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Vendetta, Italian on 12th and H Street NE - In The Former Red Palace Space

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You'd think we would've learned our lesson about trying places in the first month of opening by now, but here we are...

Vendetta is a new Italian restaurant/bar/bocce court venture by Joe Englert in the old Red Palace space. The place looks amazing. It's tough to believe it used to be a dive bar and grungy music/burlesque venue. We started our night with cocktails, all of which were well made. The favorite of the group was the Linden Court (bourbon, amaro, madeira, orange bitters, and vanilla). I would normally have ordered a Negroni, but curiously, they have chosen to muck up the drink by adding orange juice.

For appetizers, we ordered pickled green beans, a charcuterie plate, fritto misto, and "artisan bread." The charcuterie was the highlight, but they can't really take credit for much more than plating nicely sourced salumi. The fritto misto was fine, but nothing outstanding - 3 medium sized shrimp and 3-4 baby octopi. The breading did not seem to be seasoned at all. The bread consisted of 4 chunks of cold, standard crusty bread and a pretzel stick, all inexplicably served in a large paper bag. It was served with a too-small amount of "bourbon chutney butter."

For mains, there were a couple of specials, but everyone went the pasta route. The pastas are touted as being made in-house. You choose a shape and then pair with one of several sauces. I can only vouch for the squid ink and the rabbit ragu. Both were completely unseasoned and served on the cool side of luke warm. The papardelle served with the ragu was drying out with the noodles all clumped together. No bueno. The requested salt shaker and wine were delivered ~5 minutes after everyone finished their pasta.

Luckily our dining companions were great, and between the cocktails and the company, a good time was had by all. I'm sure the service issues will iron out somewhat over time...the food, I'm more skeptical about. There was such a tremendous lack of seasoning throughout, I'm not sure anyone back there was paying any attention to what they were putting out.

All that said, I'm sure we'll be back for cocktails and bocce...and maybe that's the whole point.

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JoshNE beat me to the punch, I was about to start a thread on Vendetta since Jason and I decided to walk over and try it on Wednesday night, mostly because we wanted to check out the bocce courts. The space is gorgeous - really well done. We sat at the upstairs bar, which was empty - and I mean "employes playing bocce and watching TV" empty - when we arrived around 6:30 PM. They do some $5 wines and Peroni at happy hour, and they also have prosecco on draft, which a lot of people will like. The fritto misto was meh at best - kind of limp and bland. Jason got the bolognese on pappardelle, and it was flavorful if a bit undersalted. I got the carbonara on bucatini, which was good - the pasta was cooked nicely, and the pancetta was crispy and salty, but I kind of wished there was a whole egg to crack open, to get a bit of extra yolky goodness. That said, the egg sauce kept the pasta VERY moist, so I think it was successful overall. Could have used some cracked pepper to really take it home.

Service was good behind the bar - friendly, accesible, mostly knowledgeable.

The biggest issue for me is that it feels more like a bar than a restaurant. Unfortunately, the menu doesn't really work for that kind of feel. They need more apps, more "drinking food," especially if they want people to hang around and imbibe and play bocce. Maybe they just need a little more time to figure out exactly what they want to be?

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Finally made it in to Vendetta last night. I pretty much agree with the posts above. The space looks great, and we had a great time. The cocktails we ordered were good, and well made. The pastas were ok. Nothing wrong with them, but nothing I'll be craving until my next visit. I had the squid ink, and it was fine, but didn't have the amount of flavor I'd like. I'd say the same about my wife's rabbit ragu. I'm sure I'll be back because it's close to my house and at least decent, but I can't recommend going out of your way to come here to eat.

I would recommend the bar, however.

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Yes, but ultimately so frustrating. Why would Englert settle for a nice bar with forgettable (at best) food when he could've really hit one out of the park with that space? Aim higher, people!

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