Jump to content

Masseria, Chef Nick Stefanelli Comes from Bibiana with an Italian Tasting Menu near Union Market


Recommended Posts

Pretty slick looking (Washingtonian)

City Paper

Soft opening July 21, debut August 4.

Three, five, and eventually eight course prix-fixe tasting menu format.   

Masseria. 1430 Fourth St., NE; 202-608-5959

"Masseria combines the raw and simple look of an Italian country estate, the industrial grit of the Union Market district, and the undeniable contemporary chic of its fashion-savvy chef-owner."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 words in the description raised my eyebrow: "Cigar menu."

Dudes smoking cigars (and it will be all dudes) in that enclosed courtyard will be...not for me.

Ironically, I would love for someone to open a restaurant called Sausage Party.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let me preface this by saying that I'm a huge fan of Nick Stefanelli's cooking, and I very much look forward to enjoying it once again at Masseria ... during off-peak hours.

Based on this photo, will Masseria be the noisiest restaurant opening of 2015, or will the limited number of seats prevent that from happening?

masseria11.0.jpg

I just had a disturbing thought: designing restaurants to be noise boxes is an insidious way to force diners, not just to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible in order to minimize the misery that they're *paying* to endure, but also to come during off-days and off-hours. Could it be? Nah ...

  • Like 3
Link to comment
Share on other sites

These two posts about Jaleo (one, two) were polar opposites, and yet they were both largely correct. It's interesting to read two such different things, communicating two such different points of view, written in two such different ways, and have them both be so accurate.

With Masseria (*), you also have to factor in cleaning costs, because when they plop that drinks list down in front of diners, I guarantee that a certain percentage of their chairs get soiled, especially after the diners find out that the entry-level meal is $62 for three courses (no í  la carte or bar menu here).

Masseria Drinks List.pdf

(*) My apologies to the three people who replied to my tweet - I *just now* saw the responses (it's always safest to either write me here, or at donrockwell@dcdining.com). And the answer (the tentative answer, after only one visit) is, "Yes, the food is excellent; no, the service, at this price point, badly needs work."

If there was a disappointment (aside from the tastefully uncomfortable chairs) it was the half of the bread "course" served as charming breadstick ringlets hung on the upraised the tentacles of a smiling porcelain octopus.  Dry, forgettable.  The Focaccia was good, however and the tomato "fondue" was quite good.

I largely agree with this (although, try as I might, I couldn't get up to 8 when counting the legs of the octopus, and I tried about three times - it was more like a septopus or a sextopus (*)). What I did with my ringlets (now my mind is in the gutter) is that I used *those* with the tomato spread, and used my focaccia to swab up the sauces in my dishes - it's not a bad strategy.

(*) And I hope I didn't just invent a new term for a ménage í  trois; actually, it would be pretty funny if I did.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm guessing that the 3-course menu would be app, main (pasta, meat or seafood) and dessert. Does anyone know the distribution of courses for the 5-course menu? What I really want to know is, if I go for the 5-course menu, is a pasta course mandatory? And what are the desserts like? Not sure I want to spring for a cheese course, so I'm hoping for a dessert that doesn't contain any wheat flour.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm guessing that the 3-course menu would be app, main (pasta, meat or seafood) and dessert. Does anyone know the distribution of courses for the 5-course menu? What I really want to know is, if I go for the 5-course menu, is a pasta course mandatory? And what are the desserts like? Not sure I want to spring for a cheese course, so I'm hoping for a dessert that doesn't contain any wheat flour.

I don't know if dessert is mandatory, but the menu says "One Course Includes Dessert" - that may just be so customers don't expect an extra dessert course on top of their 3- or 5-courses of savory items. I'm pretty sure you can find a fruit-based dessert without wheat flour.

There are only three non-dessert sections: Antipasti, Le Paste, and Pesce / Carne, so I think you can pick-and-choose.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A few thoughts based on our meal there on Friday:

The food is very good. It's very expensive. The chairs are quite uncomfortable. I love the space, and we found the service quite good. You can choose whatever you want in whatever order you want, although you do have to choose something from the dessert section.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

And here I thought that lovely, packed lounged outside was full of people dropping major coin when I strolled through the other night.

