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Well Fed Network 2006 Food Blog Awards

Bebo Trattoria

Bebo Back in September, when I first found out that Roberto Donna was opening Bebo Trattoria, I was really excited. The idea of a reasonably-priced Italian restaurant in the area run by Roberto gave me goosebumps! I'd always enjoyed dining at Osteria del Galileo, the cheaper, value-centric face of Galileo, and Bebo Trattoria just sounded like the same thing on a much larger scale.

I didn't go to Bebo Trattoria for a while after it opened, but people let me know, practically the day after they opened, about the bad service they were experiencing there. My response was simply, "Well, what do you expect? Give them another month or so to settle into the new space and get used to the new menu."

Following my own advice, I waited until the end of November, the Friday evening after Thanksgiving, and the restaurant wasn't very busy at all. Food and service on that first trip actually were both very good, but it was hardly representative of the typical experience at Bebo -- the restaurant was mostly empty.

I'd never been to the humongous, modern space previously occupied by Oyamel. A large bar overlooks a kitchen open for everyone to see -- and you occasionally see Roberto Donna and Executive Chef Amy Brandwein, slaving away over the presentation of that veal scallopine or whole roasted Branzino. Next to the bar, there's a very large room that can be curtained off for large parties or events, and then you step down into the spacious dining room.

Bebo's prices, quality of ingredients, and preparation set it apart from other Italian restaurants in the DC area. Entree portions aren't huge, but the prices make up for it. A polpette (meatball) entree comes with four (or maybe it was five) veal, beef and pork meatballs in a bed of chunky tomato sauce with garlic bread toasts for $12, or veal scallopine, lightly breaded, pan fried and topped with mozzarella cheese and a salty slice of anchovy.

However, fried foods have left me unimpressed. The fried mozzarella comes out greasy and heavy rather than the light and fluffy cheese puff that I'm used to. The same goes for the fried rabbit entree.

But who doesn't love pasta?! Bebo serves up simple pasta dishes with the occasional surprise like a deconstructed lasagna with bechamel and meat ragu (a subtler, less knock-you-on-your-fat-ass version than the one you'll find at Dino) or a hearty paccheri (think of a smooth-surfaced rigatoni) pasta with pork rib ragu.

I always hesitate to order risotto. How a restaurant can put the care and love and constant stirring into a risotto dish with all the craziness that goes on in a kitchen is beyond me and I always find that risotto is either underdone or overdone. At Bebo though, I've had the most amazing risotto. Each delicate morsel of rice had the right consistency and texture. Of course, that was the first time I ordered it. The second time, it was underdone, but the chance of eating perfection will keep me re-ordering it regardless. It helps to know that if you order the risotto, it will be a 25 minute wait. The first time I ordered it as an appetizer and we waited, for what seemed forever, for our appetizers to come.  The second time I ordered it though, our server informed us that the risotto takes 25 minutes, which explained a lot.

And like others have said, the service can be as inconsistent as the risotto and seems to depend completely on the server. A night where we had flawless service, the table next to mine waited 30 minutes before their server came to greet them and had to go talk to the hostess before their waiter came over. When ordering the whole fish, the server brings it to the table and de-bones the fish. When I first ordered the fish, my server butchered the fish and left half of the meat still hanging off the bones. But, the other night, I saw another server fillet the fish perfectly, getting every little piece of that fish off the bones.

Desserts on the other hand, are anything BUT inconsistent as each and every dessert I've ordered is completely delicious. My favorites are a creamy and sweet panna cotta with a sinfully sweet  strawberry sauce and the tiramisu, which is anything but typical, with brandy and espresso drenched lady fingers in a pool of sweet, fluffy marscarpone....and the firm chocolate pudding with crumbled merange...and the list goes on.

Wines are available by the glass and bottle and there are a good deal of bottles that are reasonably priced unlike Galileo. Roberto Donna's commitment to good cuisine continues with the recent reopening of "The Grill" which has been a longstanding DC foodie staple since its opening. Roberto has also resumed his cooking classes (which I've written about here before) at Bebo. Pizza will soon be offered too as soon as the wood-burning oven is installed.

My suspicion is that as time goes on and the servers get more experienced, the service issues will disappear. But regardless, Bebo is a great restaurant overall that I'll continue to return to as often as I can.

