Upon moving to Northern Virginia, one restaurant that I kept hearing about was Rustico. Two days after moving I was stepping into the restaurant. Two days later, I was stepping into it again.
Both weeknights I went had a similar vibe. Not too many people in the dining area, but a decent amount at the bar. Sleek lights hang in one portion of the room and a few steps down more rustic (like the restaurant’s name guys!) lighting illuminates the place.
While Rustico is known for their pizza, my eyes caught the couscous on the menu. It caught my friends too. The couscous carbornara is similar to a risotto with bacon, parmesan, black pepper, truffle oil and garlic. The best part of the dish is the poached egg that sits on top. It has a creamy consistency and they don’t go light with the truffle oil. The couscous was apparently one of the first items Rustico decided to put on the menu and it has been a popular selection since. In fact, DCist featured this exact dish along with a recipe if you want to try and make it.
Like I said, Rustico is known for their pizza which is why I ordered it a couple days later. The white pizza is fairly simple when it comes to ingredients: mozzarella, basil pesto and ricotta. The pizza is pretty thin and there is a good amount of cheese. I liked it, but I was more impressed with Pizzeria Orso down the street.
Another pizza, the spicy shrimp, came with a jalapeno pesto. Caliente! Actually, it’s not too spicy — just keep a drink nearby. Speaking of drinks, Rustico has a happy hour including an enormous amount of beers.
For $11 I also got an appetizer, the lettuce wrap meatballs with a sweet tomato aioli and a minted yogurt for dipping. Nothing impressed me about this dish other than the pig shaped cutting board.
My second time visiting I finished the meal off with a Nutella cheesecake with a dark chocolate sauce and candied hazelnuts. It was a deliciously light cheesecake. The again, I guess light cheesecake is kind of an oxymoron. Either way, if you make it to Rustico in either Ballston or Alexandria stick to the pizza or couscous.
When I packed up my apartment and headed back home after college I thought I could easily keep this blog going. But then I realized I was always going to the same restaurants — ones that I have already reviewed on here. One month later I have decided to write about any restaurant I come across, even if it’s already featured on this site. Lucky for you, this entry features a brand new restaurant (for my blog at least, the restaurant is actually from 1997) in Portsmouth, Va (Holla Missy Elliot!!) called the Bier Garden. Portsmouth may not get the best rep, but go down High Street and it will be hard to understand why. Old churches tower over the quaint restaurants with outdoor seating.
I spent some of my childhood in Germany so I once I moved to the states I found it crazy that any children’s menu didn’t feature schnitzel. Fried pork is even better topped with a mushroom gravy! Another childhood favorite was Goulash soup.
Meat that falls apart in your mouth is one of the best parts of the soup. The soup at this restaurant was a little different from the kind I had in Ramstein, Germany, but this was a good soup in its own right. This soup had a beefy broth with noodles, green peppers and carrots that all tasted like they had been marinating for a day.
Next course was the schnitzel that my childhood in the states often longed for. While this schnitzel was not fried it was still topped with the mushroom gravy (jagerschnitzel) and sauteed onions and peppers ($14.95). Not unhealthy enough yet? The side was spaetzel with even more gravy. Spaetzel is basically fried dough that tastes a lot like gnocchi. At the Bier Garden you can ask for havarti cheese on top instead of gravy.
My delicious meal was washed down with one of the MANY beer selections. They have 300-350 beers from around the world. I had to reminisce and get my favorite cider beer from Ireland — Bulmers. I’ve never seen that beer anywhere other than Ireland. A true testament to the selection this restaurant has.
The atmosphere at the restaurant is another great addition. Blue checkered tables are outside underneath a trellis of leaves and white lights. Wooden tables and giant beer mugs line the inside along with soft German music playing. It’s easy to feel like you’re in Europe when entering the Bier Garden.
Auf Wiedersehen for now Portsmouth!