Unasked Review – Finemondo

Last Saturday the Mysterious M and I decided to eat downtown, since we were already down there. I hadn’t had Italian in quite a long while and was due for some gluttonous pleasure noshing on copious amounts of pasta, sauce, and cheese. So the Willard desk staff (so helpful!) suggested Finemondo, which was two blocks up F street NW.

We arrived right at 5 p.m. Unfortunately, the doors were locked. I remembered seeing the hours online (5-10 pm for dinner), but was amazed that despite a menu out front, no hours were posted on the doors. We did the ‘hangdog’ look to the two people cleaning tableware inside, but were ignored. Which, ok, I can’t complain – I’ve done the same thing when I was in their place.

Fortunately, the maitre de unlocked the door at 5:05, though he immediately disappeared before we even cleared the second set of doors. Now, granted, we were first, but… no hello? No “wait one second”? Seriously?

So after a few minutes, he returned and basically asked us where we wanted to sit – we had the run of the place, after all. We chose the nice, cozy bar area with its dark woods and soft candlelight.

We ordered the mozzarella in carrozza as an appetizer; basically, a cheese sandwich deep fried and served with tomato sauce (or anchovy, but we didn’t get that). It was very tasty – and very different. I don’t think I would’ve ever thought to deep-fry a cheese sandwich.

Strangely, we were never asked what we wanted to drink.

M ordered the agnolotti, which looked and tasted fabulous. I had the cannelloni con carne e spinaci – equally good. So good and rich, I couldn’t finish the last few bites.

Throughout the whole meal, the place remained empty. I can’t fathom why, though I suspect it had to do with it being a cold, dreary Saturday evening in January. A mid-sized party did show up about 6 pm, as we were finishing the excellent coffee after the main course.

The food was excellent – and I’m hoping it’s like that when it’s flat-out busy, too. But the service totally lacked anything to be desired. We were basically ignored the whole time – water refill came once, when a busboy noticed we were empty (after about 10 minutes). I even saw the maitre de snoozing while standing behind the entry podium – which I’m pretty sure is not proper host decorum.

My wife and I tend to “Gordon Ramsey” restaurants when we eat out, especially since we’re such slaves to his Kitchen Nightmares show (the UK one, as opposed to the flashy-trashy FOX version). So in this case, I’d say Finemondo might get a tongue-lashing for front-of-house; the kitchen, however, just needs to keep doing what they’re doing. When we go back, it’ll be solely because of the food. And hopefully, future returns will be because of the entire experience, and not just the culinary orgasm.

2 Comments so far

  1. Joseph LeBlanc (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2008 @ 10:26 am

    Sorry to hear you encountered such lousy service that night. I wouldn’t doubt that Saturday evening downtown would be a bit slow, but that’s no excuse for sleeping on the job and essentially ignoring your customers.

    I’ve been to this restaurant for lunches and dinners on weekdays; the service was great those times.

  2. Jenn L (unregistered) on February 2nd, 2008 @ 2:44 pm

    I can also vouch for good service there for weekday lunches/dinners. Good pasta as well – great squid ink spaghetti, one of my favorite dishes.

    As for being empty, I’m completely not surprised – 5pm on a Saturday in that part of downtown is just dead. It’s usually hopping at peak times. And that’s just not dinnertime for Italians! but as Joseph says, not an excuse for attitude…

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