Bebo Trattoria
2250-B Crystal Drive
Arlington, VA 22202
(703) 412-5076
Web Site

Dress Code: Casual
Parking: There is a parking garage under the shopping center where Bebo Trattoria is located and parking is free after 4 PM. 
Closest Metro: National Airport Crystal City
Reservations: Taken and recommended.
Baby-Child friendly rating: 3 Diapers. The atmosphere isn't too quiet but not too loud either. The waitstaff seems very amicable to children and it seems pretty common for people to bring children to the restaurant. Highchairs and boosters are available.



Reagan National metro may be the closest in terms of distance but you can't walk to Bebo from the airport. I would recommend Crystal City Metro stop.


Bebo is a favorite for us because of the food and the prices, but we've found that the service is still problematic. Then again, we almost always get the same waiter, so it could be that we'll be more fortunate outside his section.

antonio burrell

I went for brunch on a Sunday with my wife and we enjoyed it alot. A great value, we ordered 3 courses for two people and went home with a lot, A LOT, of food. Pastas were good, roast meats good, antipasta okay, fried eggs amazing. I'll admit though, I'm a whore for runny egg yolks :)


Crystal City is the closest metro stop and is walking distance to Bebo.


I've eaten at Bebo three times - once for NYE, once for a quick lunch, and a third time for a very large lunch.

I really, really want to like Bebo. I think it's becase Roberto Donna seems like such a jovial guy, and maybe because I just came back from Rome a couple of weeks ago. And I love the small plates idea - dishes that are, actually, small and also inexpensive.

And yet, all three times I've been to Bebo I've run into service problems. NYE was an all-out disaster, but in some ways I feel almost responsible. After all, what was I expecting on NYE? And yet being served your first course more than two hours after your reservation still seems excessive.

The second meal was nothing big, a little slow perhaps, just sitting and not being seen.

The third meal, we ordered a salad and were told "we're out of it." Strange, being early on a Saturday afternoon, but ok. We ordered something else, and then the salad arrived later. "Do you still want it? Just to try?" Sure... You wouldn't think they'd charge for it, but they did.

Then again, Donna has always been plauged by service issues. He is, after all, the only guy not to finish all courses on Iron Chef.

And yet. I want so much to like Bebo, and I know when Galileo finally returns to D.C. I will try that. Donna's hard not to like, and that goes a long way. He just desperately needs to clean up the service. Other friends of mine who ate at Galileo swear never to return, though the one couple who ate at the Laboratorio says it was a transcendental experience.

The food, of course, is very good. Bebo doesn't really aspire to be amazing, but it is solid. The deconsctructed lasagna is light and filling and perfect. The little fried saffron rice balls are fun, especially in the paper cup presentation. The homemade sausage is excellent with his green sauce.

So, I dunno. Service is fast becoming -the- thing I look for in a restaurant, and so in that respect Bebo fails. But I like the concept so much, and want to like the place so much, that I remain conflicted.


I like Bebo's, very good food at reasonable prices. Here and there, something is not precisely to my liking (ie butterbeans a little hard, this or that a little cold), but the overall experience results in me deciding then and there that I will be back. And the desserts are not only excellent, as you say, but perhaps the most reasonably priced in the area for such quality, some as low as $5.


Like many people, I've really wanted to like Bebo and yet the three times we've been, we've left disappointed. Like many, service has been shocking (including a waiter who wouldn't stop touching the women at the table). The food, while reasonably priced doesn't stand out as exceptional. I've had as good, if not better in my Nonna's kitchen. I could, however, eat the linguini and clams every day. Like so many, we remain conflicted...

Sebastian Dunne

Regarding service at Donna's restaurants I've come to the conclusion that there's a definite disconnect between Donna and his staff. I can only assume that his managers are awful. I've taken classes at the Lab with Donna and he's as exacting and meticulous as his food is, when it's on. The staff in the kitchen during the classes is equally exceptional. But every one of our visits to Galileo's dining room has been disappointing with regard to the service and even the consistency of the food. Donna needs to hire new management and start spending more time in the dining room to figure out what's going wrong. It's terribly disappointing because the risotto, for instance, can be fantastic if Donna is in the kitchen, but if he's not there's no telling what you'll get.


