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Pizzeria Orso, S. Maple Ave. in Falls Church - Chef Carlos Diaz Steps In For Will Artley, With GM Sara Barrera


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This is horrible. I have been to this restaurant regularly this year and Will is the reason why. It was actually my favorite. My night is ruined. Ugh.

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(Will, when you can, please come let us know what's going on. As always, anything you (or anybody else) tells me is private, remains private.)

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Long story short, Tuesday night we arrived at Orso, my wife 3 days past her due date. No signs of contractions. I ask Chef Will to create a baby buster chef's tasting menu. 5 beautiful courses, 4

5:30 PM Saturday finds the place about 40% full for Neapolitan pizza that is 80% as good as Pupatella and orders of magnitude less drama.  We parked 50' away from the door.  In a garage.   Specia

Absolutely a game changer. I was just in there a week ago and talked with Will for awhile - if he knew anything, he played his cards very close to the vest. Will might say "it took a village," but

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We were there Saturday night, our first post-Will visit.  The fried calamari was much better than before.  The porkbelly was definitely not as good--sort of too soupy.  The new poached pear salad my husband said was ho-hum.  We split on the spaghetti and meatballs - I preferred the old way (Artley era) and he preferred the new way (post-Artley).

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My husband and I had lunch here one day last week. I had two old favorites: the pork belly and the roasted cauliflower. Both were every bit as good as I remember when Will was in the kitchen. My husband strayed from his usual pizza order to get the meatball grinder, which is served in a sort of folded pizza crust. He loved it!

I'm sorry Will is gone, and I look forward to trying wherever he lands in the future. But things aren't looking so bad at Pizzeria Orso for now.

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I have been to Orso twice now in the post-Will era and have been encouraged by what we found both times. We ordered our standard fare and found no striking changes, except for a marked improvement in the calamari as noted above. Fingers crossed that the smooth sailing continues. 

My husband and I had lunch here one day last week. I had two old favorites: the pork belly and the roasted cauliflower. Both were every bit as good as I remember when Will was in the kitchen. My husband strayed from his usual pizza order to get the meatball grinder, which is served in a sort of folded pizza crust. He loved it!

I'm sorry Will is gone, and I look forward to trying wherever he lands in the future. But things aren't looking so bad at Pizzeria Orso for now.

Matt and I got three pizzas the other evening (always must have some for his breakfast the next day!), and I thought they were of comparable quality as the Artley-era pies; Matt liked them a lot, but felt they were not quite as good (Matt's palate for things such as this is at least equal to mine, but he's also more susceptible to bias). So there's two more data points.

Will took great pride in training his staff, and even told me after he left that he thought they'd do just fine. Still, unless there's a strong captain at the helm (and there may well be), degradation will begin to occur at some point.

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We haven't been to Orso recently, but knowing how much pride Will took in his staff, I would expect the quality of execution of the regular menu to remain high. What will probably be missing is the creativity - the specials, the new menu items, the unexpected flavors that blow you away. The best pizza I have ever had was a pistachio-based work of art he put together one day, which never made it to the menu. That kind of thing requires a chef with talent, confidence and the freedom to create.

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I have been to Orso twice now in the post-Will era and have been encouraged by what we found both times. We ordered our standard fare and found no striking changes, except for a marked improvement in the calamari as noted above. Fingers crossed that the smooth sailing continues. 

My husband and I had lunch here one day last week. I had two old favorites: the pork belly and the roasted cauliflower. Both were every bit as good as I remember when Will was in the kitchen. My husband strayed from his usual pizza order to get the meatball grinder, which is served in a sort of folded pizza crust. He loved it!

Matt and I got three pizzas the other evening (always must have some for his breakfast the next day!), and I thought they were of comparable quality as the Artley-era pies; Matt liked them a lot, but felt they were not quite as good (Matt's palate for things such as this is at least equal to mine, but he's also more susceptible to bias). So there's two more data points.

