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« Valentine's Day Menu | Main | Dining Out for Life »

Tue, Feb 27 2007 at 11:16 PM

Il Pizzico

Posted by Jason, Feb 27, 2007

I think it's only appropriate that I finally write about Il Pizzico. After all, I give most of the credit for my intense love of Italian food to Il Pizzico. Back when Amy and I lived in Gaithersburg, I swear we were at Il Pizzico three or four times a month, but of course, that was before I started this web site so I never got a chance to write about them.

Just about every time I tell someone about Il Pizzico, they give me a puzzled look. "So they serve Pizza?" they always ask. Although it might look like a pizza joint from the outside, and the parking lot might be a challenge to find a space, trust me, the inside is NOT like that of a pizza joint and is actually a very nice looking establishment. (And no, the name has nothing to do with pizza and they don't even have pizza on the menu.) It's easily recognized by the crowd of people in the door on a Friday or Saturday night. Il Pizzico is well known among the locals and continues to draw a crowd.

Strangely enough, Il Pizzico hasn't changed much in the past 6 years that I've lived in the D.C. area. When I returned to the restaurant for the first time in 3 years last week, I was greeted by the same hostess, the bartender was still the same, and there were still a good deal of the same servers working. One person on the staff who used to wait on us regularly, recognized us, shook my hand and said "hello". That's just the kind of place that Il Pizzico is and they love their regulars and as a regular, it's not uncommon to find a dessert or two missing off the check at the end of the night.

The atmosphere is casual -- some people wear jeans and others dress up a little more. Since they don't take reservations, if you arrive after 6:30 on a Friday or Saturday night it's likely that you'll wait although the wait in the summer is usually a little shorter than the winter months. I've heard the hostess tell people the wait is over an hour which can be a hassle, but the food is worth the wait. Just take a seat at the bar, order a glass of wine, and have a nice chat with the bartender.

To start with, I recommend trying the soup of the day which is always reliable. The pasta fagioli, a thick, starchy soup with white beans, tomato and tubular pasta and the hearty lentil soup are good examples of this. Also, the crostini can be tasty as well depending on what the topping of the day is. On my last visit, Amy had the crostini with white beans, spinach, and garlic and it was fantastic.

Of course, you can always order a half portion of pasta as an appetizer, which I do quite regularly. Start with some pappardelle with duck ragu, continue with the veal scaloppine or rack of lamb, and finish with some coffee and dessert, and you've got yourself one great meal. Or, those of you that don't have quite the appetite that I have, you might just want to order a pasta for an entrée, which is pretty common to see.

I like just about all of the pastas at Il Pizzico, except for the gnocchi which comes off too dense like the kind that you'd buy at the grocery store. Other than that, all of the pasta is excellent. My favorites range from the pappardelle with hearty duck ragu to the maltagliati with veal meat sauce. But neither of them come close to the mushroom ravioli with pistachio cream sauce. The cream sauce is thick and creamy like no other sauce you'll ever have, but the flavor is magnificent. You might think at first that the chef is putting too much sauce on the ravioli, but then you realize that you can use your bread to clean the dish off!

The meal can sometimes go downhill from there depending on what you order and I've had mixed experiences when I try to branch out from my favorites from the entrees. You generally can't go wrong with the grilled sirloin steak topped with fresh mushrooms and a red wine sauce. It's a pretty basic dish, but also a satisfying one. I also like the veal roll ups. The chef takes veal scaloppine, fills it with fontina cheese and spinach, and then rolls it up like a sausage. That's topped with a savory sage flavored veal jus. Entrée prices are all below $23 so the portions aren't enormous, but after a salad or soup and possibly a pasta course, who has room for a 20 ounce steak?

For some reason, the desserts don't seem as good as they used to be. Maybe it's just because my tastes have changed since when I used to dine at Il Pizzico. I recall there being an amazing pear tart on the dessert menu almost all the time, and that's gone now. The vanilla bean creme brulée, however, is Amy's favorite, and she's as close to a creme brulée connoisseur as you get.

It would be a shame to not tell you about the wine list, which happens to be one of the more interesting that I've seen, despite the Montgomery Country liquor board. The wines are reasonably priced and the staff always seems to know which will go well with your meal.

Il Pizzico
15209 Fredrick Rd
Rockville MD 20850
Map
(301) 309-0610

Details:
Lunch
Mon - Fri: 11:00 am to 2:30 pm
Dinner
Mon - Thur: 5 pm to 9:30pm
Fri - Sat: 5 pm to 10 pm

Dress Code: Business Casual
Parking: Parking at the strip mall. If there isn't a spot out front, then try around the back.
Closest Metro:  Rockville
Reservations: Not taken.
Baby-Child friendly rating: 2 Diapers. It's not uncommon to see people there with their children, but the restaurant doesn't have an overabundance of child seats.

Categories: Italian, Restaurant Reviews, Rockville
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Jon F.

Generally, gnocchi is supposed to be pretty dense. Potato gnocchi, that is. Ricotta gnocchi is another story.

Jason

Ever tried the homemade gnocchi at Palena, Amici Miei, or Cafe St. Ex? All potato gnocchi that are pillow-y soft...As far as I know, none of them are ricotta gnocchi.

CreoleInDC

Nooooooooo! Don't tell them about Il Pizzico! It's one of my favorite restaurants! LOVE it! But, as you know, they don't take rezzies...so if you keep telling everyone how awesome they are...regulars like us will never get a table!

LOL!

I love this restaurant. It's one of my top 10.

Jon F.

1) Go to Italy. Eat gnocchi.

2) Been to Palena and St Ex. Palena is potato and ricotta, and St. Ex is definitely a little denser.

3) Pillowy. No dash.

Jason

:) I don't have to go to Italy to know good gnocchi when I taste it. Dense is one thing -- chewy and heavy is another. Try some gnocchi out of the refrigerator case at your local supermarket, and that's what they tasted like.

(And pillow-y can have a dash if I want it to on my blog.)

Lindz

Washingtonian's "Cheap Eats" issue is out, and Il Pizzico made the list. I've been there, and while it's amazing and I love it, I don't know about cheap. At least Washingtonian finally recognized it somehow -- I still think it should have been on their "Best Restaurants" list instead.

Jason

I know and I was happy to see it on that list. I think in order for a restaurant to qualify for cheap eats you have to be able to eat there for $55 for two people including tax and tip. If you skip wine, then you can do it pretty easy there if you stick with the pastas. I rarely leave without spending close to $100 there though, but half of that can be the wine sometimes. ;)

Marie

We have eaten at Il Pizzico several times, but tonight was a real let down. Our serverr brought me the wrong dish, instead of holding up the other two people I was dining with I took the dish. When we ordered desert, they were out of the desert that two of us ordered. The server did not ask us if we wanted anything else, he just gave us the one desert and comped it. Then to top it off, when we got the check, he charged us for the dish I got mistakenly and the dish I had originaly ordered and did not recive.

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