We live in the neighborhood, and we're been back a few times since they first opened. The service is no better than the week they opened, but I've never found it *rude*, merely unskilled. Like we're dealing with third string or something.

Our last gaffe included the arrival of the coffee and tea a full 30 minutes after the empty dessert plates were cleared from the table. That same night, we were told that the kitchen was out of one of the fish dishes. When we requested the same preparation made with the other fish on the menu, the original order was miraculously "found".

We'll keep going back, as the only thing we've had that wasn't up to par was the god-awful Caesar salad (swimming in tasteless dressing). But I don't expect we'll see the service get any better, as these seem like systemic problems (management, perhaps?)


We went to Bebo last night and had a pretty underwhelming experience. The service was HORRIBLE. It took them 20 minutes to give us a menu & when they did, they could only manage to find ONE menu for a table of 6. We then passed it around until they muster up one more 10 minutes later and then eventually brought us enough for everyone. It just set the tone for the way the service would be. The food wasn't that great, in my opinion, either. I had the roasted tomato & mozzarella appetizer which was just okay, then I had the polpette (meatballs) which were just okay to me too. I had to send it back the first time because they were quite cold. My mother had the fish which the server debones right at the table & she said it was cold & dry. Two others at our table had the swordfish which is just a plate of swordfish with sauce, nothing else, was tasty. But, I think that the consensus at the table was that you should stick with the pasta (another person at our table at the spaghetti bolganese) there which was decent. At the end the server apologized for the service and blamed it on the kitchen but I think that the problem is bigger than the kitchen. They really need to get their act together from a service perspective. I definitely won't be back!


I was there last night too. Sat at the bar and everything was fine. Food came out at a good pace, service was excellent, and the bartender treated us very well.


Myself and a friend went to Bebo last Thursday for lunch. We were promptly seated and given bread and water. We sat, and sat, and sat. After 25 minutes of waiting on a server to acknowledge our presence, we decided to go next door to Jaleo to eat. I certainly won't be going back to Bebo and now I miss Oyamel even more!!!


Had reservations for 9:00 on Saturday. We were seated at 9:30! That's a wait-staff problem. They don't know how to move tables.

Weren't offered anything except a knowing smile - gee we're real sorry from the hostess. Had we called to say we'd be late for our reservation, do you think they would have held it??? Hardly.

No water on the table for 10 minutes. Servers didn't know to whom each dish was to be served.

After a $200+ tab, felt like leaving NO tip for services NOT rendered. But we felt too guilty doing that, so left 10%.

Finally, the food while moderate in price was unremarkable in taste despite the hype. Not bad, just unremarkable.


It seems that I am not the only person to experience the poor service at Bebo. I recently moved to the area, and had been hearing about Galileo for years from a friend who lives here. I was so excited to finally get to Bebo to check out the food. So, when we had a friend in from out of town, we went for dinner on Friday night. We made a reservation at 6pm, and were surprised to see plenty of open tables. Although, we did have to ask the hostess to move us to a booth from 4 top in the center of the room, as the booth was not offered right away - even though about 6 of them were open when we arrived.

As with many other diners, our service was horrible. We were treated in a condescending manner by our pompous waiter. I would like to note that I generally eat at finer restaurants, so this is not a case of the country girl being exposed to city life. The guy was just a jerk. He was definitely trying to add the Italian feel by speaking in Italian greetings, however, once the restaurant was full, it was hard to understand him and it seemed to be an unnecessary flari put on for "ambience" and was truly impractical.

Food allergy sufferers beware! He was also training a second waitress, who didn't even offer to ask the kitchen for the contents of dessert when we asked about it.We asked our waitress if there was chocolate in the baked apple dessert. Instead of going back to the kitchen and find out for us, she hurriedly dismissed our concerns and placed our order. When the baked apple arrived, it came with a crumpbly topping that clearly contained chocolate. We had to order another dessert for the table, since one of our party is allergic to chocolate. And, to top it off, the baked apple that came was lukewarm.

Additionally, the host was pacing the floor like a vulture, looking for tables who were nearing ready - making us feel rushed to complete our meal. The waiters should do a much better job of notifying the host of available tables so diners don't have to feel like they're getting pushed out the door.