We haven't been to Orso recently, but knowing how much pride Will took in his staff, I would expect the quality of execution of the regular menu to remain high. What will probably be missing is the creativity - the specials, the new menu items, the unexpected flavors that blow you away. 

Unfortunately, I had my first solid evidence of a post-Artley decline last night. I'd ordered pizza 2-3 times from Pizzeria Orso since Will left, and thought the quality was just about the same; last night, I ordered two pizzas: a Fun Guy ($15) and a Capricciosa ($15), both of which I'd had multiple times in the past (at least five times each), and both of which had always been consistent in their quality.

The Fun Guy was still very close in character to a pre-Artley version (the sourdough starter was left at the restaurant, so the crust will remain comparable for awhile; it's the toppings that will be the first to change). However, the Capricciosa was the first-ever version that was in decline, and other than a couple of objective reasons, I can't tell you why. It was extremely salty, low on artichokes (which counteract the salt), and the slices of ham were stuck together which revealed that they were not of the highest quality. It may indeed be the same ham they were using before, but when you get 3-4 slices stuck together because of improper slicing, it enhances whatever flaws there are, and puts the entire pie out of balance - this pizza would not have seen the light of day had Will been running the kitchen.

Next to Pupatella, this is still the second-best pizza around (I had Pie-Tanza within the past week, and it's just as it always is (which isn't as good as this))

I hope this a one-off, but I fear little "things" like this might begin cropping up here-and-there which could be a precursor to a larger downfall. I should also add that I've had a disproportionate number of Orso pizzas, so I'll be one of the first to know - most customers probably wouldn't have even noticed this, or, for that matter, cared.

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Betrand Chemel is now officially the Executive Chef at the restaurant group which runs 2941 and Pizzeria Orso, and has had significant input in the menu redesign.

The Chef de Cuisine (nominally the Executive Sous Chef) will be Carlos Diaz, and the General Manager is Sara Barrera.

Here is the latest menu from Pizzeria Orso:

Orso New Menu FINAL 2015.pdf

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As usual, took the boy for a pizza, and the kids pie continues to be a great value, $7 for a delicious 12 inch (about) pie. For the one piece the boy allowed me to have (read: I took it without him noticing), I thought the crust was very salty, but i quite liked it. I got an order of Arancini, which included 8 (iirc) quarter-sized balls, and were good, if not great. A bit bland to my tastes, and nothing like the fancier version they used to make. I also got a small Italian Chopped Salad, which was very good, and quite large. Indeed, the large portion must come on a different plate, because the small I got was piled high and there wasn't any more room. Anyway, it was a good mixture of lettuce, onion, tomato, olives, peppers and meat. I miss the old menu, and preferred my past order choices, but still a very good meal at a very good price.

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I couldn't resist the $8 margarita pizza special, so we went there tonight.  I thought the pizza was really good, esp. the crust and the sauce.  Even better, they brought back the pork belly and polenta app and it was better than ever.  It is such a casual setting but the food is A+.  Note to self:  go there more often!

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hopsing, Can I just say that I have gotten such useful information from so many of your reviews, even if they are just simple like this.  So a personal thank you.  (Don can remove this later as completely off topic, but just wanted to put it out there.)

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5:30 PM Saturday finds the place about 40% full for Neapolitan pizza that is 80% as good as Pupatella and orders of magnitude less drama.  We parked 50' away from the door.  In a garage.  

Special of blue cheese mussels ($12) was very rich, savory and sopped up nicely with two large hunks of grilled bread.  Crudo pizza ($15ish) had heavy coverage of prosciutto, cheese, added olive oil and arugula, a bit busy for a purist, but satisfying nonetheless. 

Brussels sprouts chips ($7) was a bit of a miss, nothing to offset the bitterness but salt and oil, more severely under-performing the delicious balsamic-tinged Pupatella rendition than the pizza.

4-yeah-old's Macaroni and cheese was thick, roux-y sauce over orichietti,  good enough to theft a few bites.  2-yeah-old seemed happy with dairy-less spaghetti in marinara. 

