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Feb 15, 2008 06:49 PM


review from tom re: mio in d.c reason why stefano did a splitsville from b'more was due to encourage cooking of "spaghetti & meatballs" from the wolf/foreman combo. interesting....

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  1. Umm, could you be a bit more cryptic? :-)

    4 Replies
    1. re: Hal Laurent

      The OP is referring to tomorrow's WaPo review of Mio:

      Tom Sietsema, the reviewer, noted Stefano Frigerio's perception that Baltimore diners prefer "spaghetti & meatballs" over haute cuisine [that he served at Maestro] as the chef's reason for leaving Cinghiale and landing at Mio [near the White House].

      As a DC-centric diner, I'd be interested in Balto-centric hounds' insight.

      1. re: Lydia R

        I think it's because Baltimoreans like a little more content on their plates for the money than the tweezer-movable fare Maestro had an audience for.

        1. re: chowsearch

          i think you should read the post review. did not mention serving maestro-esque foo, foo style cuisine @ mio.

        2. re: Lydia R

          I've been to Cinghiale, and it isn't serving anything remotely like "spaghetti & meatballs".

          I would agree, unfortunately, that too many Baltimoreans put too high a value on quantity rather than quality.

      2. Would someone define "provincial" for me?

        1 Reply
        1. re: Hue

          Hue, I would define "provincial" cooking as simple, and not in an bad way. The cuisine at Maestro was the opposite. I remember a soft shell crab dish I had there, the "sauce" was served in a syringe like instrument. You shot the sauce into your mouth after a bite of the crab. Delicious it was. they used exotic ingredients and did many interesting things with them. provincial to me would be a great chicken roasted and served with frites and mustard or a piece of fish grilled and served with a splash of lemon juice. That same softshell served with bread lettuce and tomato or with brown butter would be, to me, provincial. Both preps are great served in totally diffrent ways. Long winded I know, but hope that helps

        2. I dined at Cinghiale during Stefano's time there and thought the food was decidedly different than the Italian served everywhere else in Little Italy. It was a refreshing and needed change. Of course, the average Baltimorean is not that sophisticated a diner (being raised to expect Spaghetti and Meatballs) and there were many complaints that the food was not what they expected.

          11 Replies
          1. re: onocoffee

            I dined their *after* Stefano's time, and the food was decidedly different than in Little Italy.

            1. re: Hal Laurent

              Cinghiale is not and won't be a "spaghetti and meatballs" type place, and I have my doubts that this was the source of the disagreement.

              I do think the small portion sizes were an issue.

              It's not that Baltimoreans don't appreciate good food or have a willingness to pay for it, it's that they expect a reasonable value for the cost. I know people who are used to high end dining that found it unacceptable. If you blow a few hundred on dinner, you should not be stopping for pizza on the way home.

              1. re: JonParker

                Jon, Have you had a full dinner at Cinghiale recently? IMO portions sizes are not small - although that is a comparative observation. See mine and others' comments on this point in the Cinghiale thread: For me at least, the sizes are favorably comparable to many of the fine dining establishments in Washington DC (Restaurant Eve's Bistro, Central, Mendocino Grille, etc.) and at the same or perhaps slightly lower prices than in the DC market - generally in the $27-33 range for entrees. Certainly they are not the gargantuan sizes (plus garlic bread) that Baltimorons are used to when they head to Little Italy. Nevertheless, despite what Sietsema wrote in today's Washington Post, I sincerely doubt the owners of Cinghiale intend for it to cater to the spaghetti and meatballs crowd.

                It is inconceivable to me that anybody with a normal appetite could spend $300 or more for dinner at Cinghiale, and not leave sated, much less have room for pizza afterward. Did this actually happen? Was the wine $250?

                1. re: crackers

                  I had two courses last night and was satisfied. The three others in my party all went with the three course prix fixe. Everyone was so full following the meal that we all skipped dessert. With Primi courses offering rich risottos to Secondi courses offering dishes such as rabbit confit with spaetzle, there's plenty of food to satisfy. And, as Hal stated, "the food was decidedly different than in Little Italy."

                  1. re: crackers

                    crackers, I have this second hand from a co-worker, but let me be clear that we were discussing the rest. under Stefano, not as it is now.

                    I think the portion sizes were something that were addressed when they changed chefs. The discussion was about why Stefano left, and the portion sizes in the beginning were a source of many complaints, here and elsewhere. They aren't gargantuan now, but they are larger than they were.

                    That spaghetti and meatballs comment says more about Stefano than about Wolf/Foreman, and I've never been an ardent defender of them.

                    1. re: JonParker

                      Yes, in the previous thread, I too was referring to portion sizes while Stefano Frigerio was still at the helm.

                      Just as when Michel Richard closed his Citronelle in Baltimore; and Tom Power, who was Citronelle's sous chef, also headed to DC, where he now owns Corduroy, Baltimore's loss is DC's gain with Chef Frigerio's departure.

