Last night, we approached customers exiting Locanda (633 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-547-0002), a six-week-old, rustic-Italian eatery on Capitol Hill. Inside, diners sat in bright-orange chairs, surrounded by neat Murano glass fixtures. We hid in front of the optometrist office next door and apologize if we scared our targets. (One bewildered customer admitted: “If you weren’t wearing pearls, I probably would have kept walking.”)
Here’s how the brave folks who stopped to chat with us rated the place on a scale of 1 to 10.
Mike and Kathy, computer programmer and policy analyst, Capitol Hill
What they ate: Portobello-and-ricotta ravioli (“wonderful,” they agreed) and a berry tart “with not nearly enough berries,” said Kathy.
Impressions: “There’s such a dearth of good places in the Hill neighborhood,” Kathy said. “For this to be crowded on a Wednesday night? In August? That’s saying something. I was here last week with my mom, who said their pork chops were the best she’s ever had. Plus the wine list is very reasonable. Over at Sonoma down the block, the list can be too high-end.”
Rating: 6 or 7
Anand, Defense Department consultant, Brookland, and Anu, State Department employee, “from everywhere” (she was visiting)
What they ate: Arugula salad with Parmesan and lemon (“spicy but tasty,” said Anu), portobello ravioli (“delicious,” they agreed), and pennette all’Arrabbiata (pasta with garlic, tomato, and chili sauce), which according to Anand “needed a bit more spice.”
Impressions: Self-proclaimed foodie Anand dug Locanda’s orange color scheme and loved the wine list: “It wasn’t super-long, but it was good.” About the decor, Anu chimed in: “It has that cheap cafeteria-furniture look, but they pulled it off.”
Chris, government contractor, Capitol Hill, and Dan, nonprofit worker, Kalorama
What they ate: An appetizer of fried calamari was “great,” they agreed. A Milanese-style pork chop was “simple but tasty,” Dan said.
Impressions: “We had lots of questions about wine, and the owner was just great,” Chris said. “He came over and talked to us—actually, he was jumping all over the place, talking to everyone. The staff seems really warm—more so than at Sonoma.” Dan agreed, calling Locanda “the kind of place you bring friends. Everything coming out of the kitchen looked great.”
Rating: Chris said 8.5, but Dan bumped it up to a 9.
Kim and Nicole, consultant and Hill staffer, Capitol Hill
What they ate: Buffalo-mozzarella antipasto, pennette all’Arrabbiata, and zucchini carpaccio. “All delicious,” they concurred.
Impressions: “It’s loud, but French-bistro loud,” Nicole said. “No worse than a place like Bistro du Coin. But you know, it’s nice to have a loud place on the Hill that isn’t a bar.”
Rating: 8 or 8.5
Liza, Treasury Department employee, Capitol Hill; Nelson, retiree, Arlington; Gay, Treasury Department employee, Friendship Heights; and Ronda, therapist, Capitol Hill
What they ate: Grilled branzino (“wonderful," they agreed), fried zucchini flowers.
Impressions: “Pretty noisy—those acoustics need fixing. But very friendly waitstaff,” said Liza. “Yeah, they need to resolve that noise issue,” added Gay.