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bilrus

Cafesano, Italian and Mediterranean at South Lakes Village Center in Reston, and near Dulles Town Center in Sterling

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Joe H said:
Marie's which used to be in the South Lakes Village shopping center also had surprisingly good pizza. It's gone, too.

I've been pretty pleased with the pizzas at Cafesano, Marie's replacement. Another place that made a huge step up in terms of atmosphere.

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Bill, did you ever have the pizza at Marie's? I much prefer Cafesano overall but Marie's had very good pizza for a strip shopping center.

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Sorry all but no pizzas on the current menu. As to the relationship with other places called Mykonos have no idea, but I doubt that there is one. I'll try and remember to ask the next time I'm there.

This is just around the corner from the house so the hubby and i will probably be there later in the week for lunch.

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the atmosphere is much better and I like the food - but I still miss Marie's. we lunched there once a week, back in the day.

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My first visit to Cafesano was one where a PR person from Sprint decided we should have lunch. He had a pizza which appeared to be quite nice. I had a panini which was quite good. The bread was crusty and nicely marked with the grill. The chicken moist and very flavorful. The serve it with lavash, which is a nice alternative to chips. I also had the Mediterranean potato salad, which was also a nice variant since it's not mayonnaise based. Overall, a nice lunch.

For those who haven't been, Cafesano is one of those places where you order at a counter, then they bring your meal. It's kind of like what they do at Panera except vastly more chaotic.

The second time I went, I took my wife for dinner. Then the chaos that I'd observed at lunch was an order of magnitude worse. The staff informed me that pizza would take 45 minutes, that they were out of the next three items I wanted to order, and then, when I got my shrimp and chicken kabobs, I was greeted with meat that appeared to have been microwaved. It was unseasoned, unmarked by a grill, and it was served at room temperature. The place obviously has a grill, since the (room temperature) vegetables had obviously been grilled. I can only assume that the kabob cook didn't know about it. My wife, meanwhile, didn't get her first, second or third choices, and ended up ordering a chicken kabob pita. What she got was a chicken salad pita that was fresh from the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, service was extremely slow, the restaurant ran out of silverware (we had to use plastic from the carryout stand), it was noisy.

I wrote Paul, the owner, to complain. He told me that the staff was having a bad night and invited me back. He sweetened the deal with a gift certificate. I really hope the kitchen and counter staff get their act together, because this was worse than just spending money on a substandard restaurant experience. It was a waste of the time I could have spent eating somewhere I'd have enjoyed. It was a terrible waste of a dinner with my wife.

Wayne Rash

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My first visit to Cafesano was one where a PR person from Sprint decided we should have lunch. He had a pizza which appeared to be quite nice. I had a panini which was quite good. The bread was crusty and nicely marked with the grill. The chicken moist and very flavorful. The serve it with lavash, which is a nice alternative to chips. I also had the Mediterranean potato salad, which was also a nice variant since it's not mayonnaise based. Overall, a nice lunch.

For those who haven't been, Cafesano is one of those places where you order at a counter, then they bring your meal. It's kind of like what they do at Panera except vastly more chaotic.

The second time I went, I took my wife for dinner. Then the chaos that I'd observed at lunch was an order of magnitude worse. The staff informed me that pizza would take 45 minutes, that they were out of the next three items I wanted to order, and then, when I got my shrimp and chicken kabobs, I was greeted with meat that appeared to have been microwaved. It was unseasoned, unmarked by a grill, and it was served at room temperature. The place obviously has a grill, since the (room temperature) vegetables had obviously been grilled. I can only assume that the kabob cook didn't know about it. My wife, meanwhile, didn't get her first, second or third choices, and ended up ordering a chicken kabob pita. What she got was a chicken salad pita that was fresh from the refrigerator.

Meanwhile, service was extremely slow, the restaurant ran out of silverware (we had to use plastic from the carryout stand), it was noisy.

I wrote Paul, the owner, to complain. He told me that the staff was having a bad night and invited me back. He sweetened the deal with a gift certificate. I really hope the kitchen and counter staff get their act together, because this was worse than just spending money on a substandard restaurant experience. It was a waste of the time I could have spent eating somewhere I'd have enjoyed. It was a terrible waste of a dinner with my wife.

