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Ovvio Osteria, Halstead Square in Merrifield - Chef Richard Hetzler Replaces Giovanni Carlo - Closed


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I am surprised I haven't seen a thread on this place. Has anyone tried it? I checked out the space over the weekend (it is beautiful!) but have yet to eat here. My sister is working here (as a bartender) and went through *extensive* training along with all of the other staff. She is obviously biased but she raves about the food. I heard that Sietsema has a review coming out soon. What say you, DR.com community?

Website (I think it would be helpful if they posted prices on their menu.)

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Four of us ate at Ovvio last night at 6:30P. I thought it'd be packed because the Post's review came out mid-week, but the reservation was easy to get. There were still open tables to be had while we were there, but that may not last because the print review was available today.

We were seated immediately upon arrival. The space looks very clean and open. Despite the concrete floors, the noise level was reasonable and conversation was easy. The tables were 90% occupied so I wouldn't think the noise level would be much greater at full capacity. The next positive: the chairs are incredibly comfortable!! We all noticed as soon as we sat down and continued to enjoy the seats as we sat, ate, drank and yakked for the next three hours or so.

The dudes ordered Negronis, which were very good, but veered toward the heavier-on-the-Campari ratio that many bartenders like these days. I'm not complaining, mind you, but it made the drink the slow sipper it should be. If I had a gripe, it'd be that the garnish was a lemon wedge, rather than peel, so without doing surgery on my lemon, I couldn't add oil to the drink without adding juice. Woe is me. (First world problems!)

The bread basket contained fantastic focaccia and olive bread - 2 pieces of each. It was easy enough to get more, thankfully. For starters we got bruschetta with with white bean, onion jam and soft mortadella and an order of fritto misto. The calamari/veggies were cooked well and lightly seasoned. The bruschetta was delicious and probably the better of the two dishes. There was no skimping on the mortadella slices and the combination of onion jam, meat and bread was perfect.

I had the chicken dish which included sauteed spinach. According to Sietsema's review, Ovvio poaches the breast in oil and braises the leg. All I can say is that they were both terrific. The leg was boneless (could it have been a small thigh?) and was extremely tender with great flavor. The breast was also very tender with as much flavor as chicken breasts tend to have. With a smidge of salt (I'll get to that in a minute) the spinach and the breast were even better, but rest assured, they started out at a good place, too.

My three dining companions each had a pasta dish. Mrs DrXmus had spaghetti with clams and tomato sauce. She was mostly happy with the dish, but said some clams were better than others. All three pasta-eaters agreed that the pasta was "gluey". The assessment was that the texture of the pasta was al dente, but this "gluey" term kept coming up. Is that the recipe or the pasta water that gets re-used? You all can tell me, probably, but it was a major knock for all the pasta dishes. The other complaint is that the Tagliatelle Bolognese with veal, beef and pork wasn't anything like a bolognese they'd had before in that there was very little meat. Just looking at it across the table, the sauce looked more like a basic tomato sauce, not a meat-centric version. It all got eaten, mind you.

As is commonly the case, there was no salt or pepper on the table and my friends asked for both once they'd tasted their bolognese. The server brought a small plate on which were bowls of Himalayan and Black salts and some type of white flake salt. These were finishing salts, but the extra flavor improved the pasta dishes and made my spinach jump to life. I know the practice of not having salt and pepper on the table is not unusual, but do other diners find it presumptuous that the chefs think they know how to season our food better than we do? I think Sietsema's review included a line that the kitchen should be wary of oversalting, so maybe they've readjusted their salting hand, but now, at least for all four of our palates, they've gone too far the other way.

We got a bottle of Montepulciano which was served by the sommelier. After some odd struggling with the cork, our glasses were poured. While pouring my wife's glass, he noticed that there was still lipstick/gloss on the edge so he took that glass away. He grabbed another glass and finished pouring the table. After he left, we said that it was great he noticed the scunge, but that he also tossed a few ounces of our wine. He stopped by later and said it's a wine they also pour by the glass so he'll give us a splash before we were done. Later, our server stopped by the table and poured sediment into our glasses and took the bottle. Not pleasant. We never saw the sommelier again and didn't want to make a fuss so two of us ordered a glass of the same as we finished our meal. Both of those glasses included lots of sediment, too, so the last ounce or two was left in each glass.

