Over the last week and a half, J and I were lucky enough to be in South Africa where we were on safari and took in a couple of World Cup games. While we were having the time of our lives on the other side of the earth, someone needed to continue our quest to explore every nook and cranny of DC. The following is what that someone - our good friend and loyal reader "A" - found. Apparently, we should thank her for filling in for us AND for saving us from a less than savory experience... Yikes!
-B and J
On Friday evening, I was catching up on my television (Real Housewives of New York, the charming Baby Mama – so reader, know I am not snobby about television and please extrapolate that I am not snobby about food), when, a few minutes after eight, my husband, M, called to let me know he was on his way home from work. We discussed dinner – and settled on takeout from Toscana Café, which is a block away from our apartment.
Now, we live on the north side of Capitol Hill, and there are not a lot of dinner options here. Due to the dearth of dining, we are very lenient with the food around here – it doesn’t have to be fantastic, just serviceable. We do love Kyoto Sushi, but M felt like pizza and, since Clemson was playing in the College World Series, we needed to eat at home. And oh how I wish Clemson had won to make up for our terrible meal.
Toscana is close to home, and that’s about all it has going for it. Oh, that’s not entirely true. Toscana has a partnership with Schneider’s of Capitol Hill, wherein patrons can bring beverages from Schneider’s to Toscana and not pay a corking fee. And Schneider’s is amazing – they have an impossibly huge selection of wine, beer, and spirits in a tiny store, and their staff is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful. In the three years we have lived here, we have had one bottle of wine that we didn’t care for – everything else we have gotten there, we’ve loved.
So on this Friday night, I strolled over to Toscana to check out their takeout menu and order a quick meal. M wanted a pizza with vegetables, and I decided a salad would go well with it. To start, they don’t have paper takeout menus; instead, patrons look at about five different boards with dishes written on them while basically standing in the kitchen. They offer three types of pizza, none of them obviously veggie, so I asked the host/main waiter to suggest a veggie pizza. He said that they didn’t really have any, but the Formaggi pizza, with spinach, ricotta, and fontina would be good. I also ordered the Grilled Corn and Orzo Salad with Shrimp, Cucumbers, Peppers, and Coriander with Passion Fruit Dressing. When I walked in to order takeout, I was told it would be 20 minutes, but when I placed my order I was told it would take 30.
Thirty minutes later, after a quick few sips of beer and a little pre-game coverage of the Clemson game, I walked over to Toscana to pick up our dinner. I was told it would be another 15 minutes, and I unhappily walked home. I think that they had forgotten to make our pizza, but when I want back after 15 minutes, there was a pizza waiting. The man I ordered from asked me if I had ordered anything else, and I said that I had ordered a salad. He asked what kind, and then went into the back to root around a bit before telling me that they were out of it. One of the sous chefs said he was making it (cooking the shrimp, by far the highlight of our meal). I was not charged for the salad, paid $10 for the pizza, and walked home in a huff. At 9:30, we finally started our dinner.
Does this look like a veggie pizza? Not a vegetable to be found:
(note: the photos were taken on my Droid. We did not feel motivated to take good photos of our bad food).
Frankly, I could have walked to the corner store, bought a frozen pizza, and we would have finished our meal long before the game started. And that frozen pizza would have tasted better – the pizza was bland, and the crust was far too thick for the amount of sauce and cheese. Neither the crust nor the bottom of the pizza was brown, but there were burnt, not brown, portions of the cheese. As M said, the crust just tasted like bread. I will say the sauce was not as sweet as many pizza sauces I’ve tasted, but I only had a bite. M ate half, probably because he didn’t eat the salad. At the end of the meal, M stated that Jumbo Slice, eaten sober, is better than this pizza.
Ah, the salad:
Well, M was not a fan of the passion fruit dressing, or as he liked to call it, the “weed dressing.” Yes, it smelled suspiciously and quite strongly like the newly legalized herb. We don’t like to pour bong water on our salads. And M had poured it on his serving, rendering it inedible.
I did not use any dressing, making me quite confused when M started calling it weed salad. I shared the rest of my grilled shrimp, which as I mentioned, was delicious. But the jokes from Half Baked continued all night, so I guess this salad was worth every penny!
As a little backstory, we did eat at Toscana a few months before, and I can confidently say that the best part of the meal was the bottle of wine we brought from Schneider’s. M ordered the Papardelle with roasted tomato lamb ragu, and I had the Gnocchi with basil pesto, sundried tomato, and shrimp. M’s papardelle was overwhelmed with rosemary – I know that rosemary is a typical lamb pairing, but rosemary can taste like soap when too much is added. The dish tasted entirely of rosemary, and M says he was still burping up rosemary hours later (ladies, don’t be jealous of my husband – you can’t have him!). Meanwhile, my gnocchi with basil pesto came in a pink cream sauce. You can imagine my confusion, since I know basil to be green, but I ate it anyway because I really don’t like to make a scene. Finally, M flagged down our waitress to ask why my sauce was pink, and it was explained to us that the sauce did have basil pesto in it, as well as marinara sauce and alfredo sauce. Huh?
Incensed by bland pizza and another misrepresentation of a dish on the menu, I called to complain about the lack of vegetables. The person I spoke to was very apologetic and tried to explain that they had been swamped that evening. Well, the restaurant has been open since last fall, so I don’t understand why they couldn’t handle one night when the outdoor patio was not even full of diners. He even offered to comp our next dinner there, which I firmly turned down. And I am cheap, cheap, cheap. In the words of our previous president, “Fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me … you can’t get fooled again!”
But don’t worry, I had a delicious dinner, thanks to Schneider’s:
In conclusion, a plea to Chipotle – please open in Union Station NOW! Your sign has said “Coming Soon” for months. COME NOW!!
Thanks to J and B, and to everyone who made it through my long rant.