Jump to content

Bellissimo, Downtown Fairfax


Recommended Posts

In the 1970's and much of the '80's Washington's highest profile Italian restaurant was Cantina d'Italia, downstairs, near Connecticut and M. At some point it closed and its owner later resurfaced in Old Town Fairfax with a new restaurant. He sold this last year to the chef and owner of a cooking school in Paris. The restaurant is called Bellissimo and is virtually unheard of outside of part of Fairfax County.

Dinner in Bellissimo feels EXACTLY like dinner in Firenze or Venezia. And the food is very good, probably similar to perhaps a bit better than, say, Bonaroti in Vienna. Bellissimo is about ambience and being transported across the Atlantic.

Edited by Joe H
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If lack of adequate service and bait and switch sales tactics are "exactly like Italy" than bingo, this place is spot on.

I dined there last year this time and there was exactly one waiter and two buspersons for the entire dining room (I am guessing 50 seats).

They were out of both of my wine selections and the maitre d'/waiter/owner (?) kept pushing the special bottle of wine on me that they just got in. It was in my price range, even($60). What I was served was two bottles of pedestrian Chianti Classico. I was entertaining six friends so I just decided to relax and try to enjoy the evening as much as possible.

My meal was alright (not good, merely alright), the service was ridiculously slow and unbelievably presumptuous (wife ordered Grey Goose cosmo to start, ergo all other drinks served to table were premium, regardless of how they were ordered). The food was middling at best and certainly not seasonal (mozzarella caprese in January?).

I value Joe H.'s opinion and often look for his reviews before making dinner plans. We certainly had different experiences, and I think we might have eaten at different restaurants. Maybe they sold the place or have had a management change, but the restaurant that I ate at had so many obvious flaws I won't be going back any time soon.

Edited by B.A.R.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

From the Bellissimo website:

Tables are booked for a 2-hour time limit to accommodate 2 sittings.

Friends of mine had a bad experience there a few years ago. They weren't informed of the two-hour limit when they made their reservation. Suddenly, in the midst of dessert and coffee, the staff began clearing their table. When they protested, they were unceremoniously informed that they had overstayed their welcome. Nothing will persuade them to return to the restaurant.

Granted, that was probably under the previous management, but the 2-hour policy still exists. I don't think that I would want to dine under that sort of deadline, so I am reluctant to make a reservation.

Joe, do you have any insight about this?

Edited by ScotteeM
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Joe,

I'm sorry!

I did not mean to appear to be attacking you personally. I was relating what friends of mine had told me in an email (to which I referred when composing my post), what the website said about that, and my own feelings about time limits. I regret that you took my comments so personally.

I totally respect you and your comments. I did not intend any disrespect, and I'm sorry if I came across that way (apparently I did).

I guess I was trying to determine whether you had encountered that time limit of 2 hours, and how things worked out for you. Based on your comments, I would say it worked out well for you and your party. This is encouraging. Based on my friends' comments and on the statement on the website, I would have been discouraged from making a reservation. But with your input, I feel I could call for a reservation and ask for a clarification of their time limit policy.

On the other hand, I wondered if a time limit was par for the course in Italian restaurants.

While I have your attention, you mentioned expensive specials: what were they?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I glanced at this thread yesterday, and there have been some redactions. Not sure why.

At any rate, I had a different experience than Joe H under the current management. I respect Joe H's opinions, and am glad to hear that they are getting their act together.

There were enough problems with my ONE meal A YEAR ago that I hadn't thought of going back. Maybe I'll try them out again.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I glanced at this thread yesterday, and there have been some redactions. Not sure why.

[Note: it wasn't me. I came home from dinner last night and saw a bunch of edited posts, two of which had the entire body of text gone, so I simply deleted them. That's why this thread reads "choppy" right now. My impression? No ill-will was intended here by anyone. Cheers, Rocks.]

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bellissimo is a tale of 2 restaurants based on my two experiences there. The first time I ate there, about a year and half ago, the food and service were terrific. I remember that I had a half-order of gnocchi as an appetizer a hearty veal ossso bucco as my entrée. Both were delicious. The wait staff was extremely friendly, and the owner/general manager made us feel like we were guests in his home. We never felt rushed and, as far as I know, we were never under a time limit.

Four months later, my wife and I returned to celebrate a special occassion, and had a completely different experience than our first visit. Both the food and the service were disappointing. I attempted to order a half-portion of pasta as my appetizer, to which I was told that they do not do half-portions. When I told the waiter that we have previously ordered half-orders of pasta, we were again told “we do not do half-portions”. The restaurant was practically empty, and our waiter had at most two other tables. Nevertheless, he seemed to be MIA most of the evening, but was extremely prompt with the bill. The owner/general manager was sitting at a table right near us watching the dining room, yet did not move as we were clearly trying to find our waiter on several occassions. The food was not nearly as good as the previous visit, highlighted by gnocchi with the texture of chewing gum and vegetables cooked beyond recognition. The entire meal was a huge disappointment, which is a shame because we live 10 minutes from Bellissimo and had high hopes that it would be our “go-to” place.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've read through this thread at least three times and I get the feeling that we have 2 ships passing in the night here. Clearly there has been a change in ownership of this restaurant. We have a description of one meal consumed recenlty and a couple of descriptions of meals that appear to have been consumed before or at about the time of the change in ownership. Could it be that all of the descriptions are accurate and that they describe two different restaurants, so to speak? JoeH's description is enough to make one at least want to give the place a try.

Edited by Jacques Gastreaux
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Dinner in Bellissimo feels EXACTLY like dinner in Firenze or Venezia.
If lack of adequate service and bait and switch sales tactics are "exactly like Italy" than bingo, this place is spot on.

My impression of Bellissimo this evening fell somewhere in the middle of these two sentiments. The atmosphere, while it has its charms, is fusty, old-school Italian-American, with genuinely embarrassing pictures such as this hanging on the wall (note: I saw hundreds, if not thousands, of cheesy, plastic "Statues of David" in Firenze, so this type of kitsch doesn't make it inauthentic).

The switch sales tactics were on display with the specials. Look at their menu, which has only two dishes over $30 (the tenderloin, and the lamb chop), with everything else in the teens and twenties. Yet, after our server recited a long list of specials, and was ready to take our order, one of us asked how much the ravioli special was.

"All the specials are $30," he said.

"You should have said that earlier," I told him.

The special ravioli, it turns out, was $30.95.

The food was passable, in a clunky, heavy-handed way. The "homemade" gnocchi was bad, but everything else was pleasant. The wine list is an expensive, inexcusable travesty, and I went the entire meal without so much as a glass of wine to sip on because I refused to drink their plonk. For this reason alone, I would not return here.

Perhaps the most bizarre thing about this restaurant is the absentee owner, Samira Hradsky, who lives in Paris and teaches cooking classes there.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The switch sales tactics were on display with the specials. Look at their menu, which has only two dishes over $30 (the tenderloin, and the lamb chop), with everything else in the teens and twenties. Yet, after our server recited a long list of specials, and was ready to take our order, one of us asked how much the ravioli special was.

"All the specials are $30," he said.

"You should have said that earlier," I told him.

The special ravioli, it turns out, was $30.95.

Sounds a lot like Al Tiramisu in Dupont

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...