Zaytinya, Bezu, Pizzeria Orso: The Needle

Every month, we take the pulse of three area restaurants.

By: Ann Limpert, Kate Nerenberg, Rina Rapuano

Zaytinya

Chef Michael Costa may not have the name recognition of his predecessor, Top Chef All-Stars contestant Mike Isabella, but he’s been keeping José Andrés’s mezze destination running smoothly. The biggest hit on a recent visit was a special of a rich lamb stew in phyllo. A special of roasted fresh chickpeas—served in the pod like edamame—was pleasantly unusual but tough to eat, though the lemony oil kept us returning to the bowl throughout the meal.

Bezu

Despite its many mega-mansions and Range Rovers, Potomac doesn’t have much in the way of restaurants. At this five-year-old French-American place, the food, although expensive, shows promise. We used every crust of bread to soak up the broth of a calamari fricassee, and a hefty veal chop was well cooked. But service ranged from odd—“Are you a cop?” a bartender said when one young woman ordered wine—to harried, prompting one in our party to ask, “Did this place open last night?”

Pizzeria Orso

Since opening last year, this sibling to the fancier 2941 has excelled with pizzas but disappointed with small plates. Gone is the talented pizzaiolo Edan MacQuaid, but new chef Chris Nye’s Neapolitan pies—including a special with ramps and lots of garlic—are just as good as and maybe even better than MacQuaid’s. Nye’s antipasto menu reads beautifully, but some items, such as risotto balls and fried calamari, are still haunted by his predecessor’s salt-shy hand.

This article appears in the June 2011 issue of The Washingtonian.

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