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Posted at 10:59 AM ET, 07/21/2005

Non, Grazie

By washingtonpost.com

Last week during a torrential downpour I snagged a cab to my dinner destination, Al Tiramisu . When I arrived, I was grateful to the manager for ushering me into the restaurant under a large umbrella. While waiting for friends to join -- I had arrived early -- I sat at the small, intimate bar enjoying a Prosecco and schmoozing with the manager. The dinner crowd built up and soon every table was full in this cozy, convivial spot. So far, "A" for ambiance and service.

But when my pals and I eventually sat down for dinner, I wondered whether this could be a case of style over substance. Specials were announced with appetizing descriptions, accompanied by a show of plates featuring several varieties of fresh fish and shellfish. If you stuck to the menu, selections were much more limited. Our crowd, having just returned from a week on the Italian Riviera, decided to try the sardines, a dish we had feasted on recently in Santa Margherita.

Perhaps it's unfair to compare, but the fish we tried here were so salty we asked if we might exchange it, which was done very graciously. The arugula salad with a thin slice of Parmesan cheese was just fine, but my pasta dish with pesto was another disappointment. I could hardly taste the basil, and the sauce didn't look remotely green.

Luckily, dinner was salvaged with dessert -- tiramisu, naturally -- and a glass of Limoncello on the house. I'm left wondering if I had tried the specials whether I would have fared better. But I'm not sure I'll make the effort.

-- Janet

By washingtonpost.com  | July 21, 2005; 10:59 AM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  
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Comments

It's so true! This place keeps getting raves, but in my opinion, it's just okay. I have had far better Italian food elsewhere in the city (not to mention, Italy). I completely agree, Janet!

Posted by: Carrie | July 21, 2005 4:08 PM | Report abuse

My one experience with Al Tiramisu's I wouldn't even give them a good score for ambiance. Two women chain-smoked at the bar the entire time I was there, and the restaurant is so small that the entire place smelled like an ashtray.

Posted by: Michael Tacelosky | July 21, 2005 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Agree totally that it's overrated. I had been there many, many years ago and after hearing so many good things about the place, decided to return for dinner. OK, it's "authentic," or at least pretends to be. But our meals were about average in terms of taste/presentation, for the price, and the service was spotty. Moreover, we don't need to eat in small, dank, narrow basements any more in this town.
And, don't even try to compare it to eating in Italy.

Posted by: Rosalia | July 21, 2005 8:35 PM | Report abuse

I agree and disagree with all posts. I think Al Tiramisu does the Italian staples well, but when you get away from them you'll end up disappointed. I've done some traveling in Italy and have an Italian background and a few of the pasta dishes remind me of some dishes I've had in Rome. As far as Italian in DC, it's just blah. You cannot get REALLY GOOD Italian, only average at best.

Posted by: JZ | July 22, 2005 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I thought the Post already had a restaurant critic...

Posted by: ajw | July 22, 2005 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I went for my birthday and they didn't even comp the dessert. I took my entree home uneaten bc it was so underseasoned and ate it later after doctoring it up. you would think they would have noticed I hardly ate anything....so did you ask them to comp something or what is the trick here?

Posted by: free limoncello | July 28, 2005 1:25 PM | Report abuse

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