To give them credit, the Bolognese was fantastic, as was the fresh pasta that it dressed. But, I agree with many others, the rest of the entrees were good, but not exceptional. Our rabbit was lightly fried, with a fantastic sauce, but it was a small portion. The pork ribs served on white beans were a terrible disappointment. I expected succulent fall of the bone braising, but was treated with relatively tough meet covered in an oversalted marinara. I should have ordered the Lasagna.

After this experience, and with all the other fine restaurants in DC, I'm not sure if I would return to Galileo when they reopen.


My husband and I had looked forward to trying Bebo, and visited tonight with another couple. We arrived without a reservation, and weren't surprised to be told the wait wait was one hour. However, our name was somehow removed from the reservation list and were only seated after involving a manager. We were anxious for a "fresh start" with dinner. Our first two appetizers arrived in the wrong order, and we waited an hour before finally leaving before being served the main courses. Management was patronizing, not helpful. While we enjoyed the food we were served, we will not give the restaurant another try due to the poor service.


My husband and I had looked forward to trying Bebo, and visited tonight with another couple. We arrived without a reservation, and weren't surprised to be told the wait wait was one hour. However, our name was somehow removed from the reservation list and were only seated after involving a manager. We were anxious for a "fresh start" with dinner. Our first two appetizers arrived in the wrong order, and we waited an hour before finally leaving before being served the main courses. Management was patronizing, not helpful. While we enjoyed the food we were served, we will not give the restaurant another try due to the poor service.


First time to Bebo. I have to admit I had somewhat high expectations since its a Roberto Donna restaurant. However, in the ocean of above average restaurants in and around DC, this is one I will never frequent again. The above average food did not make up for the disorganized staff. From the unfriendly hostesses, unhelpful and unsymPATHETIC managers (2), and unknowledgeable waitstaff this made for an all around poor experience. The nice bartender had no idea what appetizers to recommend. I guess you pay for what you get. Good drink and food prices and an average decor. The pasta di fagioli soup was outstanding but that was all we really had since we asked for the check after waiting 1h 15mins for our entrees.


Do you happen to know where to find information on the cooking classes online? Donna seems to have fallen into the successful restauranteur trap of letting his websites languish... Thanks!


We are signed up for the class on Saturday, which means we can finally use the gift certificate I gave my husband for his birthday last summer just days/weeks before Galileo ended up closing. Unfortunately, I think you have to be signed up for the newsletter for the class schedule.
From the newsletter I have, it looks like you can send an email with the subject "Add to Mailing List" to


Emily S

My husband and I had reservations (made same day) for 7pm last Friday night. We arrived early (6:45) but they were able to seat us immediately. The restaurant was rather empty. After reading all the comments and reviews on other sites, I was prepared for out of this world food but poor, neglectful service. However, we had a fantastic experience! We ordered an appetizer, which came out in under 10 minutes, two entrees (Lasagnette and Veal Ravioli--a special), my husband had two glasses of wine, and a dessert. All the courses came out quickly but not too rushed, my iced tea glass was refilled twice, and our server was attentive but not overbearing. The food, of course, was superb. We had signed the bill and were ready to leave in about an hour and 20 minutes, which was perfect b/c we're not ones to linger. By then, the restaurant was pretty full (8:15) Overall, it was a wonderful experience. I don't know if its because we got there at "the perfect" time, but we're willing to chance it again. Delicious.


