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Sette Bello, Wilson Blvd. and N. Hartford St. in Clarendon - Closed


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I just received this e-mail re: Sette Bello in Clarendon. Time will tell if it warrants its own topic!

Come to Sette Bello in Clarendon.  Franco Nuschese's newest Italian restaurant, Sette Bello, at 3101 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Virginia,  now welcomes you for your  dining pleasure. Sette Bello officially opened its doors on Oct. 12.

Sette Bello  truly is a  new urbane slice of Milan – but  in Virginia.  The reservation telephone is 703-351-1004. www.settebellorestaurant.com

What makes Sette Bello different is its exotic “Italian sushi” bar consisting of carpacci , tuna, octopus, salmon, and, of course, Italian  rice.  Sette Bello offers a complete dinner menu, including entrees of delicious Italian dishes, antipasti, pastas, insalates, speciality meats, sandwiches, desserts and much much  more.  There is a wide selection of wine with an emphasis on Southern Italy, beer, as well as other alcoholic drinks and non-alcoholic beverages.

The interior design is modern and sleek with a 46-foot style bar, expansive floor-to-ceiling windows, flat-screen televisions, fireplace, private party room and an open pizza oven; all of which is housed in an 8,500 square foot area. The interior restaurant seats 250 and an outdoor patio will seat about 150.

The service runs from 11:30 AM to 1 AM during the weekdays, and will stay open even later during the weekends, depending on the crowds.   Sette Bello will open for lunch and perhaps Sunday brunch after a few weeks of getting settled into the area. On some nights,  Manolito, a gypsy band from the South of France will be booked. Call for performance dates.

If you are curious about how Sette Bello can be translaed ... well, Sette means seven in Italian and bello is beautiful. Beautiful Seven. Sette Bello is located at Wilson Boulevard at the Highland Street intersection.  And, it's right across Wilson from the Clarendon Metro stop.

By the way, the web site says they are hiring.

Edited by JLK
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"What makes Sette Bello different is its exotic “Italian sushi” bar consisting of carpacci , tuna, octopus, salmon, and, of course, Italian rice."

I think they are somewhat awkwardly referring to "crudo". I think perhaps they would've been better served to reallly define what it is they are doing rather than trying to dumb down with the sushi reference. I mean anybody ordering crudo is probably, by nature, pretty savvy. Of course once a week a steak tartar gets sent back because the patron didn't know it was raw.

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I went there on Thursday night. I had a good time.

For anyone who has been to Sette on Connecticut Ave. above DuPont Circle, Sette Bello is HUGE - I mean, the kitchen alone is 5 times the size of Sette's.

The Bar Tonno section of the restaurant is run by Tiffany Lee, ex-Chef de Partee at Equinox. I had some excellent tuna and gaspacho (sp?).

The wine list is very good, and anyone who has been to Sette or Café Milano will recognize some familiar names (the Café Milano restaurant group owns Sette and Sette Bello, for thos who aren't aware.) The Luigi Einaudi Dolcetto is a favorite of mine, and it did not dissappoint.

That gypsy band was really good but, my God, it was so loud I couldn't carry on a conversation if my life depended upon it while they were playing. The flat-screenT.V.'s over the bar were well-placed, so I could follow the baseball game.

It is, indeed, right across from the Clarendon Metro and the Hard Times Café, on Wilson Boulevard and Highland Street, where it meets Harrison by the church. There seems to be plenty of parking around, and there might be parking in the building as well.

I think this place is quickly going to become a neighborhood favorite for people who work there.

Like it's Arlington neighbor, Tallula, it is a prime example of "downtown" dining that is available in the suburbs. If this trend continues, then Arlington will someday be giving Bethesda a run for its money as a suburban dining Mecca.

I'd like to note that, for those who don't drive or want to fool with the Metro, the headquarters for Arlington Yellow Top and Red Top cabs is ONE BLOCK away on Irving Street, so if you imbibe a bit too much, call them and you won't have a long wait for a taxi.

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Big, ugly, mean space.

Franco Nuschese sitting at the bar tonight, on his cell phone, in a really expensive looking leather jacket.

Domenico Cornacchia manning the kitchen for a month or so, splitting duties with Cafe Milano and Sette Osteria, and supposedly turning things over to his sous chefs 'once things start running smoothly.'

Pastry chef likewise splitting duties between the establishments.

Restaurant can hold 450 people at a time, potentially shuttling in 1,000 people a day, especially when the patio opens in the spring.

