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San Marco, Adams Morgan - Finito.


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The subject of the eventual closing of San Marco in Adams Morgan came up on eGullet. We had dinner there tonight and spoke with Roberto about this. He and Pino will both be 65 next year and want to retire. Roberto claims that he wants to join the Peace Corps!!! However, he also mentioned that a couple of Italian sisters may be interested in taking over the place, in which case he an Pino will provide training, recipes, etc., for them to make a go of it.

San Marco has been around for nearly 20 years (it's original incarnation was called "Veniziano"). We started talking about how few places have lasted that long and kept up the quality here. Maybe that's not unusual, but we hate losing a place like this. It was just always there and always had good food at reasonable prices. In fact, a group of people in my building went there on New Year's Eve 1999. We had all been involved in preparing everybody for Y2K--remember that?--and didn't want to be too far away from our building. A lovely time was had by all. And, as we all now know, the world didn't end at midnight.

For apps we had the prociutto and melon and the Vitello Tonnato. I couldn't help thinking that these two plates could easily have been shared by four people. Craig had the lamb chops and they were lovely. I had the trout. It was nicely cooked, but I think the sauce may have overwhelmed the sweet fish. A minor quibble for $14.

While San Marco couldn't be considered a "destination" restaurant, it certainly is a treasure for those of us who live close by. Those of you in Dupont Circle, Adams Morgan, Mount Pleasant, and Columbia Heights might want to take the opportunity to eat there while you still can.

They also have a website: www.sanmarcodc.com

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Still open?  Still same ownership?

Yes and yes. We were there last Friday night. I had the pappardelle with wild boar, which was one of the specials. Craig had the venison, which was also a special. We both started with the Caesar salad. Plain ol' comfort food.

You should go.

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The agnolotti with walnut sauce are to die for. Have also enjoyed salsiccia (housemade sausage), gnocchi, tilapia, and the sorpressata app plate (which comes with fresh mozz, a few olives, and tomatoes, in addition to the meat that plays the title role.)

The epitome of affordable neighborhood Italian. Just wonderful. The only things I don't like there are the proscuitto (too cold, like it's been frozen) and the vegetable lasagna (too bland.) Other than that, have at it.

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Funny timing. I just went to San Marco on Tuesday night in an effort to avoid RW madness. My husband and I ate some of the same things we had the last time we were there (about 2 years ago) and the consistency was still there. The grilled cuttlefish was perfectly cooked and the risotto was as homey as ever. The total tab was about the same as for RW (with cocktails, apps, dinner, and dessert), we weren't rushed through our meal, and the food was pretty tasty -- it's a great alternative during Restaurant Week.

It's sad to see a place like San Marco go, but not a surprise. Every time I walked in I wondered how they managed to stay open in their location. San Marco is what it is (or was what it was?) -- a reliable, inexpensive, comfort dining option in a neighborhood that is getting harder to stomach every year. Roberto was the kind of host that paid attention to and remembered everything. I once mentioned how much I liked his grilled portabellas (years ago, when portabellas were exotic) and every visit after that he would send out a little plate of them with my dinner. And ending a meal there was always so much fun when he would wheel out the grappa cart and let you sample some of his collection. I still think back to a chamomile version that was so smooth it changed the way I thought about grappa.

On Tuesday I had made a mental note to frequent San Marco a bit more. I guess now it will have to be for farewell meals (as soon as they get back from their holidays on September 7th.)

And good Luck to Pino and Roberto in their future endeavors!

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So? How was it? I'm sure drunken debauchery ensued. We want details people!

Not a whole lot of drunken debauchery that I was aware of. The food was pretty good, the company better. Overview:

1) grilled portobello. simple, but delicious

2) smelt. thin little strips of smelt in a vinegar-based sauce. very tasty

3) legant's risotto, with (i believe) mushrooms and some other stuff.

4) barbara's pork medallions. this was the winner of the night, at least of the stuff i tried

5) I got a wild boar pasta for a main...the flavor and the sauce were great but the boar was pretty dry on the inside.

All in all, it was a pretty good meal. Nothing to go yelling from the rooftops about, but for reasonably priced italian food near my place, I know where to go in the future. And it's always good to get a sense of where other Rockwellians reside. Good times.

ETA: I was feeling un-adventurous and stuck to the moretti (eh), and I don't think anybody tried any grappa, although there were a few bottles of wine passed around :P

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Actually, once all the boring people-- OK sensible people -- left, Barbara gave the secret hand sign to the owner, whom she had evidently dated in a previous accent, he dropped a bottle of grappa on the table and for the next hour the kool kids (sans querty, who ran off to shoot pool with her other lowlife friends) played the "just a drop more" game with clear liquor and teensy glasses on tall stems, and blathered drunkenly on about food, politics, feminine hygine and what lightweights :P the people at the other end of the table were. I've never seen ustreetguy so sober -- it was like a bizarro Larry.