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pizzas consistent and fair price for serving size, quality ingredients etc.

They used to make a homemade gnochi that was excellent, however the last few times we have been there it is not on the menu.

Atmosphere is a little noisy, but service is good and food fresh.  Hosts are gracious and it never disappoints.

Get the doughnuts for dessert, small but rich and just the right punch.

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Generally second the most recent comments. Only additional points:

- Pizza tasted yeastier than most other places. Did the crust have a slightly higher rise, or was it my imagination? Either way, I didn't find whatever it was preferable, but it also wasn't offensive. I think the pizza was still squarely within the VPN margin of tolerance.

- Had a appetizer on the specials menu (not sure if daily/weekly/etc but was a printed insert in the menu) of grilled octopus with lightly grilled veg. Octopus had a slightly mushy exterior I've never experienced, though the interior was texturally as you would expect. It was also nearly room-temperature. Overall it was off-putting and I didn't finish.

- Ordered a Chianti (which by coincidence was their house Red) which was unavailable. Then ordered a second choice, but they had only one glass left -- literally it was a glass sitting out behind the bar. Can't remember where I ended up with my 3rd choice, something inoffensive and unmemorable. They were also out of a seasonal pizza special. At 6:30ish on a Monday, I was surprised so many things were out.   

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We stopped in for an early dinner on Friday night, and took advantage of their Happy Hour offers on beer and wine.

Mussels with white wine, blue cheese and garlic were very tasty, but the mussels weren't very plump, and at $12 the quantity of mussels per serving was pretty stingy (two nights later we had nice plump mussels and at least twice as many for $13 at Oh! George in Fairfax).

We both ordered one of the specials: Hanger steak with mushroom sauce and mashed potatoes. The steaks were cooked perfectly according to our individual preferences. The mushroom sauce was made with "wild" mushrooms, as opposed to button or cremini. The mashed potatoes, flecked with bacon and green onion, were just the right accent.

I had the house white and red wines, and I think they could do better on selecting these. But I wasn't there for the wine.

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Our family has been going to Orso since it opened, and have followed all of its ups and downs (but mostly ups).  We used to drive to Two Amy's once every couple of months, but haven't been since Orso opened.  We have enjoyed several great meals here. 

Saturday night it was just me at the bar with a Crudo (tomato, basil, mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula) and a pint of Devil's Backbone Vienna Lager.  The pizza was cooked with a nice chewy crispness all the way to the center with good char along the edges. All of the toppings were tasty. It may be me, but I think the dough is less sour than when they opened.  I preferred the original. I still wish they had a better selection of beer on draft.

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3 hours ago, Law Taco said:

Our family has been going to Orso since it opened, and have followed all of its ups and downs (but mostly ups).  We used to drive to Two Amy's once every couple of months, but haven't been since Orso opened.  We have enjoyed several great meals here. 

Saturday night it was just me at the bar with a Crudo (tomato, basil, mozzarella, prosciutto, arugula) and a pint of Devil's Backbone Vienna Lager.  The pizza was cooked with a nice chewy crispness all the way to the center with good char along the edges. All of the toppings were tasty. It may be me, but I think the dough is less sour than when they opened.  I preferred the original. I still wish they had a better selection of beer on draft.

When Edan was there, I don't think he used sour dough.  Will Artley later introduced the sour dough.  

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Every time we leave here I say (usually aloud, it's annoying), "This food is really good."

Just shared some pizzas. The DOC is consistently great and pleasingly came uncut this time.  The pepperoni is even better.

The reasonably priced and varied kids menu is a plus.

We've had the same server a couple times now and I really need to get his name. Efficient and friendly.

It's a treat to have such high quality pizza in such a low maintenance environment.

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On 10/28/2016 at 3:55 PM, saxdrop said:

- Pizza tasted yeastier than most other places. Did the crust have a slightly higher rise, or was it my imagination? Either way, I didn't find whatever it was preferable, but it also wasn't offensive. I think the pizza was still squarely within the VPN margin of tolerance.