People say you should give a restaurant 'a few months or so' to "get its legs" and find itself. I say: catch this place right now, while they're opening, because if you wait six months, or a year, well.... The food is pretty good now, definitely worth stopping in for (think starches: bread, pizza, pasta), and the service is 'we-just-opened' eager and friendly. Supposedly, the kitchen is open until 'at least midnight' seven days a week. We'll see what that's like on a Tuesday night in November, 2006.

This is a restaurant designed to draw in the masses and make money, and is completely without soul.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Big, ugly, mean space.

People say you should give a restaurant 'a few months or so' to "get its legs" and find itself.  I say:  catch this place right now, while they're opening, because if you wait six months, or a year, it's going to suck in no uncertain terms.

The dining area is the size of an airport terminal, and there's a fireplace in the very back of the room.  But even so, it's sterile. It won't suck ventworm nut, but remember the leaches in that movie Stand By Me?

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I dined at the bar on Friday evening. There are about 15 people behind the bar and my tender/server was a nice fellow who's name escapes me, completely unfamiliar with the wine list which features a good range of Italian Vino. Maybe he'll still be there, maybe not (ran into an already "former" bartender from SB later on at Willow) on my next visit. I ordered the risotto pomodore, but got asparagus instead -- probably didn't matter because the risotto is cooked separately, apparently, and then they add whatever flavor you order to finish the dish rather than cook the rice, say with the asparagus cooking liquid, to flavor the rice. They have a separate Crudo, aka Italian Sushi, bar next to the main bar, but it was strangely desolate compared to the throng at the main bar. This place is an Italian version of Cafe Asia, loud, same architecture reminiscent of the Pompidou Centre. It will last because I still see the hip crowd wait in line to get into La Tasca, just around the corner, and SB can't be worse.

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It has been a long, arduous weekend, with doorstep-darkening stops at Taberna del Alabardero, 2941, Café Atlantico, Andale, Le Paradou, Capitol Grille, Dino, Charlie Palmer and Tallula, not to mention a 15-mile trek yesterday. (And I’m wondering why I’m feeling run-down.) Turned away at El Charrito Caminante (they don’t take credit cards, and I had only two-dollars in my wallet), I made a beeline for Sette Bello, wanting nothing more than a sausage pizza and a glass of Chianti Classico, because I was feeling exhausted and haggard, and Sette Bello is a late-night comfort-pizza place, or so went my line of thinking.

Bzzzt! Wrong!

Against every prenatal instinct engrained in my DNA, I walked in and took a seat at the sterile, hospital-metal-looking antipasto bar, and forewent (past tense of forego) my sausage pizza and Chianti Classico, figuring I’d take one for the team as long as I was here. I asked the antipasto-chef-in-training working the bar to make me a couple of dishes of her choice. Ten minutes of assemblage later, I had the trio of salmon in front of me.

Wow!

The level of detail coming from Tiffany Lee’s antipasto bar is amazing. This was a fascinating dish, not necessarily because it was so good, but because there was so much thought and effort that went into it. The pre-prep alone is impressive (the apples and mustard-fruit are chopped down to the size of small peas), and the wonderfully friendly Tina complimented (and complemented) her mentor, the amiable and talented Tiffany Lee, who last worked at Equinox and who was expertly running the show this evening.

Don’t feel guity about ordering the two least-expensive items on the antipasto-bar menu side-by-side, because they work together perfectly. Every comedian needs a straight-man, and for $8-each, you can get a perfect one-two synergistic punch of the Verdure Grigliate (Grilled vegetable Tower with air-dried ricotta cheese), and Arancini (Arborio Rice fritters with Mozzarella, meat sauce and green peas). The vegetable tower is haute-cuisine – literally – an impressive cylindrical stack of vegetables, prepared and cut with great care and effort. It’s an elegant, hearty salad (if you can call such a thing a “salad”), and should serve as the highlight of your meal, but the rice fritters are just what the doctor ordered. You have the cold, acidic, firm, elevated stack of vegetables alongside of the piping-hot, guttural, earthy, gooey rice-balls and both make each other a lot better. It’s a combination of two things that may not be appreciated alone, but if you have them together they’ll leave you feeling satisfied and smug. Order these with a generous glass of $6.50 Pinot Grigio and you’ll have yourself one of the best $22.50 meals in town.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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Many restaurants in the area have cameras. It shouldn't bother anyone any more than the cameras at retail stores, bars, convenience stores, roads, parks, or apartment buildings.

You're probably being watched just as much in restaurants without cameras as those with them.

