Pretend-za at Potenza Restaurant Review

Tuesday night we drove into Washington, DC., for dinner at Potenza. First, let us say that we had a great time!  We always have a great time together whether we are lost in Rome, swinging on the front porch in Baltimore or dining on the deck in Minneapolis.  However, our dinner at Potenza last night was bumpy like a dirt road in Tuscany.  Thankfully, the wine was flowing and good, and it didn’t really matter what we were eating, because we enjoyed being together!

Now, on to an honest review of this newish restaurant.  They opened in March of this year.  We stumbled on them through Urbanspoon.  We had taken a look at many restaurants in DC, because we wanted the perfect experience for our one night out together.  Maybe, it was the pictures of the vats of limoncello or the velvet booths…you know we are always about atmosphere.  Whatever it was, we landed on Potenza.

We ran through the rain from Todd’s hotel, dried off and slid into our chairs.  We were greeted by our waiter, who made a few suggestions and we began our order.  We like to share, so we can taste all the flavors.  We decided to start with antipasti.

We ordered Fried Risotto Balls stuffed with Provolone and Wild Boar …or should we say, “Bore”?  They looked beautiful and tasty, but one bite told us differently.  They were tasteless, there was no bite of boar sausage or flavor of provolone present.

Next, came the Spinach Gnocchi with Gorgonzola Sauce and Toasted Walnuts.  Hmmm….ummm…what can we say, it was mushy, soaking in a puddle of pale, cool sauce.  Gnocchi should have a bit of a nice crisp skin on the outside…ahhh…no crisp skin, they were prepared wrong.

We moved on to a visually beautiful plate, the Charred Octopus on a bed of Chopped Tomato, Cucumber and Crouton Salad, that reminded us of gazpacho.  This dish was good.  It had clean flavors. But, it was hard to say at this point just where this dinner was going.   Like we said, it was a bumpy road.

Next, came a beautiful green piled rocket salad, ahhh, you can’t ruin rocket can you?  Well, after it was sent back, the chef had tasted and agreed it was so salty it was inedible.  We lost our mojo for it and didn’t even want to replace it.  At this point you would have thought the table staging, the camera flashing, the plates going back to the kitchen, would have signaled to the waiters, management, and kitchen to step it up a notch.  We wouldn’t expect special treatment, just good food, and wine glasses kept filled.

Next, came the wrong order of roasted vegetables, which they replaced for the correct medley of Roasted Fennel, Pan Seared Cauliflower with Truffle, and Caramelized Cipolline Onions.  Thankfully, you can’t really screw up roasted vegetables and they were delicious.  At this point, we had finished our first bottle of wine, our glasses were empty and we were in need of flavor.

Where was our waiter?  Our glasses of wine were left empty, the new bottle not yet ordered and our small plates were finished.  We were left high and dry.  At this point the exceptional wallpaper in the dining area and bathroom, became the topic of conversation.  Way more exciting then this dinner.

Next, came our entrees.  Unfortunately here, our mouths were gritted with the nasty Basil Pesto that was grimed onto the Sirloin.  It was so distracting we could hardly finish it or mentally try to recover any hope of enjoying the beautifully Whole Oven Roasted Bronzino (fish) with Truffled Cavatelli and Roasted Cauliflower.  Like we said, this was a bumpy ride.  And, at this point awfully unpredictable.   The manager then, deboned it table-side.  It looked mouth watering.  And, thankfully was nearly perfect, taking our dinner travels up the hill again.  We stayed at the top of the hill and also enjoyed the Lemon Olive Oil Poached Monkfish.

With the main courses finished, could we chance dessert?  We ordered the Tiramisu and a most delicious Panacotta.  Then, we inquired about the homemade Limoncello, pictured on their website.  Part of the reason we chose this restaurant was our fondness of Limoncello and we were excited to try both their Melloncello and their Grapefruitcello.  The waiter, looked blankly, not knowing if the elixir existed.  He went to check and came back with both the Grapefruitcello and Limoncello.  As Devon, sampled ours, we heard a gasp from the table next to us.  They basically spit out their Limoncello at the same time as Devon.  We then made friends.  We had a common bond with the table next to us, at this point, swapping stories of Tuscany and Limoncello, and exactly what this glass wasn’t.

So, here’s the thing.  This restaurant is on a great piece of real estate, it’s on the corner of H Street, with a great bakery and a beautiful wine bar.  It has killer bathrooms and beautifully done decor.  The bets were in, would this restaurant last a year?   Would people’s palates or hotel traffic win the day?  From all appearances, Potenza pretends to offer the whole package!  But, one bite tells you, it has missed the mark of it’s Potential!  If the quality of food is brought up to the level of beauty the environment has to offer, this establishment will deliver a smooth ride down a Tuscan road.

Potenza on Urbanspoon