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AV Ristorante Italiano, Open Since 1949 at New York Avenue and 6th Street NW - Closed


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Let me qualify this review in three ways: I'm not a local, but visit DC at least annually; my family and I enjoy A.V's almost as much as a family tradition than a culinary experience; and I don't know a lot about high-end Italian dining, which A.V.'s is certainly not, and doesn't really try to be. Ok, caveats aside...

Had dinner there last night. They just reopened after their annual August vacation. The biggest change I noticed since my last visit in December is that they reprinted and relaminated the menus. The typewritten, I don't think it was even printed off a computer, specials list was on the top of the right side, with the same specials as last visit, and as last year, and as long as I can remember.

Ah, the ambiance. Not enough light, tables too close together, semi-friendly waiters. And the music. 45rpm's of classic opera, Maria Calas, etc. Played on a ancient jukebox giving 2 plays for a quarter, complete with an uneven speed controller that gave the singers a vibrato they never had, or wanted. Being summer, the imported fireplace was not lit nor seeping smoke into the dining room.

Ah, the wine. While many of the 5 or 6 selections on the wine list are under $19, we chose a liter of the house red for $14. Two short straight glasses came along. No fine crystal here. Ordered with, as tradition requires, a white pizza with fontina cheese, which came with uneven cheese, but a perfectly crispy thin crust and scent of a bunch of garlic. Thankfully we didn't quite finish it.

Because it was a great dipping tool for the pork spezzatino. Large chunks of very tender and flavorful pork in a light tomato broth with peppers, onions and mushrooms. Perhaps a pork shoulder, it reminded me of the mexican carnitas, in an italian treatment. With a nice helping of spaghetti and meat sauce on the side. Under $10. Was stuffed, so only a cappacino for dessert.

This place is unique, but certainly has probably had mixed reviews over the years. Hopefully the rumors of the sale of the building are false. Not that I'd neccessarily miss the food, although I've never had a bad meal there, but it would be a bummer to have to find a suitable replacement, with all of it's qualities, to continue the family tradition that's at least ten years old...

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this place is soothing, like a steaming mug of tea in front of a roaring fire beneath a snug blanket whilst the importunate winter hammers away, rattling the windows with icy breezes and howling across the gelid landscape.

when youre sick and tired of pomengranite-foie gras martinis and miniburgers and nearly everything with rice masquerading as a risotto, go here and be soothed. lovely supple chianti awaits in its evening attire of straw. truly remarklable daily specials. i go here when i need to forget. or are just plain angry and fed up with the gastronomic trends that grip chefs and that, really, need to go the way of the dodo.

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i get the feeling that the days of this establishment are numbered, even if the rumors aren't true. at the same time as it is charging up the area for further redevelopment expansion, the boom around chinatown and the mci center, i suspect, is siphoning off some business from a v. attendance was definitely down last saturday night.

which is maybe too bad. what better place is there to take your schizophrenic brother or boss(es) or self? :lol:

next time you visit, it would be a good idea to stare long and hard at the mortadella-design floor tiles and burn them into your memory.

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i get the feeling that the days of this establishment are numbered, even if the rumors aren't true. at the same time as it is charging up the area for further redevelopment expansion, the boom around chinatown and the mci center, i suspect, is siphoning off some business from a v. attendance was definitely down last saturday night.

which is maybe too bad. what better place is there to take your schizophrenic brother or boss(es) or self? :lol:

next time you visit, it would be a good idea to stare long and hard at the mortadella-design floor tiles and burn them into your memory.

i was informed by a somewhat reliable source that the building had been sold and the indian summer days and fall nights are languidly descending, the myriad kissing of dead leaves in fall, till the space is battered and replaced by a soul-sucking obelisk (no not that one unfortunately) of steel and glass and youngurbanprofessionals from new jersey (no offense meant to denizens or homebodies of that state

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imminient demise or no, i had the most unbelievable pulpo dish here last week; i say unbelievable because the cephalapod had, most likely in a paroxysm of sable ink, jettinsoned its all too familiar texture, along the lines of hardened rubber cement and was simply astounding; a gelatinous steaming pile of purpley vinous (and probably with that mysterious aura of it's own or perchance squid's ink) tentacles that dissipated upon the tongue; chewing was not an option, you merely let it disappear and enjoyed every second of it. for this reason alone, i would go back. you should too, if it is indeed leaving us. its on the specials page.

i think, nay know, that i like this place for far more reasons than the quality of the food. its the kind of place that we sorely lack and, because of this, it stands out all the more so. some of the food is merely pedestrian; and the side of spaghetti with marinana that accompanies most of the entrees is downright bad - carmine-tinted sugar with nary an herb or grain of salt to be found. their specials though.... always sublime... i'm thinking of an intensely herby and fiendishly garlicky braised rabbit last month... a soothing venison chop bathed in a deep dark complex red wine sauce... stick to specials... stick to specials....

