprese (Sliced tomato and imported mozzarella di buffala topped with basil and drizzled with olive oil - $10) was good, but nothing really different or unusual. It was maybe 5-6 slices of tomato each with a thick slice of mozz and a sprig of basil on top (which I had to tear up myself to spread over the separate slices). My friend had the Antipasto ($14) plate which included a couple slices of salami, one slice of bresaola, a couple slices of prosciutto, two pieces of bread with bruschetta topping, a couple chunks of cheese and 3-4 grissini breadsticks. It was a fairly large serving of food, and the bites I had were good (although the bruschetta was overwhelmed with red onions).

In Florence I remember the pasta sampler being one of my favorite things, so of course we split the Assaggio di Primi (Our Signature Dish w/ two person minimum - A sampler of five from the first course list. Chef's Choice. $13 per person). The first dish was decent and was called Riso Verde, but we couldn't find the actual dish on the menu. The rice was a little undercooked, but the sauce was a tasty broccoli cream type thing. Second was Maccheroni alla Vodka (Penne pasta with a milk and vodka sauce and a touch of tomato sauce) and since neither of us are huge fans of vodka sauce, this was probably our least favorite. But since this is all Chef's Choice and just depends on what is coming out of the kitchen at the time your dish is served it's sort of a crap shoot! Third was Rigatoni alle Melanzane (Tube shaped pasta with a tomato eggplant sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. “Martin’s favorite”), and from the description I would've expected a lot more of an eggplant flavor. This was disappointing in it's blandness. It basically tasted like pasta in a simple, underseasoned tomato sauce. Fourth we had a Fusilli in a Vegetable Sauce that is on the DC menu but not online. Again, just nothing special and definitely could've used some pepper or a little spice of some sort. The last dish was probably the best, and we both admitted maybe the only reason we'd give the place another shot. It was Cannelloni Mascarpone e Funghi (Cannelloni pasta filled with mascarpone and porcini mushrooms, baked in a bowl with our house tomato sauce and topped with parmesan cheese), and although quite a small serving size, the porcini flavor was very very good.

Maybe my expectations were too high based on my memories of Florence, but I was really unimpressed with Aqua al 2 last night. With so many other new places on the Hill and up in Trinidad to try, and other favorites to return to, this won't be too high on my list of dinner options in the area.

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If I may ask, what about the cost gave you pause? The only number I see is the $29 veal chop, which you thought was worth it (and seems more than reasonable). Just asking, as I rode by on my bike last night and didn't stop to look at the menu last night (stupid rain).

It's my own quirk more than anything, so maybe I shouldn't have said that. I wasn't trying to paint it as a super-expensive restaurant. Mentally, the farther I travel to go to a restaurant, the less the cost bothers me. When something is nearby, it's tempting to want to go frequently, which quickly becomes very expensive even for something that is fairly moderately priced. It's the same reason I don't go to Sonoma more often. Even something nearby and cheap gets costly with repeated visits.

If I were to order more frugally, the total would have been less, but at an Italian restaurant like this, I feel like I need to get three courses. The veal chop is at the top end of the price range. (We approached $115, after tax but before tip) for one glass of wine, one shared antipasti, primi for two, and two secondi). For a special occasion, that would seem quite reasonable, actually on the inexpensive side. For a Wednesday night trip to a neighborhood restaurant, it seems expensive.

This is the menu. Our costs were $9, $13, $13 x 2, $27 and $29.

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I was really disappointed in the bread. Maybe we just got one of the stale bags, and a different bag would've been better, but even the olive oil couldn't really perk it up. I also think the bag is a bit obtrusive and would have preferred a smaller basket that would take up less room on the table.

The discrepancy between the fresh and stale bread was quite significant. I'm not sure how they wound up with such variability there. I agree about the bags. Ours kept tilting over on the table. The server had trouble propping it up and keeping it upright. It's a quaint idea but doesn't work as well in practice.

In Florence I remember the pasta sampler being one of my favorite things, so of course we split the Assaggio di Primi (Our Signature Dish w/ two person minimum - A sampler of five from the first course list. Chef's Choice. $13 per person). The first dish was decent and was called Riso Verde, but we couldn't find the actual dish on the menu. The rice was a little undercooked, but the sauce was a tasty broccoli cream type thing. Second was Maccheroni alla Vodka (Penne pasta with a milk and vodka sauce and a touch of tomato sauce) and since neither of us are huge fans of vodka sauce, this was probably our least favorite. But since this is all Chef's Choice and just depends on what is coming out of the kitchen at the time your dish is served it's sort of a crap shoot! Third was Rigatoni alle Melanzane (Tube shaped pasta with a tomato eggplant sauce, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. “Martin’s favorite”), and from the description I would've expected a lot more of an eggplant flavor. This was disappointing in it's blandness. It basically tasted like pasta in a simple, underseasoned tomato sauce. Fourth we had a Fusilli in a Vegetable Sauce that is on the DC menu but not online. Again, just nothing special and definitely could've used some pepper or a little spice of some sort. The last dish was probably the best, and we both admitted maybe the only reason we'd give the place another shot. It was Cannelloni Mascarpone e Funghi (Cannelloni pasta filled with mascarpone and porcini mushrooms, baked in a bowl with our house tomato sauce and topped with parmesan cheese), and although quite a small serving size, the porcini flavor was very very good.

