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Pulcinella - The Italian Host, Southern Italian Dining on Old Dominion Drive in McLean


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I've lived in McLean for a little over 3 years now, and I keep forgetting this place exists, even tho I'm a regular visitor to Moby's just next door. Anyway, I finally grabbed a takeout menu, and we gave this place a shot...very pleasantly surprised!

The menu notes that the pasta is homemade, and i believe them. We got an order of the Ravioli alls Panna, which came with 6 large raviolis (Maggianos large? No, but certainly large enough and homemade!) in a tasty parmesan and cream sauce. By the taste and texture, I think they're not only homemade, but made that day, too. Anyway, really good.

We also got the Pollo Francese, which were 3 bread filets in a lemon-oil sauce. Again, I though the portion ample, moist and tasty. My wife thought it was too lemony, but I didn't agree.  It also came with a side of spaghetti (you could get salad instead), which was solid. Not the best red sauce I've ever had, but very serviceable and not an embarrassment either (take note Roccos!).

We got an order of Fried Zucchini, and it was huge, but didn't travel very well. I think the food was so hot that it continued to steam in its container, so it wasn't very crispy. It's something that needs to be tried at the restaurant for a real evaluation, tho i'm not rue i'd get it for takeout again (it wasn't that bad).

Dare I say that there may be a pretty damn good Italian restaurant in McLean...

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This place has been around forever, and it great. Southern Italian cooking like a millions places you can find int he NY area, but they do it right. My favorite dish is their Lasagna with meat sauce.

You're right the fried zucchini doesn't travel well, but when its hot, fresh out of the kitchen is it terrific.

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This community amazes me. Whenever I see an "old friend" restaurant pop up here, I just smile. I haven't been to Pulcinella in years, but I've been there probably over a dozen times, maybe even two dozen (when Matt was young, I'd take him here all the time). The pasta (I'm actually thinking right now of the gnocchi) can be somewhat gummy, and the sauces under-seasoned, but this is classic, old-school, red-sauce Italian all the way (they even used to have "Opera Night").

Have you noticed how Pulcinella and Moby Dick have essentially put up an armed border station between them so Moby's customers can't park in Pulcinella's parking lot?

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I used to be a somewhat irregular "regular" here. After a while, the menu got to be boringly repetitious but the food is decently passable and the servings are large and the staff is pleasant.  Just don't go on Friday or Saturday night when it seems that every young family in McLean and their 2.5 children are there.

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Mark me down as another fan & longtime regular.  Their pizza is very good, baked in a wood oven by two craftsman who know how to crank out delicious pies (Cisto & Ponchus by name-o).  Prices are creeping up but value is still decent in the food wasteland of McLean.

If you enjoyed the lasagna, try the house special menu Lasagna Bolognese - prepared differently than the regular. This one uses a wide, flat noodle which is made in house.  I like the grilled sausage entree served with veg & pasta.  They have toned down the sweetness of  tomato sauce which used to bug me to no end.  Far more palatable red saucing for my taste buds now.

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A return trip yielded a very solid take on Fettuccine Alfredo, and a Margherita Pizza that, while a bit soggy in the middle, was quite tasty. I'd give both another try. We went for the fried zucchini again, and they turned out worse than the last time, so that experiment is likely over. I also forgot to mention in my post above the huge piece of bread they give with every order. While it's not the best bread, it is a nice thought.

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My regular neighborhood Italian take out joint. (I haven't eaten in there in years) The closest thing in the area to the southern Italian places I grew up on in Brooklyn. The pizza is not great, but ok, especially if I tell them to blacken the crust. The veal cannelloni and lasagne are both pretty good too. 

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We have one tradition in our family, which is that we gather once a year for an extended weekend get-together. This gathering always includes one night out to dinner (there are 11 of us), and that dinner is always a disaster (an unwelcome tradition of its own). Recent trips over the years to Maggiano's and Clyde's (places that can seat large parties and have ample menu options for kids and unadventurous palettes), among others, have always come with horrific service and/or food-related issues. My take-out trips from Pulicnella caused me to give them the chance to turn our fortunes around. As I said to my family before we walked in, we probably won't be walking out talking about how amazing the food was, but we won't be pissed off, either. If anything, I underestimated the restaurant given our experience.

First, we had spectacular service. It started 4 hours before our reservation, when they allowed me to push back our expected arrival time one hour. Sure, the restaurant was only at most half full the entire night, but it was generous of them to accommodate this last minute request, particularly given our party size. When we got there, the waiter cleverly had us put in the kids orders right away, while the adults took their time considering food and drink options. All food and drink orders came out in a timely fashion, and were completely correct (no small feat given the range of requests). Indeed, our service was cordial and professional throughout the meal.