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Does this creep anyone else out?  Are there many other DC restaurants that "spy" on their customers?

Not in the least bit. I know of a number of other restaurants that do this, and I have never given it a second thought. Most do hide the cameras, so that the customer does not feel like they are in a bank lobby. As a diner, I like the idea that the chef can look up at a monitor to see if everything is going well in the front of the house (even if the chef is downtown and looking at the dining room in Arlington, or Tysons).
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It shouldn't bother anyone any more than the cameras at retail stores, bars, convenience stores, roads, parks, or apartment buildings.

I think having a camera hovering over my table would certainly dampen my dining experience. The proliferation of security cameras in general is a topic in and of itself, but I think in a restaurant setting they are superfluous and intrusive -- the right staff wouldn't need to rely on them, and I would think that most diners don't want to see them. Then again, Sette Bello sounds like more of a club/restaurant hybrid than a bona fide dining establishment, so that could justify the cameras somewhat, but they should at least hide the damn things.

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Does this creep anyone else out?  Are there many other DC restaurants that "spy" on their customers?

It's called critic capture. That's right, they take a screen shot of the top tier food critics in town and e-mail it to all their buddies.

Edited by Meaghan
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It doesn't bother me because it is private property and they have a right to do this.

In a way, it makes me feel more secure. It might keep less professional service people in line, and if I had a date who had their purse stolen there, I'd press to get video copy from the restaurant to try and identify the thief.

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Sette Bello is definately a welcome addition to the numberous bars in Clarendon. I have been three times, and the food has been excellent each time. The quatro fromagio pizza and pumpkin ravioli stick out in my mind as being exceptionally memorable.

However, the service there has been extremely inconsistent. I guess it is easy for the staff to get lost in the massive dining room, and I had hoped this would resolve itself with time, but it has not.

While the food makes up for the crapshoot service, just make sure you are not sat at one of the small tables. There is no reason a group of 4 should have to squeeze into the space for a table of 2. Our wine bottle and glasses alone nearly took up all the space on the table. Not very fun, I would have much rather waited to be seated at an appropriately sized table.

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I am generally ambivalent about Italian restaurants. I eat neither cheese nor most pasta, so much Italian fare is lost on me. But I run by Sette Bello every morning, and I have been curious about the scene inside since it opened. My girlfriend and I tried it last night (3/17/06).

There is some dissonance between the front of the restaurant, with its city-in-the-suburbs atmosphere, mood lighting, and raw fish bar, and the vast dining room, which is unremarkable but for its slightly confusing modern-rustic decor. I was surprised by the size of the dining room; the restaurant's facade does not hint at how far back it goes.

We were on time for our 8:30 p.m. reservation and were greeted graciously by a host. Our coats were taken, and we were seated immediately. Our Italian-accented waiter was extremely friendly and competent, making sure that we were aware of the specials before we ordered drinks, to ensure proper wine pairing, and letting us know of the kitchen's flexibility on pasta orders (half-orders are available as appetizers). I could have done without the extra flair of the fingers-to-the-mouth-followed-by-air-kiss and "Bellisimo!" but I'm sure there are diners that appreciate that level of enthusiasm from a waiter.

The bread basket, served with a plate of olive oil, held better-than-average thick, crusty Italian bread and some sort of cheese bread that I did not try.

My girlfriend ordered the "Pierina," a salad of spinach, pear slices, pine nuts, and thin sheets of Ricotta cheese, tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. I tried a few leafs of the salad, and found the lemon vinaigrette to be far less emphatic than I thought it would be, which is a good thing.

I ordered the "Trio of Salmon" from the "Bar Tonno" menu of appetizers, and very much liked the dish. It was presented well, served in a narrow, rectangular plate separated into three compartments. Despite featuring three takes on salmon, the appetizer is small enough that it is not enough to share. The salmon caviar, featuring sizable, salty, fish eggs was nicely complemented by its underlying Arborio rice, making each bite rich and interesting. The tartare was so melt-in-the-mouth soft and flavorful that, in retrospect, I would have been perfectly happy for all three compartments to be filled with small tartare mounds. The "Margarita style" salmon was not much to my liking, but I knew from the outset that I might not enjoy it, because I do not like alcohol mixed with my food. The black salt around the glass, however, mixed well with the tartare.

My girlfriend's entree, the mezzelune (pumpkin ravioli), was good, but not great. The ravioli are somewhat small, not allowing much space for the nearly candy-like filling of almond paste and pureed pumpkin. I can see a half-order of the pumpkin ravioli as a good appetizer, but the boring, colorless presentation, coupled with the minimal ravioli filling, makes it an average entree.

