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Jun 24, 2009 02:14 PM

Al Tiramisu -worst experience ever

I'm upset -especially because so many people on this board seem to praise Al Tiramisu. We selected the restaurant for a special occasion dinner because Obelisk and others are closed on Sunday. We can accurately say that the dinner was one of the most memorable we have ever had, and Al Tiramisu will be remembered by many of us as the worst dinning experience ever.

The downward spiral began immediately when we were seated for several minutes before any server acknowledged us (and the restaurant was not crowded). The escalation occurred when we ordered cocktails instead of a ridiculously priced bottle of wine. While I do not claim to be an expert on Italian reds, I have ordered enough varietals from far better restaurants to know that the wine list at Al Tiramisu bordered on criminal. Once our waiter learned that we were not having wine, his attitude became rude and he vanished for long periods of time. When we asked for bread, our waiter informed us that we had to order first (apparently the $60 of cocktails did not count). At this point, we decided to try the food and rate the rude waiter as an outlier for the overall experience. Unfortunately, the food was Olive Garden quality and it could not possibly offer any redemption for the pejorative service. Our entrees were not delivered by our waiter, and no server came to check on us. Our finished plates sat on the table for 15-20 minutes. Finally, the check was placed on the table with no comment from our waiter. Dessert was not offered.

I make this post as a warning: do not go to Al Tiramisu if you are not planning to order a $300 bottle of wine. In fact, you should not go to Al Tiramisu at all if you are looking for good food. There are so many Italian restaurants that are better than Al Tiramisu, and we certainly will be going to them instead.

I also make this post to stimulate discussion since there are so many Al Tiramisu lovers on the board. What do you make of this horrible experience?

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  1. i'm sorry about your experience. I've never visited this restaurant and have long wanted to go, but have also heard mixed reviews, including some like yours.

    I recently had an experience with being ignored after declining to have wine with our meal. It's always sad to be almost punished for simply choosing not to drink with dinner.

    1. IMO, I think in your case you should have asked to speak to the manager. It's wrong that you were treated so badly. As far as Italian food goes---the DC Metro area isn't known for having good Italian food. However, I've also heard from others that Al Tiramisu was one of the better Italian restaurants in DC. Now I will definitely cross it off my must-try list!

      4 Replies
      1. re: MizYellowRose

        We would normally have said something, but I think we were too stunned to seek the manager. Certainly no one there sought our opinion. Plus, we never intended to return to Al Tiramisu. In retrospect, it may have been the thing to do so that the restaurant would have at least had the opportunity to correct the problem internally.

        There used to be many good Italian restaurants in DC, but they seem harder to find. I often went to Teatro under the old chef/owner, but I was unsatisfied when the switch took place some time ago. I'll have to give it another try. I still think Obelisk is a top choice, and I still need to try Dino.

        1. re: georgetownronin

          We went once years ago and thought the food was okay - but the service was so-so. I don't think this is their strong suit. I haven't really found any Italian places that match some wonderful Italian meals we've had in Philly. We're still searching though if anyone has any recs.

          1. re: beauxgoris

            Ah, yes...Philadelphia does have some great Italian restaurants! Around here, IMO, the restaurant I've found that comes the closest to what you can get in the Northeast is Esposito's in Fairfax. We've been going there for more than 20 years. It's not fancy---in fact it is in need of a remodeling but it's kept clean. While we're always willing to try different Italian restaurants in this area, we've yet to find one like Esposito's.

            1. re: MizYellowRose

              ^^Thank you for the rec. we'll have to check it out!

      2. I've been eating here on nice occasions for 10 years now, and my experiences have all been excellent. It IS the best Italian food in DC. My last trip was with a group of ten twenty-somethings at the height of the Saturday rush, perhaps two months ago. Our waiter treated us quite well - someone sent back an incorrect side and the right order came out on the fly, he waited until I returned from a cigarette to bring my coffee, other attentive touches. We also managed to find a reasonably priced motepulciano of which we drank three bottles, none of which were ordered until we drank a cocktail and ordered our food. I believe your experience was an aberration, and I hope your tastebuds were clouded by anger at your waiter.

        1. AT has a long history of occassionally if not frequent arrogant service. They are very, very well known to hard-sell the special pasta with porcnini, or truffles, or whole grilled John Dory without mentioning the $55 or $65 price tag. Regular clients there, like at many fine restaurant, often enjoy a different experience than others. Not to mention, some might argue it's typically italian to let plates linger a bit longer than usual. And I am not familiar with any fine restaurants where the waiter delivers plates. Not offering dessert is an anomoly.

          All that said, I've always enjoyed their food. Perhaps not a great price performer, but always solid cooking.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Pappy

            Thanks for the post. I'm a regular at a few restaurants in town, and I honestly believe that regulars deserve a little extra special treatment. However, I became a regular at those places because of remarkable first experiences. If restaurants are not able to put forward their best first impression, then they risk losing short and long customer prospects. I normally have a "2 trip" rule: I will go to a restaurant twice before eliminating it from my list just in case the first trip was an anomaly. Al Tiramisu is an exception since we could find no redeeming qualities about anything there.

            I did not mean to suggest that the waiter deliver the plates. I actually cannot think of a fine dinning experience in which the server did not accompany the team with the delivery of the food or immediately after to determine if his patrons were satisfied.

          2. I 100% agree. In fact, I posted on this a while ago under "most overrated restaurants in DC" topic. Here's my earlier post:

            "AL Tiramisu. We had reservations (which they admitted to) but no table, then sat us us a table in the tiny bar while our *reserved* table by the fireplace was given to a walk in. Took 20 minutes to bring water, and then another 20 to place an appetizer order. The crowded bar grew unbearable and then even worse when the an incoherant drunk (likely intoxicated from having to wait at the bar for so long for a table) spilled an entire glass of red wine down my back. Then, as we were walking out - me dripping wine - they asked us if we were going to pay for the appetizers that never came. I will NEVER, NEVER go back there."

            3 Replies
            1. re: scotcheroo

              Buzzy - maybe the reason you had such a good experience is that you were with a group of 10 people = large check.

              1. re: beauxgoris

                I've had the same experience at a table of two, a table of four, etc. I ate here once by myself. Like I said, I've been an occasional patron (read couple times a year) for the past ten years. I don't know. I hear these complaints on boards like this occasionally, but it's the only place that I hear the bitching. I love the place, as do any of my friends or colleagues that have been there. It perplexes me.

                Incidentally, the only reason I mentioned the size of group or the ages is that it seems like a restaurant might turn their nose up at a bunch of young people. This was not the case.

                1. re: buzzy715

                  Buzzy, thanks for the posting. I'm glad that at least someone made a positive post. I was going to ask the same question, as above, about the size of your group.

                  In response to your original post, I honestly have to say that the food was "standard." I think we were really expecting fresh pasta, and what we received was pre-made. We hoped for the food to lift our experience, and maybe we set our mark too high.