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DeCarlo's, Yuma Street behind Spring Valley

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Well I am sure I am not the only one who is always asked where to go for the Holiday Lunch. Well after I sugessted Corduroy and Tabard Inn, someone else mentioned DeCarlos's in AU/Spring Valley.... Has anyone heard about it or eaten there? Washington Post doesn't even list it as a restaurant. Washintonian has this link - let me know your thoughts!

Thanks (if there is a better post to move this to let me know...)

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Coincidence? DeCarlo's turned up on Tom S.'s chat today:

McLean, Va.: Tom, oh illustrious gourmand,

Is there any CAN'T MISS dish at Charlie Palmer? Heading there for a birthday and very excited! Thanks for the recommendation on Dahlia, although if you are heading out to Spring Valley for Dahlia, one day you must go right BEHIND that restaurant and try out DeCarlo's, if only because it's an institution, though I LOVE their escargot dish. My one complaint about Dahlia beside my RAVE over their fried brie app, is that the decor is STRUGGLING. Utilitarian and bare and those photographs...are...uh, unique? The wait staff was charming and gregarious and a little different than what you'd expect from staid old S.V. (i.e. dreadlocks) But the atmosphere...DEFINITELY needs some work.

Tom Sietsema: Let me see if I can address your many questions.

1) I'm partial to the rib-eye steak at CP Steak, and be sure to order a side dish or three (goat cheese pasta is a hit).

2) I've been to Decarlo's. It's fun and old-fashioned.

3) I agree: Dahlia could use the services of an interior decorator.

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I do think this place is better than Chef Boyardee's...

The agnolotti is not Galileo's, but not overcooked pasta, creamy sauce, just not much flavor, seasoning as I would have liked (they kindly added some tomato for me), but for the price just fine. Started with a salad which I did like as a simple green mix, light dressing was tasty too. Nothing fancy here, but goes beyond the act of nourisment for nourishments sake...

What did stand out, was the limoncello gelato with a candy type shell, really creamy, and tart enough that I didn't really remeber how stuffed I was. It seemed that desserts were appealing all around the table.

Obviously this place is not going away, lunch was fairly full. This may be in part to the pretty wonderful service, poor guy refilled my coffee at least 5 times...

If you need to stick in the vicinity of spring valley/AU the service and 'nicer' atomosphere make a safe bet alongside price/value.

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Washintonian has this link
The agnolotti is not Galileo's, but not overcooked pasta, creamy sauce, just not much flavor, seasoning as I would have liked (they kindly added some tomato for me), but for the price just fine.

Forgive me for poking some fun at De Carlo's, a surprisingly large restaurant, bustling with about sixty diners during peak dinner hour last evening. I have to make fun of the wine list, which has about a dozen wines by the glass under a section labeled "House Wines," one of which is a Beringer White Zinfandel ($6.00). And then there's the "Special Wines By The Glass" section, with about a dozen more 'reserve wines,' one of which is a Kendall-Jackson Chardonnay ($8.50). It is, quite simply, a howlingly bad selection of wines, and I stuck with Moretti.

But I can't make (too much) fun of a restaurant serving so many senior citizens, the median age of yesterday's crowd probably pushing 70, with plenty of diners a lot older than that. Service is leisurely and superficially "proper," while at the same time being detached and inefficient. Yet, the older clientele all seemed to be enjoying their meals.

Curse the obelisk-shaped salt-shaker, with tiny little holes that required a violent shaking just to extract even the smallest amount of salt. And the bland Trenette Carbonara ($16.95) needed it desperately, to the point where I became embarrassed commandeering the salt shaker in this quiet, genteel, white-tablecloth restaurant and jackhammering it up-and-down over my young dining companion's tasteless noodles.

The highlight of the meal was the sauce in the Frutti di Mare ($23.95) which perhaps explains the long wait for the pastas - it was infused with plenty of seafood and was almost bouillabaisse-like, but the dish as a whole was merely decent, with standard-issue shellfish and overcooked linguine.

If it's any indication of the overall experience, I felt obligated - and even WANTED - to order a Spumoni ($5.95) for dessert.

After dinner, I found myself driving past the Katzen Arts Center at American University, and was reminded of the time a pianist friend of mine was choosing his selections for a future recital.

"And I'm going to have to throw in a Mozart," he said.


"Because it's the only thing they're going to really like."



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I am probably one of DC's top experts on DeCarlo's-- I have been eating there and enjoying it immensely for approximately 20 years. So count this review as definitive.

DeCarlo's is one of the ultimate Washington insider places. It was the planned site of Hillary Clinton's proposed dinner with Vince Foster and Web Hubbell in the early years of the Clinton administration (Hubbell and Foster showed; Clinton didn't and her failure to attend reportedly deepened Vince Foster's depression, with historic results). Jim Lehrer mentioned DeCarlo's in his eulogy at the funeral of Meg Greenfield, the Washington Post's late, great editorial page editor. One can periodically see what appear to be FBI vans parked outside to guard presumably well-known diners.

The decor at DeCarlos is old fashioned, and I happen to like it that way. It is a supremely comfortable establishment with well-spaced tables and (!) booths. A booth a DeCarlo's is one of my favorite dining venues-- in my lexicon, a booth there is "a much-coveted booth at DeCarlo's".

The food: there are some excellent choices available. Appetizers: an outstanding steamed artichoke with thick, garlicky vinaigrette; an excellent arugula salad; a robust sausage. Pastas are made in house and are generally satisfying and good. Entrees: a wonderful osso bucco, an excellent steak (cooked accurately-- a rarity outside a steakhouse); great with the sauce on the side, by the way; a lovely, light squid in white wine. The specials are usually worth trying, especially on weekends. Desserts: the lemon gelatto, the white chocolate mousse. The bar has made me a good bellini in the past.

Flaws: other than the (very good) risotto served with the osso bucco, no risotto options. Bread is a weak point. The bread served before dinner is disappointing. (Insider's tip: order the garlic bread, with or without cheese, not on the menu, for a small price; alternative: stick to the breadsticks.)

Service at DeCarlo's is gracious.

Don't try DeCarlo's if you want the next new thing. But if you want comfort and (if you order well) a good meal, you may be very happy. It's clear that many Washington insiders agree with me-- DeCarlo's has been in business a long, long time. And if you happen not to visit, that's just fine--the regulars will be happy either way.

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