"Masseria's Lounge Menu is an Option for the Tasting Room-Averse" by Missy Frederick on eater.dc.com [Thanks, MD]

I wonder if the lounge menu is available at the part of the bar that's outside - I didn't get it handed to me when I sat at the inside portion (and honestly, I'm glad I didn't because I might not have gotten the tasting menu; that said, I suspect the drinks are the same price, and my eyes bugged out when I looked at the menu set down in front of me).

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not yet, but it is, at the minimum, firmly in the "Very Good" category. I can see you having some quibbles, but I can't see you expressing regret for going, especially since the prices won't take you off-guard.

On a side note, the holy triumvirate of Fiola+, Garrison, and Masseria are very quickly turning pasta into a luxury item in this city - I'm not saying that's right or wrong; merely that it's happening. I think back (fondly) on the pasta tasting I had at Babbo, and it didn't make me cringe quite this much. I'm afraid the days of "bargain pasta dinners" at the bar of Tosca and the like may be waning at the top end (and the top end may indeed be reaching ever-higher in terms of luxury, but I'm not seeing too many truffles or the like - it seems more labor than ingredients, but I haven't thought about it that carefully, so use this as a launching point for discussion rather than any sort of "conclusion.")

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

We have not been-yet-but will go soon for a birthday.  Several friends, whose opinions I trust, insist this may be the benchmark for restaurants in Washington today.  Specifically, the Chef's Table ($150 prix fixe for 8 to 10 courses), which may be the best of its kind in D. C.  I've also heard this compared to Laboratorio.  Another friend noted that it was "the best Chef's Table" they have experienced "in years."  I believe the Chef's Table seats six, communally, and is adjacent or directly across from the kitchen.  There are also four seats at the kitchen counter which, similar to Rose's Luxury' counter seats, front directly on the kitchen.  These last seats, I believe, are available for the regular menu.

There are only two comments in this entire thread from someone who has eaten at Masseria.  Has anyone reading this experienced the Chef's Table or the kitchen counter?

Photographs of the kitchen counter and the Chef's Table are shown here:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/going-out-guide/wp/2015/07/15/union-market-is-about-to-get-its-first-standalone-restaurant-in-nick-stefanellis-masseria/

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Had 5 courses (I think) at the kitchen counter a couple of months ago. One of the best high-end meals that I've had in DC in recent memory. You're sitting directly across from garde manger, so it isn't too terribly exciting, but if you are perched out at the end, you're about 6-8 feet from the pass and have a decent view. It was a little loud, but not as loud as I feared. Service was very good. At that point the wine list was still a work in progress. Wine mark-up was pretty high.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My wife and I did the 5 course in early November and this restaurant is solidly in the top 5 best restaurants in the city for me.  Nothing that was delivered was anything less than "Very Good", with the Trippa (Beef Tripe, Lobster, "Brodetto"), Linguine (Masseria Spicy XO Sauce, Olive Oil, Garlic), Maccheroni (Maccheroni Molinari Domnus, 'Nduja' Tomato, Eggplant, Ricotta Salata), and Vitello (Chapel Hill Farm Ruby Veal, Bone Marrow, Fairytale Eggplant, Charred Eggplant) being the stars of the show.  If you can afford it (and it is not cheap), this is a must-visit place in the city for serious diners.  I'm really looking forward to it warming back up outside so I can enjoy a cigar out on that very cool, West-Coast-style patio after my next dinner.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was so excited to try this out for my birthday dinner and was very disappointed. First, the good: the cocktails were excellent and it was really fun to watch the bartenders at work. The space is beautiful, and I loved the courtyard and its firepits.

We spent an hour after our reservation waiting for our spots at the chef's counter. There were at least six people behind us who had been waiting nearly as long as us who were just as frustrated. The hostesses, who were flippant when asked when they expected to seat us and were way underdressed for the venue (one was wearing a jersey and the other a crop top and converse sneakers. All of the servers were impecably dressed, as were the bartenders), did bring us two glasses of prosecco while we were waiting. It was a nice gesture at the time (about 20 minutes after we arrived), but didn't make up for the wait.

