Joey – Here it is – our last pizzas together as roommates.
Chandler – I wish I’d known you were going to do that. I ordered Chinese.
Joey – Oh, well, that’s okay. Hey, actually, in a way it’s kinda nice. You know, our last dinner together. Me, bringing the food of my ancestors; you, the food of yours.
Oh Quattro Gatti, I had such high hopes for you. After all, when a restaurant has 3.5 to 4 stars on Yelp and over 200 reviews, you can’t blame someone for having expectations. Natasha (you may remember her from the Russell’s Bistro article) recommended a whole slew of authentic and tasty Italian restaurants to try, so after I checked out the Quattro Gatti menu online and read some Yelp reviews, my curiosity piqued, and I decided that I should give it a try.
Located at the intersection of Congress and W 9th, 2 blocks South of the Capitol
Tristan, Natasha, and I made a reservation for 7:15PM on a Friday at Quattro Gatti. It was the only time that could fit all three of our busy schedules, but it ended up making our lives much easier. It’s no secret that parking downtown is hectic during business hours and on weekends whenever there’s an event, or when 4th and 6th street open up for the night crowd. 7:15 was perfect. I parked my car on the street just behind the restaurant with ease. With 10 minutes to spare before the reservation, I was able to walk over to the Capitol to take some pictures, and head back with three minutes left over. The streets were so empty that even Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams could lay down in the middle of them.
Then came time to enter the restaurant itself.
And thus begun a night filled with both ups and downs. So let’s dive right into a breakdown of the good and the not so good.
The Not So Good
I’ve always been a fan of bad news first, good news second. If you are the opposite way, then feel free to scroll down to the “Good” section. These are ordered by the time at which they occurred, not by their significance.
I. The reservation was not honored on time. We walked in right at 7:15PM, and there were no open tables. We had to wait about ten minutes for a party to leave and for the staff to clear and reset the table. I’m not usually a stickler for these types of things, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
II. After we got our table, it took another ten minutes for a server to assist us. To be completely honest, I was in such deep conversation with my friends that I didn’t even notice at first. It wasn’t until the manager raised his voice a little bit at his wait staff, asking why no one was helping our table yet, when we all gave each other the “did you just hear that?” glance. You know the one. It was then that a waiter made his way over to ask us what we wanted to drink.
III. The main courses were not very remarkable. Yes, you could taste the quality ingredients that the chefs put into it: they were fresh, delicious, and each component, from the cheeses to the vegetables, all contributed to the flavor – nothing ever overpowered the other. The problem was in the finish.
Take for example this plate of Spaghetti alla Carbonara. In it is pancetta, eggs, parmigiano, parsley, and black pepper. Classically Italian. Again, the foundations that make up their main courses are all there, and that is especially apparent in this dish. The pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, and the pancetta was packed with just enough flavor where one bite didn’t overwhelm you. Also, unlike other carbonara pastas I’ve tried, this one had a well balanced sauce that wasn’t too buttery, and it’s aesthetically appealing. But just as I mentioned, all of these factors didn’t add up to create a remarkable finish. When we tried it, we had one of those “I don’t remember where, but I’m pretty sure I’ve had better” moments. Yes, it tasted authentic. But there was no “wow” factor. I expected to react like the master food critic in Ratatouille after eating his favorite childhood dish, for the flavors to just swim in harmony in my mouth and leave me wanting more. Instead, I was perfectly content after eating one forkful of it.
Okay fine, that was one dish. It was a solid entree that just didn’t impress me all too much. That happens. What really got me was our second entree.
This is Quattro Gatti’s lasagna pizza. Great cheese. Great meat. Great crust. Cooked well. However, the aftertaste completely distracted from what would have otherwise been an amazing pizza.
What am I referring to?
It’s kind of hard to describe, but I’m going to try my best. It was really subtle at first, but the more slices I had, the more I realized this weird ashy taste. I’m not talking about smokiness, the taste you get from certain surfaces, stoves, or ovens, or a burnt taste. Imagine baking a pizza over and over on the same surface, and never cleaning that surface after each use. Bits of the crust from each pizza are left behind each time it’s finished cooking, and those bits eventually become ashes after the oven is used a couple of times. It tasted like bits of those ashes adhered to the bottom of our pizza, and after a while, it became very distracting. Trust me – I’ve had many pizzas in my day, and that taste is not meant to be there.
Now, on to the parts of the evening that put smiles on our faces and almost made everything above completely forgivable. Almost.
I. Their antipasti was simply delicious. Taste, quality, finish, it was all there.
Dear wine, as I learned from wine tasting in Fredericksburg, I am no wine connoisseur by any means, but you tasted really delicious. I can’t quite remember your name, but I paid $9 for a glass of you, and you were the first one on the wine specials list. You weren’t overly bitter and you served as a great palette cleanser.
Dear Bruschetta, your bread was a perfect bed for the mouth watering ingredients on top of you. Your tomatoes were cooked perfectly, the flavors worked together for a 1+1=3 type of relationship, and I wanted more of you towards the end of the night.
Risotto cakes, I hope no one ever judges you by your cover because inside, you are a divine amalgamation of mozzarella cheese and creamy risotto, both of which are lightly fried and literally melt in people’s mouths. Please never change.
II. The atmosphere. Quattro Gatti is a very classy establishment, and it hits you as soon as you see the other guests and the staff members. Walk in with a Hawaiian shirt and flip flops, and you’ll stick out like a sore thumb. It’s a simple layout, decorated with artwork around the walls, accompanied by very soft lighting for that classy and romantic feel.
III. Resolution. Remember when I mentioned that we had to wait for 10 minutes for someone to service us? The manager felt so bad that he offered us two desserts on the house.
This tiramisu was almost good enough to make up for everything. The coffee taste was strong, the way I like it, and the way it should be. The center was light and fluffy, and everything else surrounding it was a very nice complement. It was so good I didn’t want to share it with my friends initially.
Cost, not including tip: $87
Alas, the good just wasn’t enough to overcome the not so good. I will probably come back to give this place a second chance in the future, since I am a firm believer of second chances and trying more than just a few things on the menu. But right now, I’m not confident enough in Quattro Gatti to recommend it over other italian restaurants I’ve dined at to my friends, family, and coworkers. If you haven’t tried it already, try it yourself, and form your own opinion about it. Who knows, you might come to love it. In the end, experiences are all relative, so if you’ve had a completely different experience, let me know in the comments below!
Special thanks to today’s special guests:
Natasha V., travel blogger for LastCallTravels
Tristan A., aka Trixxy