Orso made #6 on Carman's margherita run down

...and feeling slightly validated that I wasn;t imagining things:

"Crust: The first thing you’ll notice about the crust is its tang, courtesy of a sourdough starter used by Bertrand Chemel, a French chef trained in the ways of Italian pizza. Yes, a starter is allowed under the formal rules for margherita pizza."

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This is a hard post to know how to write, as I don't expect restaurant employees to be super smiley and chipper. Some just naturally are; others aren't. Some staff I find too friendly. After having not been to Orso for quite a while,  I found lunch here to be depressing. The employees seemed universally unhappy (or maybe it was gloomy).  The thing is, it wasn't really them individually. It was the whole vibe. It took a while for anyone to notice us to seat us. Our server (who, at that point, seemed to be the only person working the floor), eventually came over. Given that he was taking orders and dealing with occupied tables it was probably an understandable delay. He was also the bartender.  He provided polite service that was fine.  Eventually someone else came along and started helping with the tables.

We got a fungi pizza, which had a decent char but toppings applied rather unevenly.  Some parts were clumpy and others vacant. There were pieces of Fontina that didn't seem to have melted much at all. It arrived pre-sliced without our asking.  I liked the mushrooms, but (honestly, and I can't believe I'm typing this) the last slices of mushroom pizza I got from We the Pizza were better constructed and tasted better.

We also got fried calamari, which was excessively oily. The rings on top had drained off enough that they weren't too bad, but it took some effort to try to blot off enough oil from the lower pieces to make them reasonably dry.  They weren't bad enough to send back but disappointing. When we couldn't decide on a dipping sauce, our server offered to bring us some of both, which was helpful. My husband preferred the  marinara, and I think I liked the basil aioli more. These were good for dipping the pizza bones into as well.  The server also brought us an amuse bouche of what seemed to be small deep-fried breadsticks with olive oil and Parmesan, but it was hard to hear what he was saying and I didn't ask for clarification.

This was the first weekday lunch date my husband and I have had in about a year, and it was just kind of depressing.  The food was okay, and maybe it's better at night when things are busier. The times I've been here have only been for lunch, and it usually is a bit quiet, but if there hadn't been one fairly large table that was a bit loud, it would have felt like a funeral.

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@Pat  That sounds terrible.  If I’ve been there for lunch it was some years ago. I don’t recall.  But I’ve found Orso to always be good if not as spectacular as several years ago.  I still go there a couple of times a year.  The pizza’s have never been as you described and sometimes, though less frequently than in the past, extraordinary.  

I’ll continue to return in evenings but that is a terrible warning about lunch. It doesn’t sound like the B team, more like the D or F team.

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1 hour ago, DaveO said:

@Pat  That sounds terrible.  If I’ve been there for lunch it was some years ago. I don’t recall.  But I’ve found Orso to always be good if not as spectacular as several years ago.  I still go there a couple of times a year.  The pizza’s have never been as you described and sometimes, though less frequently than in the past, extraordinary.  

I’ll continue to return in evenings but that is a terrible warning about lunch. It doesn’t sound like the B team, more like the D or F team.

The thing is, I don't really know it was "the team."  I'm not sure I can explain it correctly, but something was just off.  The food, as mediocre as my comments might sound, wasn't the thing that left me feeling that if I was back in the area again, I'd find someplace else to go for lunch.  I don't want to bash the place, though I'm sure it sounds like that's what I'm doing, so I'll shut up now.

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5 minutes ago, Pat said:

 I don't want to bash the place, though I'm sure it sounds like that's what I'm doing, so I'll shut up now.

It doesn't sound like that at all, and you, of all people, are about the most cautious poster in this entire community - so, if you sensed a funeral home-ish vibe, there was probably a funeral home-ish vibe.