                      On the other hand, Velleggia’s has been going strong in Little Italy since 1934! (Spaghetti with meatballs - $15, garlic bread $5.)

                2. re: Hal Laurent

                  It is doubtful Foreman and Wolf desire "spaghetti and meatballs" at Cinghiale from any chef, let alone Frigerio . That would simply be incongruous with their visions, accomplishments and menus at any of their ventures.

                  Nonetheless, I ate at Cinghiale last night and the food was excellent. I never ate there during Frigerio's tenure so I can't comment on the differences, but Cinghiale lives up to it's self-proclaimed identity as traditional Northern Italian fare; not haute cuisine. I know, I know. Foreman and Wolf are like the New England Patriots - people, including myself, love to watch winners dramatically fall to loser status. This just isn't the case with Cinghiale. It's pretty darn good. Now, if the restaurant could just seat people within fifteen minutes of their reservation (instead of an hour!) and keep Tony Foreman away from filling in as sommelier.

                  1. re: SGI

                    BUT, there are lengthy threads on here about the anemic portions:

                    "I agree with much that has been said about this restaurant. However, I have to say that the small portions are unacceptable. Unacceptable to the point that I probably would not return until this was rectified." from October 20th and cited in Crackers' reference above.

                    "Totally agree, Bryan. Portions were really really small, and I don't think that it helped that the plates were so large. It made the portions look even smaller, if that's possible."

                    "And I agree with the posts about portion size. We've travelled extensively through Tuscany, Umbria and the Veneto. I don't want Cheesecake Factory portions. But when I looked at the antipasti portions, they were not only smaller than anything in Italy, but also smaller than their ilk in the U.S., e.g. the Batali empire, Perbacco in SF, Vetri in Philly, etc."

                    "Joe-If you have not been there, how can you comment? I have been and would agree with others that for the prices the portions are small. I really think they could make the portions bigger and still survive."

                    "When we ate there people all around us were commenting on the portion sizes, so it seems to be an issue."

                    These are from a thread that I was personally involved in. I've been going to Little Italy since 1971 when I first visited Maria's 300 (later Russo's and now ?). In the early '70's Baltimore Italian was superior to anything in the D. C. area. But over time (and this is a refrain) Little Italy's (and Glen Burnie's, too, for that matter) didn't change/evolve/grow. D. C. did. I would make the argument that Francesco Ricchi and Roberto Donno both took D. C. to the next level while Baltimore lacked a "trailblazing" chef to take them there. I Ricchi and Galileo, later Roberto's Lab and Fabio's Maestro took D. C. to a national level while Little Italy retained "it's heritage." In 1989 my industry hosted a large international tradeshow here. I entertained at both restaurants, each on two nights. One of the dinners was the original chef's table in Galileo, only a couple of weeks after Roberto first introduced it. These were wild successes for me personally. It was then that I discovered that these two restaurants were the equal of anything in America-we had grown that fast. That same year I had a New Year's Eve date and we went to Vellegia's in Little Italy.

                    The difference in the experiences were, literally, night and day. Washington Italian was on par with anything in New York or Chicago. Perhaps Milan, too.

                    Part of this heritage, I think, are the quotes I reference above. "Small portions are unacceptible." Stefano is now gone and has returned to D. C. where there is an eager audience for his cooking. It is a shame because he could have been a trailblazer in Baltimore as Francesco and Roberto were here. My guess is that his leaving and returning to D. C. is a huge loss to Baltimore. It will not be encouraging for other aspiring, imaginative chefs given his brief experience.

                    I should note that I continue to applaud Wolf and Foreman in their attempts to take the city to the next level. Charleston is a wonderful first step. The second just seems to be the problem...

                    1. re: Joe H

                      The press said that Stefano was commuting from DC and had young kids. That's a good reason to quit (Why he didnt move here is another story).

                      I do not understand the fuss about portion size at C. The food is very rich, and I find 3 courses usually leaves enough to take some home. I do not eat in the red sauce places on my own dime in large part because I do not like the monstrous platters. C's portions are on par with fine dining in DC or Ny or Chicago (im thinking here of Osteria del Stato which is very similar to Cinghiale).

                      1. re: tartuffe

                        I have eaten at Cinghiale twice. Once when Stefano was there and once after he left. I can say that that portion size was not the only issue, but added insult to injury. I have eaten at many fine places in DC and nationwide and can honestly say I thought the portions were a bit skimpy at first. I get more food per portion from the CityZen tasting menu than Chingale was putting out early on for a three course offering. The food is just not all that good or consistant for the price. Seems like they have adjusted the portions from when it first opened, now they need to work on the food a bit more to make it really great. I think it can be great and they need to work on their issues.

                        1. re: Annapolis07

                          Annapolis you've got it right on the money! The have a good idea but they have got work out the kitchen kinks if that place is to be worth it. I've found the dishes too salty and at times oddly seasoned but they have the right components, I haven't given up but i'm giving them a break to see if things change.