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Osteria al Volo and Cucina al Volo - Homemade Pasta Chain in Numerous DC and Baltimore Locations


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18 hours ago, DaRiv18 said:

That would be my #1 option (YMMV) in Cleveland Park, then.  Great news for Cleveland Park!

There seems to be a difference between Osteria al Volo and Cucina al Volo, and I'm still not certain which of the two is opening in Cleveland Park. 

If you look at their website, the only Osteria al Volo is in the former Pasta Mia space, but there are many locations of Cucina al Volo, including two in Baltimore, and one coming to Ballston Mall.

Am I correct in guessing that the Osteria is a full-blown restaurant that also sells items for the home, and that the Cucina is mostly a market that also sells pre-made ready-made meals? Do the Cucinas have any tables where a customer can sit down and eat? If not, they would go in the Shopping and Cooking Forum.

It caught me off-guard realizing how many locations of Cucina al Volo exist.

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4 hours ago, DonRocks said:

There seems to be a difference between Osteria al Volo and Cucina al Volo, and I'm still not certain which of the two is opening in Cleveland Park. 

If you look at their website, the only Osteria al Volo is in the former Pasta Mia space, but there are many locations of Cucina al Volo, including two in Baltimore, and one coming to Ballston Mall.

Am I correct in guessing that the Osteria is a full-blown restaurant that also sells items for the home, and that the Cucina is mostly a market that also sells pre-made ready-made meals? Do the Cucinas have any tables where a customer can sit down and eat? If not, they would go in the Shopping and Cooking Forum.

It caught me off-guard realizing how many locations of Cucina al Volo exist.

The Cucina is mostly a food stand, there is a table next to its booth and it is not clear to me it is for their exclusive use (I doubt it).   I wouldn't characterize it as pre-made meals, usually you have  to wait for about 10 minutes for them to prepare your pasta.   I would say Takorean or Chipotle are closer to pre-made meals then what they do.  They do sell jars of pesto and other sauces for take-home, as well as fresh pasta.  I'd be surprised if those items makes up more than 15% of their sales.  

I actually have never been to the Osteria, so maybe I should temper my enthusiasm!  But these are hearty meals for under $20/plate, as compared to Sfoglina which is the closest credible pasta shop.  

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A early visit shows that they are still getting their sea legs when it comes to service. The food also has a way to go before it reaches the quality we expect at the Union Market outpost. That said, it seems like a comfortable space and they were plenty busy for a Wednesday night. I think I would have rather made my own pasta at home, or taken the fam to Sfoglina, than had our meal here this day. But the meat pastas were a hit at our table, whereas the app, secondi  and desserts were all minor misses. But eventually they will do very well here. 

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Trattoria Al Volo in Cleveland Park in the old Ripple space is a very welcome addition to the neighborhood. It is still working out some slow service kinks but overall food is rather good, prices are on point for the neighborhood, and service is very friendly.  The homemade pastas and sauces are very good quality and tasty - this is consistent at their Cucinia at Union Market, Osteria in Admo, and in this locations - all of which in the past year I've tried several times (mostly in anticipation of this new place opening near my house). The menus at all of the vary somewhat and the current menu at the CP location seems to fluctuate slightly each time that I've gone (3 times so far in the past 2 months).  They seem to do best with the ravioli/mezzaluna/stuffed pastas which are the most flavorful and for an added bit of fun, can be seen being made in real time in one part of the dining room.  Instead of an open kitchen, they have a window ledge where a nice gentleman is busy assembling raviolis much to the delight of the kids and foodies. The caesar salad is presented nicely and is a bit non-traditional but very good. Burrata and tomatos was only ok. Friends liked the big plate of calamari. The meatballs are all beef (good for non-pork eaters like my family) but only ok.  The only secondi I've had is the branzino daily fish which was large and delicious - simple whole cooked fish with lemon and herbs. The various meat options look huge and enough to share for 2. Which is the overall vibe of these place - good quality, nicely made food but nothing too fancy and also priced a bit less than fancier places.  Portions are also on the larger size. Overall a good neighborhood restaurant, not a foodie destination. The several reds and whites I've tried by the glass have been good (I'm not too fussy about wine though FWIW) including a surprisingly good house red. Desserts are mostly a bunch of different rotating cakes that they told me are made on the off hours by a pastry chef at a restaurant in town. I've only tried 2 of the chocolate cakes and both were like everything else well-made, tasty.  Two dishes I had that were only ok - a bit bland - rigatoni with mushrooms and the manticotti (too much mozzarella cheese without enough flavor). The only real hiccup has been that on 2 of the 3 times we went there has been a rather long wait between apps and entrees. I think they are still figuring out their timing in the kitchen. Overall, if they fix this last issue, they'll have a very successful run here (hopefully).

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Wow -- just tried the new Pizzeria al Volo at 1299 Pennsylvania Ave NW (but actually on E St NW). I got a vegetarian slice and a proscuitto/arugula slice. Was very impressed. It's thick crust, but not your standard gut-bomb thick crust. The crust is actually sort of airy and crackerish. Toppings were generous too.

I rarely eat more than two slices of 'za these days but I could definitely go for a third slice of this stuff.

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Cucina al Volo in Ballston Quarter currently has among the best traditional pasta in that part of Northern Va.

