FOOD: Pizzeria Orso
By Kathleen Nixon
June 29, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff
As you may have heard there are some dramatic changes that have occurred over at Pizzeria Orso. The new team of chef, Will Artley, and manager, Jonathan Bentley, has elevated Pizzeria Orso to a destination restaurant in the City of Falls Church.
While still some of the best Napoletana pizza in the area, the rest of the menu has been seriously enhanced to create a wide variety of salads, pastas and other great “nosh” items that you might almost forget that you can get a really good pizza.
One of the many great additions to Pizzeria Orso is the Chef’s Bar. You now have the opportunity to sit right there, watch all the activity that goes on at the pizza oven, and if he has time, chat with Will. The second best addition to Pizzeria Orso is the tasting menu which is available at any table but seems to be the best way to enjoy the Chef’s bar. As each dish comes out, Will or one of his team will explain the dish to you, which is always a surprise and treat. (Caution: do share with the team if you are allergic to anything and they are more than happy to accommodate your dietary needs.)
On one evening I was joined by Christianna Sargent who was not only impressed with the wine selections but recounted several wonderful beers she has had at Pizzeria Orso including a Pumpkin Beer available again in the fall. We were joined by Claire McConnell who provides the wonderful recipes based on local Falls Church Farmers Market ingredients along with their cost.
We started with Baby Carrots and Beets with Ewes Cheese which was delightful in its tanginess as brightness in color. Next up, North Carolina Shrimp with grits which everyone enjoyed except me. I am highly allergic to shrimp, and after chef “reminded” me that when doing a tasting menu you are to alert the chef I was served a delicious Seared scallop with truffle crème and Israeli Cous Cous.
A favorite items of three ladies was the BLT Gnocchi which I had had on a previous trip with some young adults (11 and 13) who joined me on our monthly movie night date. It was definitely a hit with them as well. Our next courses included: Mussels with Bleu Cheese sauce; Romaine, sausage and tagliatelle; and Fava bean ravioli with mushrooms. Another seafood course included sweet corn agnolotti with baby corn and crab (again, I couldn’t savor) but which Christianna, Claire and the other members of the Chef’s bar all said was a “flavor taste combustion”.
While there are now many new favorites at Pizzeria Orso for me and my compatriots, two of particular stand out for me: Brussels Sprout chips which are flash fried and tossed with Parmesan Cheese and the signature dessert dish of lemon glazed doughnuts with Nutella mousse.
Throughout the meal we savored a variety of wines which Christianna was quite enamored with. First we had Volpetti Cesanese from Lazio, Italy which is right outside of Roma. Christianna shares that it was bright, fragrant, with a kiss of French oak and loaded with dark berry fruit, undertones of sapidity – which is Italy’s word for minerality and terroir expressed in a wine. Christianna felt that this was a great food pair with pizza and creamy pasta dishes like BLT gnocchi. Our second wine was Feudi di San Marzano Primitivo from Puglia which had intense aromas of plums and cherries that dominate the nose. On the palate, it has a spicy character with hints of rosemary and vanilla. Overall it is full of body, balanced and strong. We were there on a Wednesday evening, which is half price bottle night.
A restaurant may have great food but if it doesn’t have great service, you may sometimes never see the great food. My compliments to Chef Will Artley for his command and training of the wait staff at Orso. There is definite snap to the staff’s step and is a good complement to his great food.
I have been back several times because Pizzeria Orso has a lovely patio and it is a great spot to dine with your well behaved pooch. My well mannered Bentley (no relation to the manager) particularly likes the pizza crusts as a treat if he has behaved well throughout the evening.
We look forward to seeing more of Pizzeria Orso in the community and to Chef Will Artley’s demonstration at the Falls Church Market Chef on August 18th.
By Kathleen Nixon
June 29, 2012