Second, the food, which I thought would be merely good, was actually very good. We had a range of dishes and preparations including pizza, veal, eggplant, chicken, spaghetti, fettuccine alfredo, and all around the table were smiling faces. It was our first ever complaint-free meal (as far as I can recall). Nobody walked out angry. I am grateful to the restaurant for this experience.

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7pm, on a rainy Sunday night, in sleepy McLean, and this place was at full capacity with several families also waiting to be seated. For takeout, I ordered the Alla Salsiccia, a pizza with mozzarella, sausage, and pepperoni. It might be the best pizza in McLean. Or maybe it's just recency bias. In any case it was a very good pie, with some good char, a salty crust, good sauce, and quality toppings. Here's a pic (which i didn't think of taking until I was already 2 slices in): 

rsz_img_0380.jpg

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6 hours ago, Dr. Delicious said:

7pm, on a rainy Sunday night, in sleepy McLean, and this place was at full capacity with several families also waiting to be seated. For takeout, I ordered the Alla Salsiccia, a pizza with mozzarella, sausage, and pepperoni. It might be the best pizza in McLean. Or maybe it's just recency bias. In any case it was a very good pie, with some good char, a salty crust, good sauce, and quality toppings. Here's a pic (which i didn't think of taking until I was already 2 slices in): 

I used to live in McLean, and this was my go-to local red-sauce place. I haven't thought about it in awhile (I stopped going to the Moby Dick next door a few years ago), but your picture reminds me of *why* I used to come here for pizza - I have to say, it looks pretty good.

PS - "Best Pizza in McLean" isn't saying much. :)

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3 minutes ago, Ericandblueboy said:

I'd say it's the best New York style pizza in McLean.  On a good day, Assaggi probably makes the best pizza in McLean (but lately they seem to have many bad days).

But what else is there? McLean Pizza (the restaurant) *sucks*. PG Cigar is good, though. 

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1 hour ago, DonRocks said:

PS - "Best Pizza in McLean" isn't saying much. :)

I recognize I am (unintentionally) damning it with faint praise, but it is what it is.

My go to in McLean has recently been Santinis, but I don’t claim that to be all that good. We get Ledo in Falls Church more than anything, really.

it was my first Pulcinella pie, and probably my new go to.

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1 hour ago, Ericandblueboy said:

Assaggi (for me), Pulcinella (for everybody), and Santini (for just the kids) are the 3 places we visit in McLean.  The other ones are Rocco's, Red Tomato, Listrani's, and McLean Pizza.

You know, Listrani's' (are two apostrophes correct?) original location was in Palisades, and 25-years ago, they used to deliver to South McLean, coming across the Chain Bridge - at the time, it was better than Pulcinella; it isn't anymore.

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From Tysons Reporter:

Quote

 

The Italian restaurant officially opened on Monday (June 21) at 6852 Old Dominion Drive, moving back into a spot it had first occupied in 1985.

The Esposito family has been serving authentic Italian cuisine in Northern Virginia for over 40 years. Although the restaurant has operated under multiple names, the main attraction has been their wood-burning oven shipped from Italy, which reaches 800 degrees and cooks pizzas in about two and a half minutes.

Salvatore “Sal” Esposito, the former owner of the original Italian Oven, was a “pioneer of installing wood-burning ovens in Arlington, Fairfax, McLean, and Georgetown,” according to his son, Robert, who will own and manage the eatery’s latest incarnation.

A native of Naples, Italy, Sal Esposito was trained in the hospitality industry in Germany and England before coming to America.

His uncle, Franco, was a chef trained in Long Island, New York, and the first member of the Esposito family to open a restaurant in the U.S., starting with a small hole-in-the-wall in Arlington. They had lines out the door after the first few months of business.

Health complications led Sal to retire early in 2000, leaving the restaurant in the hands of five managers. Eventually, Moe Jebali became the sole owner and renamed the restaurant Pulcinella.

Now, Pulcinella is moving to a new location, and Robert Esposito has decided to buy his father’s old restaurant and refurbish it to reopen The Italian Oven.

A graduate of Langley High School, Robert is also deaf and has strong ties to the deaf community in McLean, according to his father. He is committed to making The Italian Oven a welcoming environment for members of the deaf community.

There are still remnants of the old Italian Oven. A mural depicting a scene from Italy is still intact in the lower dining room, and the original wood-burning oven is still cooking as well. Certain pictures and menu items remain the same too, all waiting for guests to come back and enjoy.

“The people of McLean have been coming through the door saying, ‘Welcome back. We love you and welcome back,'” Sal said.

 

 

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We've been twice, pleased to see Sal running about.  Pizzas from the wood oven are as good as they were.  There are kinks being worked out.  One is the menus have no prices as yet.  Waiters were happy to clarify due to delays with the printer.  Still, its a little odd asking "how much is the vongole?"

Nice to have this old neighborhood haunt back.

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