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I'm a regular there, but always for Saturday dinner.  During those times, it is high energy and service and food are really good.  Four years ago, I had a group lunch there.  All was good.  Also around that timeframe, I've had lunch there a few times and it was more sedate but nothing I would notice that would reflect poorly.  I haven't been there for lunch in recent years, but I would urge you to give it another try.  Hopefully, that time was just a bad fluke.

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On 12/12/2017 at 8:43 PM, Pat said:

eEThe thing is, I don't really know it was "the team."  I'm not sure I can explain it correctly, but something was just off.  The food, as mediocre as my comments might sound, wasn't the thing that left me feeling that if I was back in the area again, I'd find someplace else to go for lunch.  I don't want to bash the place, though I'm sure it sounds like that's what I'm doing, so I'll shut up now.

I read it as a “bash” but more importantly I interpreted it as a bad experience.  I took my experiences over the last few years, I read recent reviews from other sources, I read @hopsing‘s comments with the identifying comment “regular” and I noted @Ericandblueboy‘s comment about lunches in the past.

I’ll return. I still enjoy it.  Who knows what occurred.  I’ll venture a guess that they might not staff up well for lunches.  Just a semi educated guess,  but I don’t see it as being busy or profitable at that time period. It’s also possible the lease requires them to be open those hours.  (The landlord is also the tenant) All guesses.  Emphasis is that I’ll continue to go there with the belief that you had a one time bad experience 

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Instead of my usual pizza or spaghetti and meatballs, this time I tried their branzino special.  It was really good and perfect for the light meal I was looking for.  BTW,  they have a bunch of new wines by the bottle.  I've tried two of the reds and they are spectacular for $29.

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Went here with a friend last night for an early dinner.  I hadn't been for quite a while.  It was fairly slow when we arrived, but was about 3/4 full when we left. The atmosphere was pleasant, not too loud, and mostly attentive service, with one glitch.

There was a complimentary plate of a couple of pizza crust rolls (about 2 bites per) brushed with a little olive oil and sprinkled with S&P and grated parm.  Tasty and a little chewy.  We split orders of arancini (smaller than a ping-pong ball, about 8-9 on the plate, with a nicely gooey fontina center and a bright tomato sauce for dipping), grilled octopus with a tomato and roasted red pepper? sauce with grilled baby zucchini.  My dining companion found the octopus a little salty, and on its own I would agree, but with the sauce I thought it was balanced.  Then we shared half orders of the mushroom ravioli with greens and abit of olive oil and parm, and the gnocchi with a slightly spicy sausage in a creamy sauce.  I liked both very well and kept going back and forth on  which I liked better and that seemed to end up with whichever was the most recent bite I had eaten. Overall, I thought it was tasty and well executed and glad to see they are keeping up standards.

We were going to order a margherita pizza to share, but our server disappeared after dropping off the menu and by the time she finally came back around, our meal had settled and we weren't hungry anymore, so we passed.  The check (with a glass of wine @ $10) came to a little under $60 for the two of us pre-tip.  

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Comfort food at this restaurant remains excellent.  A friend and I were there Sunday/ with some all day HH specials.  We had beer, fried olives over bread, bruschetta, a mhargarita pizza, lasagna, cappuccinos.  It was tail end of lunch.  Our choices included a healthy array of deals off of HH.  The place was slow but service was awake.

The pizza and lasagna were terrific.  Fried olives over bread was a bit like bruschetta, with the two of us, digging the pits out of olives and placing it on the bread.   Oooomph.   Tasty but too much work, while we were toiling away on the beers.

It remains a great place for region wide comfort food.  More power to them.

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17 hours ago, DaveO said:

Comfort food at this restaurant remains excellent. 

Indeed.  I love their spaghetti and meatballs.  It's soft like the way Chef-Boyardee used to be, but in a good way.  Brings back memories of childhood.

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Got an update from Orso that they are closed to dine-in but are doing carryout and delivery.  All pizzas are $13 and all salads are $8.  The menu may be limited beyond those items; it wasn't clear what their virus menu is in total.

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