September 29, 2007

Trattoria Bebo: OK food, bad service

I'm back from my travels in Italy, and ready to start a new season of gourmandiaries!

Last night I ate at Bebo in Crystal City (Arlington), Roberto Donna's relatively new venture that he opened while Galileo is being renovated. It was probably the 4th time I've been there, and sorry to say, but I was disappointed. On every visit the service has been slow, to say the least, and not very attentive. And last night was no exception. They were quick to seat me in my party of 2 without a reservation, and they were quick to bring the bill. But everything in between took ages.

We started with insalata mista, or mixed salad, a very fresh green salad with a delicious and not overpowering vinaigrette. Highly recommended. We also shared mozzarella in carrozza, a large piece of mozzarella dipped in egg batter and fried, served with a tomato sauce and an anchovy sauce. It was ok. I actually preferred the anchovy sauce to the tomato sauce, but I felt like the mozzarella itself could have had more flavor. It is hard to find good mozzarella in the US.

Then, about 40 minutes later...

My linguine with clams arrived. It was al dente, but it was so spicy! There were so many hot pepper flakes that my mouth was on fire, and it was hard to taste anything else. It also seemed to be about 250 grams of pasta (a normal serving could be between 70-100 grams), and for that much pasta there were not enough clams. I would have preferred half the pasta with the same amount of clams. The clams were delicious and served in the shells, and the waiter brought a plate for the shells - a nice and necessary touch.

My co-diner ordered a trio of side dishes, and they arrived with my linguine. Polenta (with some cheese mixed in), broccoli di rape (rapini) and grilled vegetables. The polenta was very tasty, although a little buttery for my taste. The rapini were undercooked, but had potential, and were a nice accompaniment to the polenta. The grilled veggie plate had asparagus, onion, eggplant, and tomato. The asparagus and tomato were tasty, but the eggplant was left on the plate, soaked like a sponge in olive oil.

I was looking forward to dessert (the little fried doughnuts with the bicerin - a delicious chocolate coffee mixture) but got too chilly by the open window and decided to leave instead.

Bebo has great decor and a lively atmosphere. I didn't visit the bathrooms last night but don't remember them at all from previous visits, which must mean that they are fine. Chef Donna was nowhere to be seen last night, and I can't help but wonder if that made a difference in the food.

Pretty good food in general (stick to heartier dishes like meats and baked pasta), and fairly bad service.

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