We ordered the cheese plate to cap off the meal. It was a great combination of hard and soft cheeses, onion jam, quince paste, sliced dates and a little honey. Our server asked if we wanted bread with the cheese plate and essentially the answer was "hell, yes". Another basket of the same delicious bread we got at the start of our meal was brought to the table. We also got a pine nut torte to share. It was good but certainly nothing to fawn over. Tasty, pretty and pleasant but not something we'll talk about as being exceptional.

When I polled the table for their scores, the average was B-. I was the high score with a B. A few simple touches can give Ovvio an A, easily. Season better or give the salt plate right off the bat. Don't pour sediment in our glasses. Clean up the pasta dishes so the texture is more pure. Thanks for the bread basket and all, but more than one piece each doesn't seem unreasonable. The noise level was fantastic. The server was friendly and wasn't intrusive. Was the sommelier new? If so, just get more comfortable. Maybe it was just a bad night for him, but watching him struggle to uncork the wine with a captain's tool and make jokes about how odd it is that he was having difficulty was mildly off-putting.

We live very close by so I'd love to have Ovvio be our fancy, spend-lots-of-money dining establishment. 75% of us said we'd come back without hesitation but my wife is more of a one-and-done kind of diner. I'm sure she can be persuaded to return and I look forward to seeing how Ovvio settles in to their routine. BTW, they have a lunch special which is $12 for 2 meals, but I don't know the details. I'm willing to find out, though!

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Four of us ate at Ovvio last night at 6:30P. I thought it'd be packed because the Post's review came out mid-week, but the reservation was easy to get. There were still open tables to be had while we were there, but that may not last because the print review was available today.

They were turning away walk-ins this evening out of fear that they'd run out of product for those who had reservations (it was empty at 5:30 PM, and we couldn't even sit at the (empty) bar).

No, really, we were turned away at the door (politely). But I did have a lovely dinner there last week that I'll write about soon.

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"Chef Chris Watson Parts Ways With Ovvio Osteria" by Tom Sietsema on washingtonpost.com

This is terrible. Ovvio Osteria was by *far* the best restaurant in Merrifield. Chef Watson if you're reading this, I had you atop the Merrifield rankings, and it was an oversight on my part that you weren't in Italic (which you are now, until you leave).

I've been here several times now, and had meant to write an extensive review about how good it was, at which time I was going to upgrade you to a strong Italic rating, but I had to fly to California, and never got around to writing it.

Well, here it is: Ovvio Osteria was the only great restaurant in Merrifield, and Chris Watson leaving means that the restaurant is going to take a huge hit.

Could this be yet another example of a major talent being lured to a restaurant, only to become the victim of false promises after Review Season has ended? Maybe, maybe not, but the timing, as well as Chef Watson's words, certainly match up. And now, the (completely obsolete) review will probably remain on their wall, for all to see in the upcoming months and years.

When will people (owners, chefs, critics, the general public) ever learn? Probably never. Chefs: if you're on the verge of joining a new restaurant, I highly recommend you contacting me, in complete, sworn confidence, for some free advice before you make the leap. Many, many have in the past, and not one has regretted it - I will add that by no means am I "anti-employer," but I'm well aware that most potential employees are financially outgunned in this situation, and under a great deal of duress when it comes to making a life-altering decision under time pressure.

You know where to find me. I've seen this happen, time and time again, and I can tell you what to do in order to protect yourselves. Why would I do this for free? Because you've taken care of me my entire adult life, and it's my way of saying "˜thank you.'

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That's sad to hear. We finally went last week and it was quite good as others said above.

There was something a bit off-putting at the beginning of the meal. They had listed a special lunch deal however did not have it on the weekend even though the dates were listed on the website.