Your meal did not overlap with ours, which might account, at least in part, for our different experiences. The only thing ordered in common was the pasta course. What's interesting to me is that you were there earlier on the same night we were and your pastas were completely different from ours (though the fusilli might have been the same). I, too, noticed that the pastas didn't seem to match up quite with the pastas offered on the menu, but I figured the variations were part of the chef's choice element.

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Your meal did not overlap with ours, which might account, at least in part, for our different experiences. The only thing ordered in common was the pasta course. What's interesting to me is that you were there earlier on the same night we were and your pastas were completely different from ours (though the fusilli might have been the same). I, too, noticed that the pastas didn't seem to match up quite with the pastas offered on the menu, but I figured the variations were part of the chef's choice element.

I could definitely see how we would've had a better experience if we had had a different set of pastas, and with 12-13 on the menu (along with the other variations the chef may send out) you could certainly have a different set of 5 on different trips. However, I'm not sure it is worth it to me to take that gamble and possibly not have a good meal. I think when/if I head back I'd be more likely just to order one of the primis on it's own (likely something with porcinis or gorgonzola) so I know I'll be more satisfied.

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Anyone been as of late have an updated report? Thinking of taking out-of-town family, thought it would be fun to show them the E. Market hood.

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Anyone been as of late have an updated report? Thinking of taking out-of-town family, thought it would be fun to show them the E. Market hood.

FWIW, I've spoken to someone who has been there multiple times (five at last count) and loves the steaks--even the one with blueberry sauce. (Other reactions I've gotten on the blueberry steak have been mixed, but everyone has raved about the quality of the steaks. I have no idea where they get them from.) The same person who is such a big partisan of the place advises against getting the pasta. The kitchen is too small to make it in-house, he says, and that's apparently the reason for so many comments about mediocre pasta.

Definitely take the family to the Eastern Market area, wherever you decide.

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Very excited to hear that Acqua al 2 has opened up in DC. I've eaten at the Florentine original a number of times and at its San Diego spin-off once while visiting my brother. Frankly, I think the restaurant is stalking my family... but I am happy to have such a delicious stalker. Hopefully, I'll get to our DC branch soon, but I tend to think you are better off using the pasta sampler as a means to identify which of their pastas you like, because some of them could be really good, but some were just mediocre. The star of the menu, though, is the filet in either the balsamic reduction or the blueberry sauce. I started out a firm believer in the superiority of the balsamic and came around over time to recognize the greatness of the blueberry. There's just nothing like it... and I can hardly wait to have it again now that it is in my backyard. (Not literally. That would make for a huge backyard.)

I'll put up a report on how this one compares to the original after I get a little firsthand experience with the new Acqua al 2.

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Very excited to hear that Acqua al 2 has opened up in DC. I've eaten at the Florentine original a number of times and at its San Diego spin-off once while visiting my brother. Frankly, I think the restaurant is stalking my family... but I am happy to have such a delicious stalker. Hopefully, I'll get to our DC branch soon, but I tend to think you are better off using the pasta sampler as a means to identify which of their pastas you like, because some of them could be really good, but some were just mediocre. The star of the menu, though, is the filet in either the balsamic reduction or the blueberry sauce. I started out a firm believer in the superiority of the balsamic and came around over time to recognize the greatness of the blueberry. There's just nothing like it... and I can hardly wait to have it again now that it is in my backyard. (Not literally. That would make for a huge backyard.)

I'll put up a report on how this one compares to the original after I get a little firsthand experience with the new Acqua al 2.

We just went to Acqua al 2 and it is just as good as the original, you won't be disappointed.

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Had a satisfactory meal at Acqua al 2 last night.

They have done a nice job with the space...the main dining room is a long room stretching to the back of the building, all exposed brick and pressed tin roof. we had an early reservation, but by 8pm the restaurant was around 80% full, (not bad for a Monday night!) The food, nothing was particularly bad, but nothing was particularly great.

Our first basket of bread was very stale, second basket was fine, they pour olive oil and balsamic for dipping. Started with the shaved fennel and radicchio salad, it was pleasent. Then had the penne with tomato and eggplant sauce. Again it was pleasent. Sampled the steak with balsamic sauce, which was tasty. we went with the dessert sampler platter - tiramisu (probably the best of the desserts), fruit tart, cheese cake, and a very rich chocolate cake.

So it was a fun night out to celebrate my friend's birthday. Restaurant was nice. The food was...fine.

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