Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >
Mar 11, 2011 06:25 PM

Galileo III - Don't Go There

Wow, I did not think Galileo III could possibly be that bad but it really was. Roberto Donna was even in the kitchen and the food was still very average.

I had a veal tenderloin with winter root vegetables which the waiter said was really fantastic. It tasted ok but I was surprised when I hit a patch of grit when I bit into one of the root vegetables (I couldn't recognize what it was unfortunately). I wouldn't have said anything but my subsequent 4 bites also had grit (one of the vegetable accompaniments was obviously not cleaned enough). At this point, I asked the waiter to bring back to the kitchen.

This is one of the times when a chef should not have an open kitchen because the sous chef was certainly not pleased, seeing as he threw his arms in the air in total disgust. They brought out a menu and asked me what I'd like instead of the veal dish because the chef said I probably didn't like the pepper that was in the dish (Pepper even when coarsely ground is nowhere near the grit that I was dealing with). I said fine and asked for the rockfish that my wife had and they promptly forgot to bring out my new entree (it didn't come out until everyone's entrees had been finished for about 10 min. Mind you I notified the server within 3-4 bites into my entree). On top of that, when they brought my new entree, it was not even the same dish I ordered. It had polenta and tomato sauce whereas my wife's dish had sunchoke puree and roasted mushrooms. Talk about using the cheapest leftover ingredients you could find...Galileo III - Thanks for making me feel like you didn't care about my food. At that point, I was done with bringing up my issues with the staff because the rest of my family was already long done with their entrees and were ready for dessert.

It's really sad. I remember the days when Galileo (II) was one of the best restaurants in DC. It's clear that Galileo III has a long way to go to reach that level.

(The other dishes we had that night were decent but nothing to write home about...Which is why I didn't write about them.)

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. We hoped for the quality of food and service of the fabled Roberto Donna. Instead we got truly terrible service (no drink order for thirty minutes after we sat), very lucky that the wine selection worked as the waiter was clearly not a master of the list and there did not appear to be a sommelier anywhere.
    This was followed, some 20 minutes later by a mediocre first course (a bland tuna tartare and a tough rabbit salad - Coniglio). Rather than wait for a waiter to fill our wine glasses, frustrated, I reached over and poured from the decanter myself (and no one except the guests at the table next to ours noticed). My water glass then remained empty for about a half an hour.
    Finally, we had a bit of what we hoped for, a remarkable Guancia (braised veal cheeks) and a remarkable Anatra (sauteed Moulard duck breast with ramps, dry sour cherry sauce, balsami viegar, foie gras mousse and stuffed zucchini blossom) that delighted us for a moment and made us yearn for the old Galileo.
    In all, the restaurant was so understaffed it was almost comical. Dirty tables were left unbussed for very long periods of time and we saw the same level of frustration in the eyes of the other diners around us. We fully expected Gordon Ramsay to emerge, sputtering, exasperated, yelling "This is not how you run a restaurant!"
    Not wanting to press our luck we left before dessert and headed over to Dolcezza in Georgetown for some superb Argentine gelato.
    It was in all a terribly sad evening. We saw a glimpse of brilliance in the kitchen and service that was just bad. They clearly recognized that we were not happy and asked if we would ever come back. We replied, “We will watch the reviews and if the service gets fixed, yes we would.”

    1. I felt sad reading your post, because I have good memories of the original Galileo, which opened when I was in cooking school, in '88. I was excited, because even though I was learning classical French cuisine, I liked Italian cooking better. (No, this did not endear me to my teachers.) Even though I was quite poor, I saved my money and had dinner there one night. I remember having a tender and flavorful filet of beef with pistachio sauce. Everything--the service, the atmosphere--was perfect. Afterwards I asked to speak to the chef and asked Roberto if I could work for him. I did, for a little while, making salads on Saturday nights. He told me he wanted the salads to look like they had drifted down from heaven. I liked working in that noisy, all-male, all-Italian kitchen, but even then I noticed a little bit of attitude toward the customer. I am sorry it has come to this.

