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Posted at 6:15 PM ET, 04/ 9/2009

Bye-Bye, Bebo

By Tom Sietsema

One of the area's most controversial restaurants, Bebo Trattoria in Crystal City, closed its doors last night.

Launched to initial enthusiasm by veteran Washington chef Roberto Donna in 2006 -- remember how we swooned over the spaghetti with clams and the vitello tonnato? -- the sweeping Italian restaurant went on to become a punching bag for more than a few customers who complained about ever-worse service and indifferent cooking.

Reached late Thursday afternoon, Donna gave the by-now-standard response to the question of why his giant pizza oven went dark: "Business went down," by about 40 percent. Will he miss Bebo? "I liked the area, the concept," says the chef, who hints that his landlord there might already have a taker for the address.

While we had him on the phone, we had to ask about his plan, announced back in December, to reopen the restaurant that made him famous, Galileo, in the former Butterfield 9 spot downtown Washington. "I have a meeting tomorrow" with lawyers and others involved in the takeover, he assured us. Why the delay? "Lawyers take a long time."

We're hungry for more. Stay tuned.

-- Tom Sietsema

By Tom Sietsema  | April 9, 2009; 6:15 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  | Tags:  Tom Sietsema  
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Noticed this on my way home from work last night! The sign on the door says "New restaurant coming soon."

Posted by: cbr1 | April 10, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm totally mystified by all this. Donna put out such great food at Galileo but then seemed to tolerate (or was indifferent to) the torrents of negative buzz about Bebo's food, cooking and service. Was this the same person? And what are we to think about what may or may not come next?

Posted by: darkstar965 | April 11, 2009 3:56 AM | Report abuse

Thank the stars this place is closing! Nothing like Karma. Yes, the service was horrific at best, as not only did his old guard, the FOH, (they were former servers from Galileo) and BOH (again from Galileo)... no one cared. I witnessed servers fighting on the floor, as I ate, the pizza chef screaming at a female server, while I waited to be seated, and guests being treated like third class non-entities. This should have been my clue to run out the door. The food was horrific, and I don't know why or even pretend to understand Sietsema's constant writing and accolades about this "has been" over rated chef. He may have been something back in the day, along with Ricci and Palladin, but as they have moved out of the spot light (for various reasons) and as his (Donna) reputation is now sullied due to his own incompetence and negligence as a restaurant owner here in Metro DC, he should as well. Open a nice little bistro or trattoria back in Italy. Vini, vidi, and Au Revoir.

Posted by: nonnibiscotti | April 11, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

Italian cuisine is one of the most satisfying in the whole world. I have enjoyed it over decades. Maybe that's why I've always been surprised by the constant laudatory comments greeting Donna's Galileo, which I visited twice in its heyday to decide that it wasn't worth a third try. When Washingtonians stand up at the Kennedy Center to deliver their obligatory ovation, it doesn't mean that the concert was anywhere close to superlative, in fact usually the contrary, and the more expensive the ticket, the longer the ovation.

Posted by: onnig | April 14, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

We were so excited when this place opened but were so appalled by the customer service the two times we went that we never looked back.

Just read Tom's chat today and agree it is so about the customer service. I will tolerate mediocre food for good to moderately good service.

Posted by: mediajunky | April 15, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Never had a chance to dine at Galileo, but did go to Bebo once. Once was enough. Horrible, horrible service, arrogant, attitude-filled staff, and so-so pizza combined to make this one of the worst dining experiences I've ever had. Donna got it wrong, wrong, wrong, just like he did on Iron Chef.

Posted by: tbantug | April 15, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Good riddance! The reason business went down, Mr. Donna, is because your service was AWFUL. The last time I was there, there were two servers on a Friday night, both attending to a small private party and not the rest of us, our appetizer was forgotten, the wine we wanted was out of stock, and so much more. I can assure that I will NEVER go to one of Roberto Donna's restaurants again, regardless of how delicious the food is supposed to be. What a horrible man.

Posted by: aat04 | April 15, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

I ate at Bebo twice. The first time was just after the place opened, before the vaunted pizza oven was even working. Decent food, fine service. The second time was last fall, and the experience bordered on the absurd. The pizza was served cold and limp. Our first two wine choices were unavailable. The service was inattentive at best - more like rude. I will not miss this place, and hope it gets replaced with something more deserving of customers' patronage.

Posted by: asgeir | April 15, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I never desired to try Bebo simply because so many people said it was horrible. So, Mr. Donna, it's not just that "business went down," but that, in many cases, it wasn't there to begin with. Let this be a lesson to arrogance.

Posted by: gfcronus | April 15, 2009 3:24 PM | Report abuse

ugh! so glad that it's gone! i so wanted to like Bebo, but they made it impossible. The service was HORRIBLE, the food forgettable. it was a deadly combination. i was always stunned because I'd think a chef of his caliber would work harder for success. the economy didn't kill Beebo, this was self inflicted.

Posted by: kaj2600 | April 16, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

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