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

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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."

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Call me nuts but that header image in the Washingtonian article doesn't exactly get my stomach growling.

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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.

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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.

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

What, BALLS wasn't good enough for you?

balls.jpg

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Someone got paid to write that awful sentence.

Agreed.

Call me nuts but that header image in the Washingtonian article doesn't exactly get my stomach growling.

 

Agreed.

What, BALLS wasn't good enough for you?

 

I can honestly say that I had totally forgotten about Meatballs.

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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 ...

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Why would they name an Italian restaurant after a Mafia boss who got zotzed in an Italian restaurant?

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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.

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Why does the menu abbreviate topped to top'd when there is no need to shorten it because it goes to two lines anyway?

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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.

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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.

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You can choose your own courses from whatever.  I recall the menu saying if you want, you can choose all 3 or 5 of your courses to be the same pasta dish.

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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.

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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).

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Don, did you post a review of your meal somewhere?  I'm tempted to try this out but at that price it needs to be firmly in the "Very Good" category to deal with loud noise and uncomfortable chairs.

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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.")

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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/

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The online menu seems rather out of date.  Has anyone been recently?  Is the menu turning towards Fall flavors?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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