Wednesday night, I went to Osteria del Galileo with Amy on a whim. It was the first time that Amy or I had been there. I'm not sure what made me decide to go there tonight, but I was in the mood for good Italian food. Maybe it was the bad meal I had at Sette Osteria last weekend. Maybe I needed to reaffirm my faith that I could find good Italian food in the DC area.
Update: I want to clarify for everyone, that I went to Osteria del Galileo and NOT Galileo. They are different sections of the same restaurant. When you ask to be seated, ask for the Osteria, otherwise they will seat you at the regular Galileo, which is much, much more expensive. Sorry for any confusion I have caused anyone by not making this clearer.
I've hesitated to go to Osteria del Galileo for a while now. Ever since I read about it on Roberto Donna's web site I've wondered what it was like. I figured that since it was Roberto Donna and the Osteria only seats 20 the wait would be forever. Roberto Donna's web site says that the dress is casual, but I suspected that it might not be THAT casual. I mean, casual to me means jeans. However, when I called, the hostess said that jeans were fine and that there was no wait. Plus they have valet! GREAT! We were on our way.
As it turns out, the valet parking was free. I'm not sure if it's always that way, but it was on Wed. night. We had our pick of tables so we sat down right next to the window. Behind us was another table and then this huge cheese refrigerator. There were a ton of cheeses in there. At one point the waiter opened up the fridge to show some other people and you could smell all the cheeses. The smell immediately filled the room.
"We need one of those in our house," Amy commented. She's sooooo addicted to cheese lately.
The whole idea of Osteria del Galileo is cheap Italian food. And I don't mean cheap as in Taco Bell cheap, I mean reasonably priced. Appetizers are all $5, pastas from $7-$8 and meat dishes from $10-$11. That's just about the cheapest I've been able to find Italian food at in the DC area, regardless of how good it is. You get your choice for 4 to 6 dishes in each category. Oh, and the pastas...are all homemade. No boxed crap here. About half the dishes were something I'd never even seen at other restaurants. The wine menu has about 8 different wines on it, all of them under $22. We decided to get the Barbera d'Asti which was the most expensive one on the menu. IT WAS FANTASTIC - one of the best wines I've tasted in a while.
For starters, I went with a pasta dish, opting for the fettuccine with chicken and chicken liver. This was a very interesting combo that I'd never seen before. I really liked it...A LOT. Amy had an appetizer - the buffalo mozzerella with grilled marinated pumpkin. It was also excellent. Both dishes were very simple, but cooked perfectly. My pasta was al dente. The pumpkin in Amy's appetizer was just firm enough and not mushy.
For entrees, we both ordered a meat dish. Amy had the meatballs on a bed of polenta. She did comment that she thought Olazzo's meatballs were better. Sorry Roberto. My veal scallopine was great. It was lightly breaded with a nice combination of seasonings. All dishes were very simple - not too complex with a ton of ingredients. The chef managed to take advantage of all the flavors of each ingredient. We barely managed to finish our entrees and we were stuffing ourselves to even come close to finishing them. Obviously, portions were plentiful, which I did not expect. I was expecting that the portions would be tiny to make up for the cheap prices. We asked the waiter, and he said that the portions are usually a little smaller, which I would not have minded.
I want to commend the waiter who was serving the Osteria. There were only three tables that he had to wait on, but he managed to make us feel like we were really at a five star restaurant. He was constantly attending to our needs. He even noticed that we were staring inquisitively at the bread and came over to explain to us what each was. Our wine and water glasses were never empty and everything came out in a very timely manner. A+++ on service.
To finish off the meal, we had some coffee. It's Galileo's special recipe and comes in a huge coffee press. Seriously, there was enough coffee for four to six people in that coffee press. As we sat there drinking our coffee, we looked around and wondered why Osteria del Galileo wasn't packed. I mean, we were one of three tables taken at the restaurant. Towards the end of our meal, we were the only ones there. We asked the waiter if it was usually as empty as it was, and he said it was...EVEN ON THE WEEKENDS.
Which leads me to my last statement...
D.C. What the hell is the matter with you???!! We have this excellent Italian restaurant that is run by one of the best Italian chefs in the country, and you're going to Maggiano's and Bucca di Beppo? It makes me weep. Oh well, more good food for me I guess.
Update: See my latest post about Osteria del Galileo. My most recent experience there was quite different than this one.
Osteria del Galileo
1110 21st St. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Dress Code: Casual (you might feel a little out of place though with all the suits and ties going into the real Galileo)
Reservations: Not Accepted
Nearest Metro: Farragut North or Farragut West or Foggy Bottom (Thanks Chef Shogun)