I had a simple, thick, well-prepared swordfish steak encrusted with peppercorn that reminded me that a good piece of fish does not need to be dressed up to impress. The peppercorn encrusted on the swordfish's surface was so good that even though I could not finish the fish, I cut the remaining portion horizontally to get a few more peppery bites.

The swordfish rested on a bed of sweet and sour eggplant chopped into soft, tender chunks, a side that would have been the envy of any high-end Asian restaurant. The sweet and sour eggplant speaks to an aspect of the restaurant that everyone seems to be overlooking: the web site notes that Sette Bello serves "Italian cuisine with an Asian style," and the Asian influence extends beyond the "Italian sushi" available at the bar and on the "Bar Tonno" menu.

The swordfish, at $18.00, is also a great value.

The only downside to the visit, and a small one at that, was a lengthy wait for the appetizers to arrive and, again, a lengthy wait for the entrees to arrive. But the entrees came out hot and freshly-prepared, and while we were dining a little late (we did not order until close to 9 p.m.), we recognized that it was a busy Friday night following a recent Washington Post review. We were in no hurry, so we sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed a good meal.

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A group of us ate at Sette Bello a few weeks ago.

The good:

-Cavatelli pasta with broccoli rabe, sausage, and pecorino.

The so-so:

-Roasted bell peppers with fresh mozzarella and basil. This dish would have been pleasant enough; however, the texture of the roasted peppers was way too soft and mushy.

-Gnocchi with tomato, mozzarella, and basil. Again, a texture issue as the gnocchi were sort-of gummy.

-Smoked salmon carpaccio. The general consensus was that the capers completely over-powered the smoked salmon.

The bad:

-Our waitress, who thought that she was auditioning for Last Comic Standing. OK, we get it. You think your funny. Now, where is the wine we that ordered 20 minutes ago?

Overall, nothing was truly horrible (except, for a couple of our waitresses jokes) but I think that my money would have been better spent elsewhere.

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We usually start with the special antipasto platter samplings of meat, cheese, seafood salad, and vegetables, etc. The large platter is great for four people. The pastas I really like include the Amatriciana (thick spaghetti with tomato sauces, pancetta and pecorino cheese) and the seafood spaghetti, also in a light red sauce with mussels, clams, and calamari. The pasta has been perfectly al dente and the seafood very fresh. My husband gravitates toward the meat dishes and enjoys the braised short ribs (special, I think) and the pounded pork chop. For dessert, the almond cake is delicious; the chocolate tart no so much. The pizza can be good, but we've had some real soggy crust. We stopped going to Sette Bello for a while after experiencing snotty and/or incompetent service, but on the last few visits the service has been very professional, though a little slow.

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The mini breaded and fried meatballs from Sette Bello's "Italian tapas" section of the menu were really good last night (sometime within the last two months, they streamlined/revised their dinner menu (the pastas used to be in two categories) and added more small plates). It was 6 mini meatballs, each with a thin coating of breading, presented 3 to a skewer and accompanied with a slightly spicy tomato sauce and a small pile of light, crispy, fried onion strings that were surprising in how un-greasy they were.

The pastas I really like include the Amatriciana (thick spaghetti with tomato sauces, pancetta and pecorino cheese)...The pasta has been perfectly al dente...
For my main, I had the Perciatelli Amatriciana (for the third time). The thick spaghetti's been perfectly al dente for me each time also, and I like the sauce with little bits of pancetta.

The pizza can be good, but we've had some real soggy crust.
The two times earlier this year that my husband ordered the pizza, his crust didn't hold up under the toppings and was sagging.
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We stopped going to Sette Bello for a while after experiencing snotty and/or incompetent service, but on the last few visits the service has been very professional, though a little slow.
We had a big group go by for a going away party a few months back and about 3 people, including Beth, ordered this one pasta dish. After about three bites she said it was really bland and she thought it was supposed to have sundried tomatoes. I agreed that the menu had said sundried tomatoes. I called the server over and said something about it and she said that the dish didn't have sundried tomatoes and immediately walked away before I could respond. My friend across the table had overheard and asked if we were asking about the tomatoes. So we called her back and asked her again and she said something to the effect of, "I have worked here awhile and there have never been tomatoes on that dish. You must have misread." You could tell she wasn't confident though, fidgeting, not looking directly at us and clearing away some plates as she talked. We were there for other reasons though and just forgot about it.

