Thursday, April 23, 2009


We love getting in the car and just driving. Since we're new to DC, there are plenty of suburbs left to explore. On one particular Saturday we were in McLean, Virginia looking for a place to eat dinner after a trip to Great Falls. We wanted something "non-chain" and "unique to the neighborhood" and we definitely found it at Pulcinella. One look at the mural was all it took to know that we had hit the jackpot.

As we waited to be seated, we noticed a table with lots of cold vegetable dishes on it. We were pretty confused as to why they just left veggies sitting around, but once we got our menus we saw that they have Contorni as an appetizer, which is "side dishes of marinated vegetables." I still don't know why they're sitting out on a table by the entrance, but they sure were tasty!

I opted to keep it simple and ordered the classic spaghetti and meatballs. The dish consisted of plain spaghetti with a giant meatball and plenty of hearty red sauce. The pasta was advertised as homemade but I thought it tasted pretty ordinary. The meatball, on the other hand, was the star of the dish and I was able to cut it into enough small pieces that I could enjoy a bit of meatball with every bite. Overall, it was a solid execution of a timeless Italian dish.

B ordered the Festa del Mare (shrimp, mussels, clams, and squid in red sauce over linguine). Every time the word "mare" (meaning "ocean" in Italian) is mentioned at an Italian restaurant, B will tell the same story about the first time he had this seafood pasta dish in an Italian alley. No, he wasn't digging in the trash... it sounds better when he tells it. See below.

I liked Pulcinella probably as much for the quaint atmosphere as for the food. I delight in finding kitschy out-of-the-way restaurants and this one was pretty awesome. I'd love to go back on "opera night" when one of the owners sings opera tunes and leads a sing-along.

Second Thoughts From B

Before we get to the storytelling part of this post, I wanted to say that the Contorni was very good. Each veggie had a unique flavor (tart bite of vinegar on the artichoke, savory garlic mushrooms, salty roasted zucchini, etc.) but each element also blended well into a single, complimentary dish. As for my Festa del Mare, I've yet to find a dish on this side of the pond that is comparable with my first experience in Naples, but this was the closest attempt yet (and for the record, that's a good thing).

While I was in undergrad, I had the opportunity to study in Rome for 5 weeks. One weekend, our group ventured south to Pompeii which allowed for some of us to take a side trip to Naples and the island of Capri. Newsflash: it is not advisable to seek out a dinner reservation for 12 at 11pm on a Friday night in a strange, foreign city. Nevertheless, after wandering aimlessly around the port district and soliciting help from the locals in broken Italian, we found a restaurant off a side alley that was literally a hole in the wall. The place could barely hold the 12 of us standing up, much less sitting at a table. However, across the alley they had set up plastic tables which could accommodate us. Despite the severe slope of the alley, the cars that periodically drove in between the restaurant and our table, and the rain storm that struck midway through our dinner, it was one of the best meals I've ever had.

Pulcinella Ristorante on Urbanspoon

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