The spaghetti and meatballs features their excellent home made pasta a spicy tasty sauce and excellent meatballs.  My Italian food /comfort food fetish is satisfied.  

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3 hours ago, hopsing said:

 Looking forward to meatball and chicken parm heroes. 

So am I.  Really enjoyed the spaghetti and meatballs I had the first visit.  Terrific pasta.  I'll have to bring their pasta home.  Sauce was very good.  I guess a variation on marinara.  Meatballs were soft and tasty.  All around quite good.  I've been looking for a place like this for a long time. 

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We go pretty regularly to the Cleveland Park location including a few days ago. Our favorites are the pesto fusilli with goat cheese, spinach agnolotti, meatball app (it is now rather good), and the ricotta cavatelli (more like super soft gnocchi) that come with the salmon are great, the gnocchi is also good, the big portion of branzino is good for the non-pasta eaters. They also often have a lamb shank special on mushroom risotto which is good. I also really like their house red wine. Lastly but not least their focaccia bread basket with roasted garlic hunks in the olive oil that they bring to your table is addictive. My kids could eat just this bread but they also like rigatoni with butter. 

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On 7/9/2019 at 8:22 AM, hopsing said:

I hope they will be expanding their menu soon.  I walked by last week but it was too hot/humid for spaghetti.  Looking forward to meatball and chicken parm heroes.  They just opened a few days ago.

Unfortunately they don't have hero's.  Just the pasta.  Had the chicken parm PASTA today.  Again--> excellent pasta and sauce.  Pretty damn good chicken parm.  Nice sized portion.

So I was sitting across from a couple with sandwiches from one location and beers from another location.  It was lunch.  Mixing and matching is certainly a plus.  The place was simply not crowded.  I sort of doubt it's going to be a hot lunch destination.  I suppose some of the stands will make it and some won't.  It appears the operators are anywhere from a small step to many steps above a typical food court.  Time will tell how well the overall location and its tenants will do. 

Right now I'm favorably disposed to al Volo, the Local Oyster and (of course) the ice cream. 

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On 7/10/2019 at 6:46 AM, KeithA said:

We go pretty regularly to the Cleveland Park location including a few days ago. Our favorites are the pesto fusilli with goat cheese, spinach agnolotti, meatball app (it is now rather good), and the ricotta cavatelli (more like super soft gnocchi) that come with the salmon are great, the gnocchi is also good, the big portion of branzino is good for the non-pasta eaters. They also often have a lamb shank special on mushroom risotto which is good. I also really like their house red wine. Lastly but not least their focaccia bread basket with roasted garlic hunks in the olive oil that they bring to your table is addictive. My kids could eat just this bread but they also like rigatoni with butter. 

The Ballston outpost is limited.  Regardless it is currently my favorite pasta in the area and pasta is my favorite comfort food.  I can see a long solid relationship!!!

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The eggplant parm at the Ballston location is excellent.  Excellent ratios of sauce to breading to cheese to eggplant.  Eggplant texture was perfect, not mushy at all. And on top of a bed of fresh, springy pasta.  Having tried most things in the revamped Ballston food court, Cucina al Volo is the one place I'd recommend unreservedly.  

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3 hours ago, yeah said:

The eggplant parm at the Ballston location is excellent.  Excellent ratios of sauce to breading to cheese to eggplant.  Eggplant texture was perfect, not mushy at all. And on top of a bed of fresh, springy pasta.  Having tried most things in the revamped Ballston food court, Cucina al Volo is the one place I'd recommend unreservedly.  

I also like a number of its meals including the eggplant parm.  Additionally I think the homemade pasta as the equal of Sfoglina at a percentage of the cost.

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I wanted to love this place.  I was looking for a replacement for Cafe Tirolo.  I had the eggplant parm last week and it was quite good, obviously made fresh and not from frozen eggplant parm.  It tasted a little old (don't know how long it was in their fridge case) but still decent.  Today I tried their meatballs.  This was the real disappointment.  They were soft and the tomato sauce was very good but the meatballs themselves tasted like Trader Joes' frozen meatballs.  I don't know if they ran out of their own homemade meatballs and subbed these or their recipe is very similar to frozen meatballs but I would never buy these again.  I haven't given up.  I'll try chicken parm next time.

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With the closing of nearby Firehook in Cleveland Park, it created some good opportunities for Al Volo. They took over the lovely Roma garden behind Firehook which is a nice social distance setting with each table already spaced apart under grape vines with a small fountain in the center. They also invited a baker to setup a pop-up bakery in the small retail spot connected to the restaurant - operating 8am-3pm and you can take your baked goods to the garden too. Today I sampled the pain aux raisin and it was excellent. The baker herself sold it to me and it was warm from the oven - really high quality with a nice crunch outside with soft, rich inside. They have a good variety of different croissant, gallete, turnovers, etc. as well as various coffee drinks. Definitely worth a stop if you are nearby.

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Went back this week and had delicious butter croissant and almond croissants. The almond one has a runny almond cream filling different than others I've had but it was very tasty and didn't overpower or turn the pastry to mush as some others do. The friendly baker told me it is a 2 person pop up operation where they both bake everything and mind the mini-store. This is also the same great pastry as the pain a raisin. Next I'll have to try the peach and cheese handpie. They also have a few savory options like a ham and cheese croissanty-thing (sorry didn't get the actual name since I don't dig on swine).

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