Edited by frogprince
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Went once maybe 5-6 years ago. It was ok and worthy of the exploration. Never really impressed. I am surprised it has lasted this long considering how average the meal we had there was coupled with the development boom and proximity to the convention center and all.

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Went once maybe 5-6 years ago. It was ok and worthy of the exploration. Never really impressed. I am surprised it has lasted this long considering how average the meal we had there was coupled with the development boom and proximity to the convention center and all.
Building ownership is key.
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Its closing end of July 2007...i know the owners....
I know that progress is inevitable, and the revitalization of that part of downtown ends a decades-long indifference and neglect, but it’s sad to see an old acquaintance disappear into the developer’s night.

Long before anyone would find polenta or risotto on a menu, the A.V. was serving up the only authentic Italian food in Washington. You had to order right, or trust Mr. Vasaio to bring what was good that day, but it was the real deal. Years before Washington had its first wave of high-end places like Cantina d’Italia, Romeo and Juliet (Donna’s debut) and Tiberio, there were truly forgettable Italian eateries like Luigi’s, Marrocco’s, Roma and Trieste, none of which on their best day could match the care and quality of the A.V. (I have probably omitted a few, but that’s an act of kindness as well as memory.) What’s done is done, and all of that, but I regret the loss of yet another landmark.

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Can someone verify the end of July closing date? Does anyone know if they'll be taking reservations for their last night?

We're just gutted about this. I've been going there since high school (I'm in my thirties now) and I really don't know what I'm going to do. I'm so very very sad.

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I'll be out of town this weekend, so we're going tonight - to celebrate our fifth anniversary and pay our respects to our favorite pizza in all of DC.

Goodbye, extra-large with black olives. Nowhere will we find a pie with the salty oil-cured goodness that we have come to love so well.

EDIT: Well, as expected, our four-hour pizza was worth the wait. Got there 6:50, seated 9:50, received pizza 10:40. We'll miss it so very very much.

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I believe he also owns Mama Zu's which is located in Oregon Hill. Which happens to be one of the only neighborhoods in and around VCU that refused to give in to the University taking over and redeveloping into VCU housing. It is also a throw back neighborhood where once the Confederate Flag flew high from every home and that was in the 90's when I lived in Richmond.

 

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2 hours ago, Josh Radigan said:

I believe he also owns Mama Zu's which is located in Oregon Hill. Which happens to be one of the only neighborhoods in and around VCU that refused to give in to the University taking over and redeveloping into VCU housing. It is also a throw back neighborhood where the once the Confederate Flag flew high from every home and that was in the 90's when I lived in Richmond.

Ed does indeed own Mamma Zu. I lived in Oregon Hill in the latter part of the 80's. Interesting place for sure. 

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2 hours ago, Keithstg said:

Looking back, this post sort of typifies 2007...

This excellent article references AV as part of an attempt to determine the area's first pizza.  The article tracks and  acknowledges AV couldn't have been the first but give it a place in the town's long pizza history stretching back to the earlier part of the 20th century.   I know I met the owners in the early 80's.  My work colleagues included 2-3 who were among the premier land brokers of downtown sites for future development.  That was 20+ years before AV ultimately sold, but one of my colleagues had an encyclopedia type reference of every single parcel in the downtown from N Capitol to the West End.  Occasionally I was out with him when he met with owners.  From my perspective it was a nice way to get acquainted with a reasonably good Italian restaurant in a city starving for good Italian.  :D

I vaguely recall hearing that ex staff from AV ultimately opened up all the Pines of Italian restaurants in the suburbs.  True or not...I'm not sure..but its a nice tale.  The Pines' in Bethesda and Northern Va had similar menus and sauces to AV.    Over the decades I'd dine for traditional Italian food or pizza; AV had a sturdy and traditional rendition of either if not spectacular but at least very moderately priced.  I vaguely knew the owners and resuscitated that old meeting when the bar school in my sig would periodically staff the restaurant with someone, one of whom I know lasted several years.  After being reacquainted I'd periodically ask about the market.  From what I heard they kept getting inquiries about selling in the 2000's and kept holding off for a better and better price to sell the site.  It took about 20+ years from the period when downtown land became tremendously valuable, but ultimately the market came to them.   Good for them.  It took decades of pizza and pasta to finally pay off.   