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"Chef Chris Watson Parts Ways With Ovvio Osteria" by Tom Sietsema on washingtonpost.com

This is terrible. Ovvio Osteria was by *far* the best restaurant in Merrifield. Chef Watson if you're reading this, I had you atop the Merrifield rankings, and it was an oversight on my part that you weren't in Italic (which you are now, until you leave).

I've been here several times now, and had meant to write an extensive review about how good it was, at which time I was going to upgrade you to a strong Italic rating, but I had to fly to California, and never got around to writing it.

Well, here it is: Ovvio Osteria was the only great restaurant in Merrifield, and Chris Watson leaving means that the restaurant is going to take a huge hit.

Could this be yet another example of a major talent being lured to a restaurant, only to become the victim of false promises after Review Season has ended? Maybe, maybe not, but the timing, as well as Chef Watson's words, certainly match up. And now, the (completely obsolete) review will probably remain on their wall, for all to see in the upcoming months and years.

I happened to look at the January issue of Northern Virginia magazine this morning, and of course the featured review is for Ovvio Osteria. Another obsolete one for their walls, insofar as it talks up the talents of Chef Watson. But at least it says the desserts (especially the ricotta cake) are the best part of the meal, and the pastry chef is still there, as far as we know, right?

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I've eaten at Ovvio a handful of times over the last three or four months, and the food is really good.  Some room for improvement, but i have not really disliked anything I have had here.  The prices are a bit high, but not excessively so.  (The bruschetta could use a pinch of salt, and i wish they had salt and pepper on the table.)  The pizza is solid, and I'm picky.  The fritto misto is pretty good, but I wish they had some veggies other than carrots.

My complaint is the wait staff and the floor management.  They seem really out of control on some days.  Today was particularly bad.  Other days, not quite as bad.  But never a solid performance - always some problem.

I do appreciate the follow-up call to apologize; the manager on duty did apologize as well.  (I would have appreciated it more if the MOD had comped us something.)  I tipped a normal amount despite the really bad service, but they didn't deserve it.

I hope they figure this out because I do like the food.  I'm willing to try one more time.  Maybe i'll get take-out next time and bypass the service problem.

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I've eaten at Ovvio a handful of times over the last three or four months, and the food is really good.  Some room for improvement, but i have not really disliked anything I have had here.  The prices are a bit high, but not excessively so.  (The bruschetta could use a pinch of salt, and i wish they had salt and pepper on the table.)  The pizza is solid, and I'm picky.  The fritto misto is pretty good, but I wish they had some veggies other than carrots.

My complaint is the wait staff and the floor management.  They seem really out of control on some days.  Today was particularly bad.  Other days, not quite as bad.  But never a solid performance - always some problem.

I do appreciate the follow-up call to apologize; the manager on duty did apologize as well.  (I would have appreciated it more if the MOD had comped us something.)  I tipped a normal amount despite the really bad service, but they didn't deserve it.

I hope they figure this out because I do like the food.  I'm willing to try one more time.  Maybe i'll get take-out next time and bypass the service problem.

It's ambiguous what happened. Were you recognized from Olio2go, or did you say something to management, or both? Did they call you at work to apologize? Either way, it seems like they're aiming to please.

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12 hours ago, Ericandblueboy said:

Wholesale staffing change and menu change.  Even the website changed.  Let me put on my Sherlock Holmes cap - there must've been an ownership change Watson!

The food was decent, but had I observed the menu prior to going, I wouldn't have gone.

Can you expand? Their Facebook page still lists Richard Hetzler as chef, and their website no longer works.

Although I did find what appears to be a new website, this appears to be for carryout.

Merrifield has gone to hell in a handbasket, just like Rockville Town Square, Clarendon, and West Columbia Heights.

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1 hour ago, DonRocks said:

Can you expand? Their Facebook page still lists Richard Hetzler as chef, and their website no longer works.

Although I did find what appears to be a new website, this appears to be for carryout.

Merrifield has gone to hell in a handbasket, just like Rockville Town Square, Clarendon, and West Columbia Heights.

Actually, I don't know if the kitchen staff changed since I can't see them, but the front of the house are all new people.  That new carryout website is in fact their new menu, which includes things like wings and burgers.  And the Italian parts of their menu have become much more red saucy.

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