I reviewed the menu after remembering it a few days later and sure enough, sundried tomatoes. The only reason I mention this is that I have a huge tolerance for mistakes in restaurants. Tell me you were out, tell me the kitchen messed up, tell me you accidently rang it in no tomatoes or just tell me you got hungry an picked out all my tomatoes for a snack and I would be totally cool. But please don't call me out in front of all my friends and make me look like a jerk for even bringing it up.

Anyways I had a decent fish special. Well cooked piece of rockfish. Bland pasta dish and inconsistent finish on the noodles (some were mushy, some undercooked) and the meat/cheese platter wasn't anything more impressive than you can get prepackaged at Safeway.

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I reviewed the menu after remembering it a few days later and sure enough, sundried tomatoes. The only reason I mention this is that I have a huge tolerance for mistakes in restaurants. Tell me you were out, tell me the kitchen messed up, tell me you accidently rang it in no tomatoes or just tell me you got hungry an picked out all my tomatoes for a snack and I would be totally cool. But please don't call me out in front of all my friends and make me look like a jerk for even bringing it up.

I'm reading this post only AFTER having had saturday lunch at Sette Bello.

I've been to Sette in Dupont Circle several time, lovely pizza, good service, quick but not to make you feel you have to rush.... a place I would recommend.

This one? No.

We were almost alone in the patio outside.

After ordering wine, antipasto and pizza for both of us, it took the server almost 20-25 minutes to bring to the table the wine I requested, but wrong vintage. And I had already stopped eating 'cause my antipasti was already half gone before this.

Anyway.... I ask for a different wine. Another 20 minutes and the wine arrives. Right one, right vintage. Ok. But it's almost an hour now that we ordered our pizza and some concerns start buzzing our heads.

And we were right..... pizzas were already made and waiting on the counter for at least 15 minutes 'cause they came out cold (and wrong...quattro formaggi instead of quattro stagioni). Sent back the worng one, my wife couldn't eat hers because was cold, we waited another 20 minutes for the right pizza...and remember, we were probably the only customers at that time... and BTW the Antipasti plates were still on our table when the first round of pizza came out and stayed there until the second pizza came out.

At that point I asked the server to pack them to go and to bring me the check .... guess what? 15 minutes for the check.....

I dont know, maybe he was working in another restaurant too at the same time, I dont know....

I dont like to be rushed while eating, but neither being abandoned.

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We go now and then, before the oppressive heat wave struck this area we used to like the patio. It used to be better, but if it isn't a million degrees and they have risotto with Lamb or Osso Bucco that is normally very good. They used to have a pasta with salmon that was good, but I haven't had that in probably a year now. I haven't had great luck with too many of the pastas.

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Their food has been up and down over the years but recently they have swung up although my husband thinks they have swung down. Last month, we both had spaghetti scoglio with mussels and clams. I thought it was good and my husband thought it was not so good. We both liked the fried calamari and the salad with ricotta and pears. Our friend had some eggplant dish with pasta and raved about it.

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It wasn't too good. :)

Fried calamari was greasy, and not at all crispy. I had the veal shank on saffron risotto for an entree. The veal was dry and the risotto was super heavy and kind of gloppy. Dessert was not worth mentioning. I enjoyed the bottle of Barbara we got, but overall I can't really see any reason to come back here.

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While I am not surprised about Sette Bello, food started good then went downhill and there were often service issues, I am not at all excited by it's replacement. Which I think will have tough competition for the demographic they are seeking and won't bring anything new to the area- neither in food or in atmosphere.

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I've had a love-hate relationship with them for years but in the last 6 months, it was love. Their spaghetti alla scoglio was terrific as was their fried calamari. We will miss them as they were on our regular rotation list. I guess I will be spending more time at Argia's and A la Lucia.

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While I am not surprised about Sette Bello, food started good then went downhill and there were often service issues, I am not at all excited by it's replacement. Which I think will have tough competition for the demographic they are seeking and won't bring anything new to the area- neither in food or in atmosphere.

Agreed. We used to like getting pizzas at the bar with a nice glass of wine.

As for not bringing anything new to the area... that's spot on and so frustrating... we live just a few blocks behind here and sadly, more and more, Clarendon seems to be becoming one large frat party/bar in the evenings... :) I can only imagine what that back patio will be like now in the evenings. At least the wilder crowds tended to stay further up the block by Liberty and Spider Kelly's or over by Mister Days.

Never dined at ATR - only stopped by the bar when out with friends in Reston and it seemed pretty "fratty"... :) Would be interested to know what others think of the food, atmosphere, etc...

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