Wayne Rash

I am a regular carryout customer of CafeSano, and I would have to say that, in my experiences, your experience was well out of the norm. Possibly, as Paul noted, the staff was having a rough night, and it sounds like they had an unusual shortage of ingredients for the menu items they offer. The kitchen and counter staff normally have their act quite together, and they have a huge and loyal customer base to show for it. CafeSano is an oasis in the desert of fast food and chain restaurants out in the area between Tysons and Reston Town Center.

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So I returned to Cafesano.

Paul Swinley, the owner, asked me to try again after my last unsatisfactory experience, and he sent along a gift certificate that was intended to cover the cost of a meal and beverages.

I figured at the time that the inept performance of the staff and the remarkably poor food might have been just one of those really bad nights that sometimes strike a restaurant. Well, I'm happy to report that unlike last time, my wife and I did, indeed, get flatware made out of metal. That was nice. That was about the only part that was nice.

This time I ordered the lasagna that had been allegedly out of stock the last time. Paul told me in a subsequent e-mail that it really wasn't out of stock, but that the people at the counter were inexperienced. This time the lasagna was indeed available, so I ordered it along with some Italian sausage. I also ordered a half-size house salad and iced tea. My wife had their cheese ravioli. We both had dessert - I had oatmeal raisin cookies, my wife had a brownie.

I'd originally intended to order pizza, but again they had the sign up that pizza was taking 30 minutes to deliver after ordering. I didn't want to wait that long, which is why I ordered the lasagna. The lasagna took 40 minutes to deliver, which might explain why portions of it were at room temperature. However that doesn't explain why other portions were below room temperature - indicating that the lasagna had apparently been thawed in the microwave. The salad is romaine lettuce, thin cucumber slices, a few chunks of tomato and two very salty croutons. It sells for $3.99 and is worth perhaps half that amount. The standard dressing is a vinaigrette that's mostly vinegar,

The runner who delivered the main courses initially refused to deliver them to us because the runner who delivered the salad had removed our number from the table. I had to show my receipt to prove that the meals were mine.

When I got my lasagna, it appeared to be a nice amount, and was surrounded by a decent portion of crumbled Italian sausage. I think that the heat that had been used to vulcanize the sausage might have been better used getting the lasagna above room temperature. By the time it reached the communal table where we sat, however, the sausage was also at room temperature, having been cooked to the point that it closely resembled the texture of used retreads than sausage. Portions were simply too tough to chew.

As disappointing as the food was, it was exceeded by the level of chaos at the counter. The person at the register was attempting to multi-task to the point that we had to place our orders several times. The person who was waiting on carry-out was trying to pick up his food, which was sitting, and sitting, and sitting, clearly marked on the counter behind the cashier. The cashier insisted that it wasn't there. He meanwhile was carrying on conversations with others at the counter. We placed our orders after several tries. Getting the gift certificate honored was an exercise in futility.

The level of chaos among the staff was startling to watch considering that when we entered there was no line. There were a number of people waiting for carryouts that seemed to come with excruciating slowness. One man watched his dinner get cold for 20 minutes or so before the staff would hand it to him.

Because we were there for a substantial period of time, we began conversations with the other people at the communal table who were also waiting for their dinners. A woman across from us wondered if delivery of the food always took as long, and a man next to us said that it usually did. When that woman's dinner arrived, she wondered if they'd cooked her steak kabob properly. Unlike my kabob on the previous visit, this one did appear to have seen a grill rather than a microwave. However she also wondered why they hadn't asked how she wanted the meat cooked. I guess they just naturally assumed that everyone wants their meat extremely rare. Hers had seen only the briefest exposure to heat. She said it was extremely salty, and then decided it was inedible. She pushed it aside.

The bottom line is, don't go there. I suppose it's a busy as it is because it's the only non-fast food place around. But this isn't a place that I intend to return to. I can't recommend that you go there either. They've had two tries to do something as basic as deliver food that's cooked and hot. McDonalds can accomplish that. Unfortunately Cafesano can't. This place is a real disappointment. Worse, it needs adult supervision to get the chaos under control.

Until they figure out how to cook and how to manage the staff, don't go there. It's just not worth it.

Wayne Rash

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So I returned to Cafesano.

Paul Swinley, the owner, asked me to try again after my last unsatisfactory experience, and he sent along a gift certificate that was intended to cover the cost of a meal and beverages.

I figured at the time that the inept performance of the staff and the remarkably poor food might have been just one of those really bad nights that sometimes strike a restaurant. Well, I'm happy to report that unlike last time, my wife and I did, indeed, get flatware made out of metal. That was nice. That was about the only part that was nice.

