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The implication in Tom Sietsema‘s scoop about Galileo returning to D.C. is that Roberto Donna will keep the doors open at Bebo Trattoria, his informal eatery in Crystal City. Why else would Donna announce that Bebo chef Claudio Sandri is now a partner?

Well, let me be the first (or one of the first) to say that Bebo won’t be around long enough to revel in the glorious return of Galileo, and I’ll offer up my recent dinner at the restaurant as evidence.

I met my friend at the bar on a Tuesday night around 7:30. As we were escorted to our booth, walking by numerous empty tables, my self-described “fat, balding dining companion” asked if I noticed the lack of liquor at the bar. I admit that I hadn’t, since I had just walked in. He said it was virtually barren, stocked with only a handful of bottles (which I verified on the way out).

Once at our table, the waiter handed us a menu. It was a single sheet, printed on both sides. It was a shadow of Bebo’s former menu. I asked the waiter if this was the entire list of dishes, and he admitted it was. He was new to Bebo, just a couple of weeks into the job, but he thought the limited selections reflected the restaurant’s lack of business. I thanked him for his honesty and wished him the best with his new gig. It felt like saying “Have a nice day” to a condemned man.

The food was a disaster, save for the fettucine alla bolognese, whose delicate, eggy, lightly coated pasta completely overshadowed the hearty, if average, meat sauce. The rest of the dinner consisted of a Napoletana pizza whose crust tasted strangely of soap; a burned calzone stuffed with chewy roasted pork; and an appetizer of dry pork loin drowning in an aioli that tasted mostly of mayonnaise.

This was not the cooking of a kitchen that cared about what it sent out.

Photo by Charles Steck