        1. re: crackers

          Donna should just do what he does best - a self-service lunch counter. I truly loved those 'grill days' when I worked down the street on 21st NW. those sandwiches were not just sandwiches.

          my god he had lines out the door, stacks of orders called in ahead and none of the notorious service issues.

          1. re: crackers

            I'm not surprised in the least that it's closed. It was truly a lesson in how not to treat your customers.

            1. re: miltronix

              Wait. I thought Bebo was a lesson in how not to treat your customers.

            2. re: crackers

              Boy...I mean, no one saw that coming.

              1. re: Pappy

                Some of us did. But I'm sure he will be back with another restaurant within 18 months. He has no choice. He's got bills to avoid paying.


                1. re: monkeyrotica

                  In my defense, it was dad's wife's choice to celebrate his birthday. In the past she's picked other high priced yet lackluster gems like Il Mulino (CLOSED) and Normandie Farms.

                  Normandie Farm
                  10710 Falls Road, Potomac, MD 20854

                  1. re: miltronix

                    Milt...That is a terrible track record she has. Try Obelisk or Tosca.

                    And Monkey...I tend to be quite the kidder..

                    1. re: Pappy

                      I have been to Tosca and enjoyed it. Honestly, I have no clue how she picks the restaurants. I think she must ask her coworkers which restaurants are expensive yet have terrible food.

                      *Slightly off topic - My brother and I got the chicken parm and veal parm at Il Mulino. We must have horrible tastebuds because through a blind taste test, neither of us guessed the protein correctly. Perhaps the fact that both were pounded so thin and overcooked contributed to our inability to distinguish the flavors...

                      1. re: miltronix

                        I ate at Il Mulino once in Vegas. Never again.

                        The DC shop never had a chance. 1) They had terrible timing in regards to the economy, 2) Their real estate agent was an idiot to put them on 15th street instead of F/G & 11/12/13/14, and 3) the dining model with aloof wait staff and gigantic portions was very much NYC, Wall Street biz dinner that did not translate well here in DC.

                  2. re: monkeyrotica

                    bills or not, I don't see him coming back from this and being anything other than a cook in someone else's kitchen. No sane backer would give him any kind of funding.

                    1. re: xdcx

                      And yet investors backed Galileo III after the debacle of Bebo. He'll be back. His business partner in Italy will round up the usual investors eager to be attached to a celebrity restaurant, everything will be in his wife's name, and his staff won't get paid.

                      1. re: monkeyrotica

                        Galileo II was strike one. Bebo and the felony conviction was strike two. Galileo III was his last chance to make it right and convince people he's changed his ways. I imagine any investor would do their homework and run in the oppostie direction.

                        1. re: xdcx

                          The fact that there even was a II, yet alone III says it all. Restaurants shouldn't be named like movie sequels, and of also likewise subsiding income generation.

                2. re: crackers

                  Oh wow. This makes me really sad. I took my parents to the chef's table at the original Galileo for my 40th birthday. It was a magical experience. I've hesitated to try any of his other restaurants because of the bad reviews - I didn't want to ruin that memory. Glad I didn't.

                3. The only way anybody should allow him to be attached to any future restaurant is if they lock him into a kitchen alone with absolutely no way to conduct business - no wallet, no credit cards, no pen for signing contracts, no access to a phone or computer. Nada. Just a few pots and pans and ingredients. This latest venture was just an embarrassment.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: DC in DC

                    But that is precisely what Roberto claimed at G3 - just an employee with a shirt on his back and some pots and pans. Like Sgt. Schultz of Hogan's Heroes he knew "nothing!"

                    The Wash Post article claims he has burned through 20 (!!!!) restaurants that "closed" in the DC area. Might this indicate a pattern? One that is not mere incompetence at ordering too much arugula or not enough proscuitto. Looks like, wait for it...Cooking the books, indeed!