This time I ordered the lasagna that had been allegedly out of stock the last time. Paul told me in a subsequent e-mail that it really wasn't out of stock, but that the people at the counter were inexperienced. This time the lasagna was indeed available, so I ordered it along with some Italian sausage. I also ordered a half-size house salad and iced tea. My wife had their cheese ravioli. We both had dessert - I had oatmeal raisin cookies, my wife had a brownie.

I'd originally intended to order pizza, but again they had the sign up that pizza was taking 30 minutes to deliver after ordering. I didn't want to wait that long, which is why I ordered the lasagna. The lasagna took 40 minutes to deliver, which might explain why portions of it were at room temperature. However that doesn't explain why other portions were below room temperature - indicating that the lasagna had apparently been thawed in the microwave. The salad is romaine lettuce, thin cucumber slices, a few chunks of tomato and two very salty croutons. It sells for $3.99 and is worth perhaps half that amount. The standard dressing is a vinaigrette that's mostly vinegar,

The runner who delivered the main courses initially refused to deliver them to us because the runner who delivered the salad had removed our number from the table. I had to show my receipt to prove that the meals were mine.

When I got my lasagna, it appeared to be a nice amount, and was surrounded by a decent portion of crumbled Italian sausage. I think that the heat that had been used to vulcanize the sausage might have been better used getting the lasagna above room temperature. By the time it reached the communal table where we sat, however, the sausage was also at room temperature, having been cooked to the point that it closely resembled the texture of used retreads than sausage. Portions were simply too tough to chew.

As disappointing as the food was, it was exceeded by the level of chaos at the counter. The person at the register was attempting to multi-task to the point that we had to place our orders several times. The person who was waiting on carry-out was trying to pick up his food, which was sitting, and sitting, and sitting, clearly marked on the counter behind the cashier. The cashier insisted that it wasn't there. He meanwhile was carrying on conversations with others at the counter. We placed our orders after several tries. Getting the gift certificate honored was an exercise in futility.

The level of chaos among the staff was startling to watch considering that when we entered there was no line. There were a number of people waiting for carryouts that seemed to come with excruciating slowness. One man watched his dinner get cold for 20 minutes or so before the staff would hand it to him.

Because we were there for a substantial period of time, we began conversations with the other people at the communal table who were also waiting for their dinners. A woman across from us wondered if delivery of the food always took as long, and a man next to us said that it usually did. When that woman's dinner arrived, she wondered if they'd cooked her steak kabob properly. Unlike my kabob on the previous visit, this one did appear to have seen a grill rather than a microwave. However she also wondered why they hadn't asked how she wanted the meat cooked. I guess they just naturally assumed that everyone wants their meat extremely rare. Hers had seen only the briefest exposure to heat. She said it was extremely salty, and then decided it was inedible. She pushed it aside.

The bottom line is, don't go there. I suppose it's a busy as it is because it's the only non-fast food place around. But this isn't a place that I intend to return to. I can't recommend that you go there either. They've had two tries to do something as basic as deliver food that's cooked and hot. McDonalds can accomplish that. Unfortunately Cafesano can't. This place is a real disappointment. Worse, it needs adult supervision to get the chaos under control.

Until they figure out how to cook and how to manage the staff, don't go there. It's just not worth it.

Wayne Rash

Wayne, I have no idea why you are so intent on trashing an enormously popular neighborhood eatery that my wife and neighbors have been stopping at at least bi weekly since it opened four years ago. But you seem to have a serious agenda. Cafesano does NOT have very good chicken kabobs (i.e. Rose, Amoo, Shamshiry, Ravi, Reston Kabob for benchmarks) nor does it have exemplery pizza (predecessor Marie's at the top of this thread was better), salads are bare basic, wine functional and service acceptible. But the hummus is served warm and the pizza (which has a justifiable wait) is good enough to order again and preferred by us over every delivery service), the kabobs are fairly priced and most food is tasty enough in a very well priced, comfortable family restaurant that it has lines literally out the door for both lunch and dinner. This just a few yards away from the full service Lakeside Inn-literally a few yards, sorry), a full service Chinese restaurant (two doors?), Flippin' Pizza, Subway and Safeway. In 50 or more visits I've seen it busy many times-never have I seen it chaotically busy. We are fortunate to have a very good neighborhood restaurant that could have been much worse. It's convenient, fairly priced and good enough that it has a huge loyal following.