At long last we were brought to a table squeezed in between two couples instead of the chef's counter we had reserved without an explanation or apology about the change in table. We were told we could wait more, but it would be at least a half an hour more. After an unsatisfactory conversation with the manager, we decided to leave instead of giving the restaurant more of our money.

We were prepared to drop significant (for us!) money on dinner and drinks and were really, really disappointed in the service we received. We asked a few times about the status of our seats and were told the couple eating was just finishing up, that they had just dropped the check, and then again that they were approaching the end of the meal. It was clear they gave away our seats at the chef's counter to another couple who had been waiting.

I've never been to a restaurant with prix fixe menu (or really any restaurant) run so far behind. I'm not sure what the point of a reservation system or a prix fixe menu is if the restaurant can't stay on schedule. It may have been an off night, but we would have been understanding if the hostesses or manager had given us an explanation. Instead, the hostesses seemed annoyed to interact with us and other patrons.

We ended up at Maketto, which wasn't the meal we had wanted but was delicious and quick. The service there, as always, was fantastic and the everyone incredibly friendly. There are so many options in DC but everyone at Masseria behaved as if they were the only game in town.

  • Like 7
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was so excited to try this out for my birthday dinner and was very disappointed. First, the good: the cocktails were excellent and it was really fun to watch the bartenders at work. The space is beautiful, and I loved the courtyard and its firepits.

We spent an hour after our reservation waiting for our spots at the chef's counter. There were at least six people behind us who had been waiting nearly as long as us who were just as frustrated. The hostesses, who were flippant when asked when they expected to seat us and were way underdressed for the venue (one was wearing a jersey and the other a crop top and converse sneakers. All of the servers were impecably dressed, as were the bartenders), did bring us two glasses of prosecco while we were waiting. It was a nice gesture at the time (about 20 minutes after we arrived), but didn't make up for the wait.

At long last we were brought to a table squeezed in between two couples instead of the chef's counter we had reserved without an explanation or apology about the change in table. We were told we could wait more, but it would be at least a half an hour more. After an unsatisfactory conversation with the manager, we decided to leave instead of giving the restaurant more of our money.

We were prepared to drop significant (for us!) money on dinner and drinks and were really, really disappointed in the service we received. We asked a few times about the status of our seats and were told the couple eating was just finishing up, that they had just dropped the check, and then again that they were approaching the end of the meal. It was clear they gave away our seats at the chef's counter to another couple who had been waiting.

I've never been to a restaurant with prix fixe menu (or really any restaurant) run so far behind. I'm not sure what the point of a reservation system or a prix fixe menu is if the restaurant can't stay on schedule. It may have been an off night, but we would have been understanding if the hostesses or manager had given us an explanation. Instead, the hostesses seemed annoyed to interact with us and other patrons.

We ended up at Maketto, which wasn't the meal we had wanted but was delicious and quick. The service there, as always, was fantastic and the everyone incredibly friendly. There are so many options in DC but everyone at Masseria behaved as if they were the only game in town.

That's awful.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Based on many reviews, I recommended Masseria to my best friend to take his fiance for a special occasion.  The meal, in short, was a disaster from the start, he said.  The food was very good, but it ran more than 3 and a half hours, with no explanation and no communication from the staff.  He complained and a few days later the GM reached out to him with an apology and a request for them to come visit them again, on him.   Basically, it sounds like Robyn isn't the only one who had that experience.

Edit: He said the waiter/waitress was nice but overwhelmed and the upper level staff was entirely dismissive and unconcerned with his complaints.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Any recent reports? The time of our departure from DC is quickly approaching, and I'm trying to hit places that need hitting before leaving.  Curious to know if folks still think this is a top restaurant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Any recent reports? The time of our departure from DC is quickly approaching, and I'm trying to hit places that need hitting before leaving.  Curious to know if folks still think this is a top restaurant.

We ate at the bar two weeks ago and had a good meal.  (Better than a meal I had when it first opened).  Worth checking out before you go.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

OK, so we finally got here. Here are my thoughts-

Location - this place is an easy drive from my house (25 min) and parking is more or less readily available, although it is in a warehouse-y district, so do not expect to take a nice stroll after dinner. This makes it very possible for me to get to with some regularity. It's close to a metro stop, but again, it is not a happy little stroll, more like a walk through.....a warehouse district.

