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Italian in Silver Spring-Olazzo vs. De Marco?

We are having dinner with folks training for the marathon, and they want old school red sauce Italian for dinner. We're thinking of hitting either De Marcos (across the AFI) or the new Silver Spring outpost of Olazzo. (Has it opened? It's on GA Ave just south of "Downtown") Thoughts?

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  1. I was disappointed in Da Marco, (typical Washingtonian mag hype). While it is homey, the pastas were just fair, and portions small. Also, menu is limited, with no pizza ( no oven). I like Bethesda's Olazzo, although frankly, for old school Italian, the Pines of Rome is my favorite. ( I know this will engender much debate) Vicino, a Pines of Rome menu-alike is on Sligo Avenue. Poor service, but definitely "old school red sauce."

    1 Reply
    1. re: nickdanger

      I disagree with you on Vicino's service. It is friendly and good even when the place fills up.

    2. I'd put in a plug for Da Marco awhile ago & was surprised to see some negative reaction, the kind exemplified by nickdanger's post above. I really like the Da Marco . . . the food is really superior, I've never had anything there that wasn't first rate. At the same time, it is a storefront kind of place that was a deli but is gradually reinventing itself as a restaurant. (Hence, no pizza oven.) I've met the owners; they';re a ``mom and pop'' couple, only they're in their 30s & have a year-old kid. Mom is from Rome & they make all their own pastas. On the other hand, haven't been there in awhile and am planning to go their this weekend & look at it with a fresh eye (and tastebuds). Will report back. But for now, I respectfully disagree with the negative commentary. It's good to have an original Italian in Silver Spring, especially in this era where places like AV Ristorante (in DC) are closing and places like Maggiano's Little Italy are passing themselves off as authentic.
      BTW, I walked by Olazzo in Silver Spring early last week and it was still a construction site.

      5 Replies
      1. re: dan f.

        according to Zagat Olazzo opens this week.

        1. re: dan f.

          I wanted really badly to love Da Marco. I went there all the time when it was a store and deli. But when we went for dinner we were sorely disappointed. I forget what my husband had, but I had lasagna - thinking this was exactly the kind of thing they'd do well - and it tasted of almost nothing but salt. I do have very particular opinions because I grew up red-sauce Italian, but I swear this was not just me being nitpicky.

          I'd love to hear a recent update that would convince me to go again, though.

          1. re: wombat

            We went to Da Marco on Saturday night and to be brutally honest, I can see why it's the subject of such criticism. I really want to see to see the place do well, especially as a non-chain original that preceeded the redo of downtown Silver Spring. One of our party had the pasta with porcini mushrooms & said it was as good as always. My life liked her spaghetti & meatballs. I tasted a meatball & didn't think it was homemade (tho I could be wrong). My eggplant parm was good, not stellar. I think the thing to do here is stick to pasta dishes. I plan to try Olazzo in the near future. If anyone has any rex on what to order at Olazzo, would love to hear about it.

            1. re: dan f.

              Just went to Olazzo and found it as disappointing as Da Marco and equally oversalted (or lacking in other flavor to counterbalance). I had eggplant parm and the eggplant had what I think of as an industrial fried taste, like in a sub shop - cheap oil or maybe even frozen breaded eggplant? The bread was bizarre - spongy texture - maybe frozen dough that they finish baking? Nothing at all like what you'd think of as Italian of either the traditional Italian-American or the fancy artisan style. The olive oil served with the bread was completely tasteless - I guess they figured it would be drowned out by the balsamic vinegar (vinegar with bread, yuck, where did this idea start?)

              Also, it's so dark you can't read the menu - they offer you LED lights if you want - why not just turn up the lights a bit???

              I swear we are going back to Sergio's very soon.

              1. re: wombat

                Thanks for the field work, Wombat. I had held off going to Olazzo for fear of this very reaction. The search continues, I guess, tho I'll go back to Da Marco on occasion for the pasta. Would like to find a place in B'More Little Italy for ``red sauce Italian'' but C-hound commentary is all over the lot. One place I have tried (in B'more but not LI) is Matthew's Pizza. Really good!