I'm just curious but you wrote to the owner (whom I'm never met or talked to) and were given a gift card. And, you used the gift card. You also wrote criticially about the restaurant BEFORE you used the gift card. "It was a terrible waste of a dinner with my wife."

I would assume that his intention was trying to compensate you for your bad experience yet you both accepted the gift card AND reported on it. Personally, I have never been given a gift card to compensate for a meal. If I had I would not have written critically about the restaurant until I returned. But your "terrible waste of dinner" was still not so bad that you managed to return for a free meal. Of course this allowed your even more spirited followup, an apparent attempt to top the negative first report. You've now wasted three meals at this place.

We live a mile away and are indebted to Cafesano's owners for opening here. Along with the adjacent Lakeside Inn both represent more than adequate nearby options when we don't want to drive or walk more than several monutes from home. Your opinion is not a majority one. Frankly, one critical report-when you paid for the entire meal yourself-would have caught my attention and sent up a flag-has something changed at Cafesano? But the second one sent up a red flag.

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I would assume that his intention was trying to compensate you for your bad experience yet you both accepted the gift card AND reported on it. Personally, I have never been given a gift card to compensate for a meal. If I had I would not have written critically about the restaurant until I returned. But your "terrible waste of dinner" was still not so bad that you managed to return for a free meal. Of course this allowed your even more spirited followup, an apparent attempt to top the negative first report. You've now wasted three meals at this place.

Wayne, you know I love you man, and I appreciate you having the courage to use your real name, but ... I do agree that this second review (for the free meal) was in terribly bad form - it actually makes me want to go give Cafesano my business!

I just now had the worst lunch experience I've had in weeks if not months - everything about "the café in the same shopping center as Shorty's Deli" (Hey, even though we just lost Morty's Deli, there's still Shorty's Deli!) was abysmal, but the guy working the counter was nice enough to offer me a free dessert, saying "nobody should have to wait as long as you did." I declined (calories!), but that one gesture was enough to save the day even though I can't imagine returning - to me, kindness means more than a bad dining experience.

Cheers,

Rocks

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Thanks for the note, Don.

My job as a journalist is to do reviews, and I always use my real name. I think it would be disingenuous to do otherwise. I also report accurately on what happens. If the experience is poor or the product doesn't cut it, then that's what I report. This has nothing to do with whether the meal was free (which it wasn't - the staff was bewildered by the gift certificate). I'm simply reporting on what happened. I have no agenda at all here, other than to let the rest of this list know what I found.

Personally, I don't think food that's intended to be eaten hot should be served cold. Mine was cold. I don't think you should have to provide written proof to a runner that the meal is really yours, but fortunately since I'd paid for the dinner, I had the receipt as proof.

Originally, I went to lunch at Cafesano because I'd had a wonderful lunch there at the suggestion of one of Sprint's PR people. The panini was properly cooked, the chips unique, and I liked it well enough to want to take my wife back again for a weekly date night. Unfortunately it was a disaster. So I responded to the contact link on the Web site, and got a reply from Paul asking me to try again. He also sent me a gift certificate, but in all honesty I would have returned with or without that because he asked me to take another look. I should add that the cost of the meal isn't so significant that it makes any difference. Our corporate standards are that we can't accept a gift for over $40.00, and the value of the certificate is well under that.

In any case, my reporting and my opinions can't be bought. I have decades of reviews (which you can look up on Google) that support that. My response to complaints about reviews that find that a product or service isn't good is always the same. To get an excellent review, produce an excellent product.

I realize that there are many people who have an emotional attachment to products they like, services they consume, and in this case, neighborhood restaurants. I've experienced this for years. If you want to see real wrath, just find fault with an iPhone or an Android device.

But the bottom line is that I know only one way to report, and that is with facts and accuracy. I have no interest in trashing anything.

I would encourage your to visit at around 7:30 on a Friday night so that you can have the same experience I did.

Wayne Rash

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Have only been to the Reston location once and the food (salads and pizza were average). This place now has a 2nd location in a new strip mall in Ashburn about a 1/4 mile from the Dulles Town Center.

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I stopped at Cafesano for lunch today. For $13.50, I had a pleasant platter of chicken kabob, with another skewer of vegetable kabob, with a not-too-complicated green salad, a small cup of tzatziki-like sauce, a very nice pita cut in quarters, all over a bed of competent pilaf.the food quality/value ratio was good. I give it a solid B- on a scale of 10.

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