Scruffy Italian restaurant offers more than meets the eye
Nestled just a few blocks from the Bethesda Metro Station, in that area of the world where Bethesda suddenly ends and Chevy Chase begins, lies Stromboli, a hamlet of food for the working man if there ever was one.
The entire atmosphere of the restaurant exudes a run-down, rusted but charming feeling. The wallpaper is visible through yellowing stains, no doubt sprays from the esteemed patrons' eating frenzies. Among the collection of framed pictures on the walls are reviews of the food joint in various newspapers - some from decades ago, a fraying testament to the food quality. The tables are close together, in a silver diner style, complete with worn, red faux leather seats and smoothed down, cherry brown wooden surfaces. A small television site in the top corner of the main eating area, as if playing vigilante over the clientele, occasionally turns on to belch out sports newscasts and actual soccer matches.
Already feeling queasy just from the ambiance of Stromboli? Don't. Stromboli is the quintessential example of a small-time family restaurant with a secret recipe. Walking in, a feeling of comfort sets in and cements when the menu is perused. The restaurant genuinely has the feel-good atmosphere, with the soft seats and swallow you up and the interesting wall art, something that the Starbucks found seconds away attempts to emulate.
The menu at Stromboli features much of the usual fare that one might expect from an Italian restaurant trying to make it among corporate competition. Sandwiches, pizza and various salads are abundant, but the focus of any new visitor to Stromboli should be the selection of, you guessed it, strombolis. A traditional Italian food article, a stromboli is a turnover filled with various ingredients, from cheese and vegetables to meats and other mysterious components.
The Miss Piggy Stromboli comes much recommended, as it contains the richest and most satisfying concoction of several different cheeses, mushrooms, other greenery and sausage. Arriving with a small cup of tomato sauce, a stromboli originally appears to be a plain lump of dough. All disappointment is brushed aside, however, when it is cut apart and reveals a still-steaming, melted cheese bunching of deliciousness. Drinks can be ordered by the pitcher, another telltale sign of a working-class restaurant. The other food articles are respectable, but the stromboli is what really makes the place unique among the food outlets of local Bethesda.
The service and quick and amiable. You'll find no coattails or affected accents here, just good humor. The prices are even friendlier. A stromboli, drink and side of garlic bread, another item that comes hot to the touch and highly recommended, will run you in the neighborhood of $10 - $12, depending on the exact items ordered. The restaurant's location near the heart of Bethesda makes it an ideal location for a quick lunch break or a reserve in case you find yourself with no dinner and no reservations among the area's classier dining places.
So, whether you feel the need to watch a hockey game on a fuzzy television set, skirt a map of Bethesda from the 1980's or grab a quick and cheap meal, give Bethesda's Stromboli a try. Despite initial appearances, you might be pleasantly surprised.
Stromboli is located at 7023 Wisconsin Ave. It is open for breakfast through dinner Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and 12 p.m. through 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
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