Italy has never felt so close to home

Aug. 31, 2006, midnight | By Poorva Singal | 15 years, 8 months ago

Olazzo leaves meat eaters, vegetarians satisfied

A first glance at the dinner menu does not seem too welcoming for a vegetarian. But don't be fooled; the few veggie-friendly choices are quite appetizing and authentic. This small Italian cuisine located in Bethesda offers deliciously cooked food that will leave you wanting to come back for more.

From outside, the cuisine might not look like much, crammed in between an art gallery and a Chinese restaurant. But come inside, and the small, well decorated restaurant will take on a whole new mood.

The candlelit environment seems pleasant and endearing but, to some extent, it clashes with the bustling atmosphere. On the walls, black and white family photos hang, adding a comforting and homey touch to the space. You may begin to appreciate the lit fireplace after a while, even after realizing the flames are projected on an LCD screen.

Olazzo seems like a great place for an awkward date. The tables are long that physical closeness is not an option. The odd decorations are great conversation starters if nothing else comes to mind, and, perhaps most importantly, the food is delicious. Chances are though that the geeky romantic atmosphere coupled with the fact that you may be surrounded by people who are busily engaged in loud conversations will encourage you to socialize yourself.

The service at Olazzo leaves a lot to be desired; while you won't have a server hovering over your table every three seconds asking how your salad is, you may have a tough time flagging someone down to take your order or refill your water. The bistro seems to be understaffed, especially for such a busy place.

Luckily, you'll forget any complaints you may have had to begin with once the food begins to arrive. While this Italian restaurant may not offer pizza, you get pretty close with the garlic bread. Baked to perfection, the garlic bread makes a delicious appetizer. Add the dipping sauce for an irresistible kick. The other veggie appetizers include a delicious Bruschetta (lightly toasted bread that comes topped with tomatoes, garlic and melted mozzarella), and the Neapolitan: fresh slice of mozzarella and tomatoes with roasted red peppers and olives.

There are only four entrees for a vegetarian to enjoy, but choosing amongst them is still a difficult task. The Pasta alla Checca is a must. Though perhaps a bit dry, the taste will grow on you as you dig in. The Pasta Primavera, which comes with tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, onions and mushrooms, caters to any pasta lovers, and the lasagna, full of creamy red sauce, will leave you wanting more. The chefs ought to be commended for the house salad, which accompanies each entree, although they would be wise to take it easy on the overpowering vinaigrette dressing. The prices for all entrees range from $11 to $16.

If, somehow, you're still up for some dessert, be prepared for slim pickings. The two desserts, cannolis and tiramisu, don't even warrant a menu, which makes for an awkward conversation with your server about prices. Of the two, go for the cannoli. The creamy dessert might lose some appeal though after a filling dinner.

Overall, Olazzo is a great option for Italian food that won't leave your wallet empty. Bring along a date or come with your family. Just be warned that this popular restaurant gets crowded easily during dinner times. The space is limited, but its prices are reasonable and the food is amazing, whether you are vegetarian or not.

Olazzo is located on 7921 Norfolk Avenue, Bethesda MD, 20814. It is open for lunch Monday through Friday and open everyday for dinner. To contact them, you can call 301-654-9496.

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