Space - There's a beer garden next door, which is cool, so that Masseria is not the one and only place with people coming to hang out to drink and eat. The approach is nice, and walls you off from the warehouse zone that the place is located. There's an outdoor uncovered area to lounge and get drinks in. Then you walk past that and there is a well coveed, but outside area with regular seating that I think has the same menu as inside. Finally, you walk in to the inside space through the single doorway opening to get to the 'front desk'to check in for your reservation (this seems a bit odd for this time of year considering that it was not obvious where the host stand was - it is even more odd because that doorway opening is where ALL of the staff and ALL of the patrons have to get through so it's a bit of a choke point).  ANYWAY, the space looks nice enough in a spartan, exposed, simple kind of way. The bars looked nice. There was good lighting. I am told the banket seating was comfortable . The chairs were decidedly less comfortable. They make you feel like you are going to slip forward out of the chair. Given that our meal took 3 hours and 45 minutes, these chairs are not ideal. And, this place was packed (they continued seating new tables up until about 10PM) and, with not a single attempt to control noise (with the exception of the cheffing/cooking staff all wearing ear pieces) and baffle or muffle it a bit, it was LOUD. As in I had to lean forward pretty much all night to be able to hear my wife and for her to hear me. If I was planning on being there for an hour, or even two, no big deal. Normally I assume places that like it loud are trying to make it easier to flip tables, but most everyone was staying there for hours.

Cocktails - Good, but not great. We had one hit and one miss. I think a little editing of the cocktails might go a long way. I know I can order any cocktail I want, but if a place is going to go to the trouble of their own cocktail list, I embrace their offerings and try them.

Wine List - It is an extensive, Italian heavy wine list. There are some amazing bottles on that list. But that list is exceedingly overpriced. I know my way around a wine list, and I can usually find a good bottle for $100 or less that is well priced, and will go well with the meal ahead. This time it was hard. Really hard. Fortunately, their sommelier is engaging and knows how to listen. We went with a Sicilian red (2014 Tenuta delle Terre Nere Fuedo di Mezzo Etna Rosso - about $100 on their list, retails for $35-$40) that was a really good value and was delicious, and paired well with pretty much every dish we had (we had five courses, one of them cheese). I prefer a 2x from retail markup instead of 2.5x to 3x markup, but I know that most restaurants survive basically on the profits of their alcohol sales.

Service - I would have to say, especially considering how busy they were, we had really good service from the staff. Where things went off the rails a bit was the pacing of the meal. 5 courses should not take 3 hours and 45 minutes. I have had longer meals and enjoyed them, but they were more extensive meals with many more courses. Couple the waits between a few of the courses with a chair that makes you want to fall out of it and well, you get the idea. As service wore on, this got better, of course, which was welcome.

Food - I'll go in more detail when I post the photos, but here are my initial thoughts. Beef Tripe Lobster Brodetto - Great dish, though the lobster gets a bit lost (seems like it is there more for texture than anything else). The veal tartare - solid dish, but too small and some of the elements get a little lost. The sweetbreads, snails and tomato dish - excellent dish - yum. Spaghettoni puttanesca dish was AMAZING. Really exceptional dish. The risotto with corn, parmigiano and black truffles was wonderful (note to Masseria, for the $10 supplement, I expect more truffles but that is a minor nit). The Rombo (turbot with lemon, almonds, and zucchini) was pretty darn good, but not wow (though my wife really enjoyed it. The Coniglio (rabbit with carrots and garlic) was a great dish - assembling the elements all on a single fork really showed you how the dish sang. Then they had a special of partridge with grapes and mushrooms. So damn good. We both ended up going for the cheese course so we could sample all 9 cheese on offer. I mean, they have a Cheese Cart - what is not to love?! I'd say they currently have about 4 exceptional cheeses on that cart and the rest were all still pretty good (the current bleu is somewhat sinus clearing, so be forewarned!).  Overall, the food here is excellent.

