Originally, I was going to try Baronessa out with the husband, so we could order several dishes, compare notes and discuss the various preparations. But babysitter issues and back-to-school craziness meant I had to go with Baby J, who is in fact three-and-a-half but shall remain a "Baby" forevermore.
So on a rainy afternoon, the J-man and I climbed aboard Rosie the van and headed northwest to Rockville for our mother-and-son Italian lunch. Sadly, the drip-drip-drip of the rain and the movement of the 20-minute car trip lulled J into such a deep sleep that even transferring him clumsily into his Maclaren stroller didn't wake him. That left me dining virtually solo as Baby J napped comfortably by my side.
The first thing I noticed when I went in was that the restaurant was nearly empty. There was one trio of co-workers finishing their lunch, but otherwise it was just the two of us and an attentive waiter... waiting for me to look over the menu.
Before I even looked at the menu, I felt like I was in Little Italy in New York (well, except there a little rain doesn't keep hordes of tourists from dining out, so there are never nearly empty eateries). This is basically your run of the mill, white-tablecloth, red-sauce restaurant. The menu is familiar and traditional, the music is classic Italian tunes ("Volare" and "Funiculì, Funiculà" both played while I was eating), and the food is comforting and oh-so-filling.
Since it was so wet and chilly out, I started off with a lentil soup (which come to think of it, is not always on an Italian menu) and the standard Caesar salad. The salad had a bit too much dressing on it, but that didn't keep me from shoveling it in, as I'd had a greens deficit the previous day and really needed to get my salad on. The soup, however, was delicious: hearty, thick, and reminiscent of my Mami's lentil soup. I actually wondered if Mami's recipe had come from my grandmother's best friend Filomena, who was Colombian born to Italian parents. I momentarily got teary eyed when I realized there wasn't anyone I could ask about this and quickly came to, because crying into my lentil soup was NOT on my personal menu for the day. Oh, and as you can see, there was warm bread as well, which I enjoyed, because sometimes you get bread that's blah. This one was rich and perfect for dipping in soup -- not that I would do something as uncouth as that at a restaurant, but you know, if you were to dip (my husband certainly would), it would be good for that.
Next I had such a stereotypical Italian dish I'm embarrassed to admit that I ordered it! But honestly, most of the menu was standard Italian comfort food, so when in Rome (or Rockville, in this case), you go for the wine sauce. I had the Chicken Marsala, and it was so mushroomy good that I completely forgot to take a picture of it until I had finished (as in, there was nothing but a film or wine sauce on the plate), and no one wants to see that. Trust me, it was good.
After my entree, I should have called it quits, but in the interest of providing you with an adequate review, and considering I had only sampled one starter, one salad, and one entree, I ordered dessert. Again, most of the choices will be familiar to anyone who has ever stepped food in an Italian restaurant, but I wasn't in the mood for cannoli or ice cream or even cake, so I got the tiramisu. It was simple and beautiful and garnished with a bit of cream and strawberries.
I was good an only ate half, followed by a cup of strong coffee and the check. Baby J. woke up just in time to amuse the three elderly couples that had wandered in during my meal. I should also mention that the waiter explained that rainy days (not to mention the Tuesdays after holiday weekends) aren't the best time to soak up a restaurant's true atmosphere. He assured me there are many more diners during the dinner hours, especially on weekends.
So would I go to Baronessa for my upcoming 35th birthday dinner? No. But would I pack up my three kids and husband and head there for a Sunday night meal of Italian comfort food? Absolutely. If you only do Italian when the restaurant is owned by Mario Batali or Lidia Bastianich, this isn't the place for you, but if you want some yummy traditional Italian food, this is a welcoming and family friendly restaurant where the service is excellent and the food a reminder of home.
Baronessa is one of many restaurants participating in Rockville's Restaurant Week, which runs this Sept. 10-18. If you live in Montgomery County, I highly recommend giving the restaurants in Rockville a try, since all of the participating ones will be offering big discounts.
Baronessa provided me with $25 to use at their restaurant, but the excess and gratuity was paid by yours truly. This is an un-sponsored post, and the ideas are all my own. Rockville Restaurant Week is a promotional partner with The DC Moms, of which I am the Editor.