        2. There's also Sergio's in the basement of the Hilton. Nicer than Vicino but you need to reserve.

          2 Replies
          1. re: shellymck

            Yes! We used to go to Sergio's all the time and got out of the habit for no good reason. It has some red-sauce things but also a lot of other choices. I think I just got tired of the basement room with no windows - I always liked, and sometimes loved, the food.

            1. re: wombat

              I have been to Sergio's twice and thought the food was great but the ambiance was like you were in a bunker underground.

          2. Olazzo open already and I will definitely recommend Olazzo, better portions, better food and the place looks amazing.

            1. In eighties, we raised our kids in Tacoma Park, and their choice for report card dinners was always Sergios. Is the fish soup still wonderful? Nice to know its still open, hope its still good.

              1. I’m surprised about the bad reviews. I’ve been there several times and have been very pleased…if nothing else it’s certainly better than the awful, but inexplicably beloved Pines of Rome. It’s a mom-and-pop, storefront, basic Italian place – so don’t expect more. For main courses, you definitely want to stick with the pastas. The pasta with porcini mushrooms is wonderful, and the one with the crab and the rose sauce is even better. The latter features plenty of crab and noticeable pieces of finely chopped garlic – a nice and flavorful reminder that the garlic is fresh and not from a big jar of pre-minced garlic. In both cases the pastas have been home-made and perfectly al dente. My one experience with a red sauce was a little more disappointing, with little in the way of flavor. My opinion is to stick with the rose and white sauces. Also, I’m not sure how anyone can call the portions small. Are they the gluttonous size of Olazzo or Maggiano’s? No, but they are more than filling for anyone who eats sensible sized dinners. I found the service friendly and the prices are even friendlier. The bread is weak, and the wine list is lacking, but again, you’ve got to adjust your expectations – this is a small storefront pasta place. If you want something mind-blowing then you may want to go someplace else, but for honest Italian fare done right at an affordable price, Da Marco’s is a wonderful place.

                (Oh, and I've got to disagree entirely with the assessment of Olazzo's bread. It's excellent with a nice crisp exterior, a pleasantly chewy interior, and a subtle yeast-y-ness to it. The Olive Oil is more than acceptable as well.)

                4 Replies
                1. re: The Big Crunch

                  I like OLAZZO, too- especially the linguine w/ white clams (a combo of clams in and out of shells-refreshing parsley taste.) Also, a good place for giant and delicious meatballs.

                  1. re: The Big Crunch

                    Been a while since these posts and I'm happy to report that DaMarco's pasta has come on strong. In addition, I hear that they serving pizza on Tuesdays so we're trying that tonight. Definitely want to see a couple like that succeed here.

                    1. re: kriscolby

                      I have only been to Olazzo (Bethesda) but I think it is great-
                      love the linguini w/ white clam sauce and rigitoni w/ meatballs

                      1. re: kriscolby

                        What did you think of the pizza? I need to try it myself.

                    2. I work in the area, and I lunch at Olazzo pretty frequently. I think it's excellent, particularly when you realize you'd spend more money at the Olive Garden. The red clam sauce is good, and their rose sauce is tremendous. I've also never had a bad experience service-wise. I'd take my full-blood Italian mom here for dinner.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: buzzy715

                        I am thinking of getting white clam sauce linguine at Olazzo tonite- it really is great, isn't it?

                      2. I find Olazzo to be one of the most consistent restaurants that I have been to in the area. Never had a bad meal there. I have been to Taylor, Litteris, Marchones, and numerous other sandwich places around and the Olazzo sandwiches during lunch are better. I usually get the sausage and pepper or the italian cold cut. I dont understand how it never gets mentioned as one of the better sandwich places around? Probably people associate the place more for dinner and pastas.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chowzer

                          Agreed about their sandwhiches. They have excellent bread and the cold cuts have real flavor. The thing to remeber about both of these places is that this is basically red checkered-cloth Italian. If you go in expecting to have your mind blown, then you need to go somewhere else. The question is whether it's decent food for the money and whether the versions of the modest dishes are good versions. For my money, both places come up successful in both departments and as such I think they are good restaurants. If you're not from Silver Spring, I wouldn't recomend trekking up just to go to one of them, but if you live here and want to go out for some simple and affordable Italian food in the neighborhood, then both places will certainly do.