The Tab - Wow. It is very easy to spend a lot of money here. We ended up forking over $71 in supplements. And then I already mentioned the challenge in finding a wine for around a hundred bucks. This is not really the place to go when you are trying to keep a lid on your dining out budget (though you can dine well on the bar menu for a reasonable cost it seems). Given that the wine is so costly here, I'd highly recommend talking to the sommelier (Dave I think is his name) for help finding something appropriate for a price you can tolerate (their corkage policy at $50 is effectively a blocker for me personally, unless I plan on bringing a $200+ bottle from home). All this being said, is it worth the splurge to try? For sure. Is it something to throw in your rotation? Not really unless you are pretty damn well off (or want to just eat the bar menu).

Overall, this is a great restaurant. They have some issues (noise, course pacing, cost), but the overall package is great. While I am sure I will be back, it is more likely that I will visit, say, Kinship, more often than here. YMMV.

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My girlfriend took me here for my birthday last night and I'm so glad she did.  One of the better meals I've had in DC.  We had a 9 pm reservation at the Chef's Counter, but we ended up being seated at 9:15 because the previous party lingered. NBD.   I liked the Chef's Counter, where we got to watch the chefs do their thing and watch the expediter review each dish, sending some back for improvement.

Once seated, I ordered a delicious and inventive tequila-lime-cilantro-olive oil cocktail ($14) that I really enjoyed.  For food, we each opted for the $98 five-course menu, as opposed to the $125 six-course menu because the six-course menu is a chef's tasting menu and I preferred to order the items I wanted.  Plus, six courses sounded like too much.  We ended up splitting ten dishes, nearly all of which were great.  The bread service consisted of a relatively boring breadstick (it was dipped in squid ink supposedly but I couldn't take much of it), a foccacia, and a great  cheese-filled puffy, along with some great tomato spread and delicious pickled artichokes. I liked it all.

As for the food, the pastas really shined: I loved the linguine with XO sauce that reminded me of the spaghetti and canned white clam sauce dish that I grew up eating (this was of course much better) as well as the cheese-filled "purses" that were downright decadent.  We had a third pasta in red sauce with ample portions of snakehead fish, which was just good but not great.  Each pasta came with bread to sop up the sauces. 

We also enjoyed fantastic beets (four ways, all great), a perfectly cooked octopus tentacle and a juicy soft shell crab. The steak and goat were both good, but not as special as the others.  Before the meat, I ordered the following glass of wine: 2014 Aglianico, Salvatore Magnoni (Campania, Italy) ($16).  I was wondering if anyone knew much about this wine ( @Don Rockell?); I loved it, but, being a wine ignoramus, can't describe what I liked so much about it.  I think I liked its acidity and its earthiness?  Anything else I should look for in the future for something similar?

For dessert, we split a beautiful summer berry dish and a rich chocolate tart with pop rocks.  We also had three cheeses ($18): a Gorgonzola, a goat-sheep-cow milk soft cheese, and a peccorino. They came with some candied walnuts, bread, and a cranberry sauce.  Loved them all.

The house also gave us a glass of champagne and mini ricotta-filled canollis as a closer.  Needless to say, although each dish was small, we left perfectly sated.

As for the service, the pacing was great, on the leisurely side.  We never felt rushed, but also didn't feel that things were taking too long.  The waiter was exceptionally friendly, eager to wish me a happy birthday multiple times and quite knowledgeable, noting that he's worked with the chef since his days at Bibiana.  I do have two complaints though: first, the waiter was too attentive, checking up on us about twice during each of the five courses.  It was a bit much.  I tried to be a bit curt with him to send a hint, but he didn't seem to receive it.  Not the end of the world but not ideal.  The other complaint is that after ALL FIVE courses he made the same joke: "Wow, it looks like you didn't like that".  It was cute at first, then wore thin quickly.  

All in all, a pricey but exceptional meal.  I've actually never been to any of the other high-end pasta houses in DC (Tosca, Fiola, etc.), so I don't have much to compare it to though.

 

  • Like 4
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My friends treated me to the chef‘s table at Masseria last night, and I was blown away. We did the eight course tasting menu, and it was such a pleasure to watch the ballet taking place in the kitchen. Obviously Masseria has a very well trained staff who has a lot of respect for their craft. 
Standouts for me were the sweet bread course, and the risotto. The service was excellent and professional while still maintaining an air of joviality. The entire experience was just magical. 

  • Like 6
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...