By Corinna Lothar
When the Kimpton chain took over the Savoy Suites Hotel at Calvert Street and Wisconsin Avenue, it renovated the hotel, renamed it the Glover Park Hotel, and tapped celebrity chef Michael Schlow to create a new restaurant. Casolare is chef Schlow’s fifth Washington restaurant. Its culinary theme is Italian Mediterranean.
Casolare is a large, attractive restaurant. In keeping with its name—Casolare means cottage in Italian—it has a rustic atmosphere with solid pine table tops, simple decor, attractive colorful prints on the walls, and a partial open kitchen where pizzas are made in a small oven.
First, a word about the staff: it is superlative in demeanor, courtesy, and knowledge. The wait staff is well prepared to explain the menu, and every employee is accommodating and polite.
The food is good, if not great. Dinner begins with a basket of excellent rustic bread and a dish of olive oil for dipping. Appetizers include grilled octopus, seared tuna, shrimp with toasted bread crumbs, clams and mussels, eggplant with Parmesan, and meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce. A Caesar salad consists of fresh, crisp Romaine and some lovely lacy crouton bits with a sprinkling of shaved Grana on top. The salad, although under-dressed, was a refreshing start to the meal.
The choice of pizzas is limited to four: Margherita, marinara, bianca, and a pizza of the day. They are thin crusted; not exactly Neapolitan, but close to it. We tried the classic Margherita. The crust could have been baked a tad longer as the center of the pie was not quite done. The topping of a good tomato sauce and beautifully melted mozzarella was more ample than usual, but it would have been even better with a few more fresh basil leaves. Good, but not outstanding.
Main courses run the gamut from slow-cooked salmon, swordfish with spicy eggplant, seared scallops, and fish soup, to sirloin steak, lamb, a pork chop with changing sides, and two chicken dishes, both highly recommended by our waitress.
The spicy chicken alla diavola was devilishly spicy indeed. The skin of the juicy half chicken, served with small roasted potatoes and broccolini, was covered in a super spicy, somewhat creamy sauce. Too much heat for a tender bird. The slight bitterness of the broccolini goes well with the chicken, but the potatoes lacked crispness and were somewhat mushy.
A strong point at Casolare is that the kitchen will split most every dish without grumbling or asking for an additional fee. With a large portion, as was the case with the chicken alla diavola, this is a most welcome feature.
Casolare also serves lunch on Monday to Fridays, and brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. The lunch menu has most of the same dishes as the dinner menu, except only two main dishes and the addition of several sandwiches.
CASOLARE: 2505 Wisconsin Avenue NW, (202) 625-5400
Hours: Lunch Monday to Friday 11 am to 3 pm; Dinner Sunday/Monday 5 to 9:30 pm, Tuesday to Thursday 5 to 10 pm, Friday/Saturday 5 to 10:30 pm
Prices: Starters $9 to $17; main courses $15 to $36; sandwiches $12 to $14