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I hesitate to do much of a review, probably because I am so familiar with the place. The menu suprised me, somewhat, in that it has a narrower focus than previously and that the prices have remained mostly static. While the usual suspects in risotto and pasta remain, there are many fewer "entrees" on offer. However, I believe I picked the winner last night in getting the Pork medallions with mushrooms. It was a rather large portion and everybody who wanted one got a bite. At $16, it was also the most expensive item, IIRC. Seriously, you pork lovers: Run, don't walk to get that--if you are lucky. It was on the "specials" list.

Legant and Monique arrived early and ordered a plate of cuttlefish at the bar, which was shared with Dame Edna and myself once we arrived. It was rather interesting, but probably not something I would order again.

Once the whole group arrived (we were 10), we just ordered one of everything on the regular appetizer menu and we each got a little plate with several bites of things. Then we each chose whatever main we wanted. The wine list is also much, much shorter than it used to be and much cheaper, too. I don't think there was anything over $30 on it, but maybe I just missed it. Clearly, Roberto and Pino are looking to sell so that they can retire. But the food they are putting out is as good as it ever was, even if there are fewer choices.

Waitman must be suffering from a blackout, or something. It was HE who asked about grappa. If they hadn't kicked us out, we would have sat there getting bombed into the wee hours. And, I wouldn't even be able to sit up, much less type, today. :P

As I sat looking at everybody, it dawned on me that I really enjoyed the company of each one of them and would be happy to share meal or drink with any or all of them, anytime. Too bad that qwertyy is heading off to Khartoum just as we all got to know her. :D

BTW: ferment everything has shaved off his beard. He got carded when he ordered a beer. Yes, the term "Baby Face" came to mind . . .

Because Corduroy is going to be open on New Year's Eve, Dame Edna and I have reservations there. However, we have spent many NYEs at San Marco over the years. It's within walking distance, we don't have to dress up, and the menu isn't some fancy jacked-up price thing. So, if you don't want to cook on NYE and don't want to spend the rent money, San Marco is a good choice for that.

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I really enjoyed dinner last evening. My hazelnut agnolotti were quite delicious, though as usual the serving size way exceeded my capacity. I particulary enjoyed the smelts (although I thought they were white anchovies - shows what I know). Feel like a schmuck for not trying San Marco out sooner. I need to pay better attention to recommendation from y'all. My kids would also love this place and it's easy on the pocketbook.

Nice to meet new people as always. What a lovely group. Thanks for pulling this together Barbara.

PS Great Grappa! Cool long stemed glasses too. Could be a challenge under certain circumstances.

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Notes from lameducks, Dec. 27 -

Prosciuto con Melone

Seppiette fresche alla Griglia (cuttlefish, grilled)

Portabella alla Griglia (Portobella mushroom, grilled)

Anguelle Marinate al Limme (smelts marinated in lemon with garlic, olive oil)

Agnolotti con Salsa di Noci (pasta filled with ricotta amd spinach in walnut sauce)

Gnocchi al Pesto (potato dumplings with pesto sauce)

Medaglione di Maiale al Barolo (tenderloin medallions of pork in a Barolo wine sauce)

Tiramisu

Cannoli Siciliani

Grappa Prosecco

Many other menu items and wines that I cannot remember.

I had the Gnocchi al Pesto, and used a slice of excellent bread to mop up the last of the pesto sauce.

Tiramisu - not as good as Barbara's.

Grappa -- with a note of -- paint thinner? (but in a good way)

We started before 7:30, left after 11:00. Good?

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Actually, once all the boring people-- OK sensible people -- left, Barbara gave the secret hand sign to the owner, whom she had evidently dated in a previous accent, he dropped a bottle of grappa on the table and for the next hour the kool kids (sans querty, who ran off to shoot pool with her other lowlife friends) played the "just a drop more" game with clear liquor and teensy glasses on tall stems, and blathered drunkenly on about food, politics, feminine hygine and what lightweights :P the people at the other end of the table were. I've never seen ustreetguy so sober -- it was like a bizarro Larry.
Oh, seriously??? Man. I never get to drink grappa with the other lowlifes I know...

My carbonara was great, and of the starters, I rank the winners as the mushroom and the peppers (I seem to have been getting a lot of bitter roasted peppers lately, but these were nice and sweet with great texture).

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