Damn, I feel like sipping a  lambrusco!!!!

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6 hours ago, DaveO said:

I vaguely recall hearing that ex staff from AV ultimately opened up all the Pines of Italian restaurants in the suburbs.  True or not...I'm not sure..but its a nice tale.  The Pines' in Bethesda and Northern Va had similar menus and sauces to AV.   

If this is true, it is pretty amazing, as from what I have heard, the owner of Il Porto, in Gaithersburg and Frederick (which amazingly doesn't have a thread here--I will have to do something about that!) is an alum of Pines of Rome (which I can't seem to find a thread for either!).

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John, the owner of Vicino in Silver Spring, learned his white pizza from Pines of Rome. Indirect descendant of AV Ristorante. I tried the white pizza at AV shortly before it closed and liked Vicino's better! Wish I had gone to AV sooner for their rabbit!

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On 7/7/2016 at 1:37 PM, DaveO said:

This excellent article references AV as part of an attempt to determine the area's first pizza.  The article tracks and  acknowledges AV couldn't have been the first but give it a place in the town's long pizza history stretching back to the earlier part of the 20th century.   I know I met the owners in the early 80's.  My work colleagues included 2-3 who were among the premier land brokers of downtown sites for future development.  That was 20+ years before AV ultimately sold, but one of my colleagues had an encyclopedia type reference of every single parcel in the downtown from N Capitol to the West End.  Occasionally I was out with him when he met with owners.  From my perspective it was a nice way to get acquainted with a reasonably good Italian restaurant in a city starving for good Italian.  :D

I vaguely recall hearing that ex staff from AV ultimately opened up all the Pines of Italian restaurants in the suburbs.  True or not...I'm not sure..but its a nice tale.  The Pines' in Bethesda and Northern Va had similar menus and sauces to AV.    Over the decades I'd dine for traditional Italian food or pizza; AV had a sturdy and traditional rendition of either if not spectacular but at least very moderately priced.  I vaguely knew the owners and resuscitated that old meeting when the bar school in my sig would periodically staff the restaurant with someone, one of whom I know lasted several years.  After being reacquainted I'd periodically ask about the market.  From what I heard they kept getting inquiries about selling in the 2000's and kept holding off for a better and better price to sell the site.  It took about 20+ years from the period when downtown land became tremendously valuable, but ultimately the market came to them.   Good for them.  It took decades of pizza and pasta to finally pay off.   

Damn, I feel like sipping a  lambrusco!!!!

Definitely good for them! I went once to AV, and it was well past its prime.

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1 hour ago, Keithstg said:

Definitely good for them! I went once to AV, and it was well past its prime.

Hah.  Maybe it was never in its prime!!!   I ate there off an on for about 25 years till they closed  Others above referenced their specials as being their best offerings  I probably never had one.  Just sort of mediocre pizza and pasta, although over that period from the early 80's and beyond..their version was somewhat above other similar restaurants...at least as I'd describe it.  This retrospective got me curious.  I referenced above meeting the operators in the early 80's.  I was with a colleague land broker of downtown DC commercial land including any sites that allowed high rise development opportunities of any ilk.  Early 80's.  Land was going for crazy prices...but certainly not where AV was located.  In fact land prices per developable foot were the highest in the country.  Not absolute prices, but prices per developable foot...maybe 10 feet of development for every foot of ground.  Say around $1,000/foot.  Those prices proved to be too high.

What would AV have sold for then? (as land...not as a restaurant business)  Well maybe per the article referenced below....maybe about $2 million.  But that is pure speculation. 

About 25 years later it sold for around 10 times that guess.  So for 25 years the ownership family sat and listened to offers and speculators...and all the while sold pizza, pasta, italian food and wine....and were an institution.  They ultimately sold a 21,000 foot parcel...far bigger than the restaurant spaces.  Possibly they bought the adjacent land years earlier...possibly they were the speculators between the time when DC land got crazy valuable and when they sold. 

In any case this article details the size of the property and it guesses at the price.   Of course more of the article references AV's long history, its place among famous Washingtonians and its unique elements such as the opera oriented juke box. 

All that aside...I should have tried the rabbit.  Its the dish that has been mentioned that rose above most others.  But not having done so....the white pizza was good enough to keep bringing me back.  But I would never have labeled that pizza great enough to put the restaurant at its prime!!

 

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Just got off the phone with a grad of the bar school that bartended full time till they closed (maybe their last 1 and 1/2 years of operating).  He liked them and I recall they had nice things to say about him.  We are giving him some contacts on the West Coast.  A.V.  very auld lang syne. 

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