I went for the first time last night (Saturday)--8 p.m. reservation. We had to wait about 10 minutes, which was fine--Donna himself was working the crowd up front and actually showed me and my date to our table. He went to far as to ask if we liked the table or wanted to wait five minutes for a better one. We said it was fine, and I was ready for a much better experience than I'd read about. Well, the food was good. Not great, but solid for the price. To start, I had chicken livers sauteed with raisins and pine nuts over polenta. Entree was a risotto with eggplant, cumin and shrimp. (One shrimp, to be exact, which seemed a bit chintzy.) But the service.... Our waiter was a nice doofus, which was better than being snobby like his Galileo counterparts. But it took him a solid 10 minutes to greet us. Worse, our appetizers came about five minutes after we ordered them, clearly giving us the sense of being rushed. The worst, though, was that our entrees arrived FIVE MINUTES LATER. I am a fast eater, but I wasn't even halfway through my appetizer. I asked the busboy who delivered them to take them back. He smirked and said, "For how long?" I said, "I don't know--five minutes?" So they came back five minutes later, having spent that time under a heat lamp. Our waiter feebly explained that because we ordered our apps first, and only about 10 minutes later ordered our entrees, that screwed up the computer system, but, well... that's just stupid. He should know better, and their system should be set up better. And this, after hearing Jason talk about the 25-minute risotto! Alas, not so much. This was clearly pre-prepared and scooped out. It couldn't have been more than 10 minutes between ordering and food. Bottom line, I might drop by if I'm in the area, because the food's good enough (and there's not much else in Crystal City), but I will definitely not go out of my way to eat there again.


My wife and I took another couple there on Saturday May 19th.We arrived on time for our 7:15 reservation. The hostess could have cared less. We were seated at 8:15. The restaurant was completely over sold. The service was awful.The food was so so. We finally got our check at about 11pm and it was the check for a different table. With so many great places to dine around, I can't imagine ever going back.


wow, sure glad i didn't go for dinner or lunch. i stopped in last friday night after walking through artomatic, around nine or so - sat at the (relatively quiet) bar, ordered wine and an appetizer (soft polenta with goat cheese and pancetta - pretty good, though surely there's a better way to incorporate goat cheese than just a wedge on top?). when the bartender asked if i'd like anything else, i gestured to the small menu that i'd spotted by some other bar patrons. "oh," he said, "yeah, that's the bar food menu." why i didn't get to see it when i sat down, i'm not sure. anyway, i ordered the eggplant with sweet and sour tomato sauce. i liked this a lot, though noticed that there were pine nuts in the mixture that barely registered in the taste - maybe if they weren't so roasted? service was fine otherwise, though sitting at the bar, i got to listen to the waiters and bar managers bitch n' moan about the customers and about each other. i've worked enough in the service industry that that doesn't bother me greatly, but i can recognize that, especially in an upscale restaurant, that is pretty unprofessional. anyway, i wouldn't go out of my way (and there's no other way to describe crystal city, especially for a silver spring resident) to go again, but i was intrigued by their small plate selection and wines.

David Cochran

I've got to say I'm shocked. I've eaten at Bebo 3 or 4 times and it remains one of my favorite places in the entire DC area. I've never once gotten bad service, the food has always been way above par, and we actually got to meet and chat with Chef Donna for a while during a slow afternoon. Reading all of these posts about poor service comes as a total surprise to me. I got a corked glass of wine once, called the sommelier over and asked him to verify my diagnosis. He took one sniff, pronounced it "completely corked", apologized profusely, and brought me another glass. No muss, no fuss, instant service. I'm truly sorry that others have had less than stellar experiences at Bebo.

David Cochran

By the way, I meant to put in a response to the "fried food" comment in the initial review. I know that it's pretty ubiquitous, but the fried calamari appetizer at Bebo is different from most other places. I found it light, not greasy, and with an interesting and different sauce for dipping. It's also mixed with fried pepperoncini pepper slices, for a little zing. Beware, it's a big enough appetizer for two to share, or to completely fill you up before dinner if you eat it alone.

laura m.

The service at Bebo is still awful. Went with 2 girlfriends last night. We weren't given a drink menu until asked. Had to ask AGAIN for our ordered wine when our food was delivered. Were never asked if we'd like another glass of wine (as our glasses sat empty halfway through dinner). And were given the check without being asked if we'd like to consider dessert. The restuarant was half-empty on a Friday evening between 6:30-8:30pm. I'm a 20% tipper on average and have worked in the service industry. We complained to management (he didn't seem to care) and left between 0-10% tip (I left 10% b/c I guess at least the waiter stopped by twice in 1.5 hours).

Paul Bazo

The worst experience ever! After considering giving Bebo a second chance. We are never going back. I have better ways of waisting my time and money.


OK, I think we get the point. Service is not getting any better at Bebo. I'm closing comments for now. If anyone has an *atypical* experience and actually gets good service, please let us know. I'll reopen comments so you can post your experience. Until then, let's not beat a dead horse.

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