Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Pines of Rome to move to Cordell Avenue

Plans have changed again for Bethesda's venerable Italian restaurant, Pines of Rome. After announcing in April that they would be remaining at 4709 Hampden Lane "for the next few years or so," the owners are now preparing for a move to the new space they've secured at 4918 Cordell Avenue. They have requested a transfer of their liquor license to the new location, which was previously occupied by Matuba.

Douglas Development owns the building Pines of Rome currently occupies, but Douglas has waffled on moving ahead with redevelopment of that site (along with the former Tommy Joe's restaurant behind it on Montgomery Lane) for several years. Pines of Rome now applying for a transfer of location suggests Douglas may have moved their plans back to the front burner once again. Pines of Rome has been a Bethesda landmark since 1972.

There is no announced date for the move from the current location; I will update as soon as I can get that information. With their liquor license hearing being August 3, it's unlikely they would move prior to then, as they would be unable to sell liquor.

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

They've already died they just don't know it yet. This move will certainly awaken them to that fact. The Pines will get killed there next to seriously good pizza and much better Italian on the corner with Olazzo. Pines was great in the days when Sir Walter Raleigh was among the best dinners in town. Bethesda scene isn't what it could be but certainly has moved passed an Italian joint with candle dripped wine bottles on it's tables.

Anonymous said...

So true 5:32AM

Anonymous said...

I totally disagree. Pines has some of the best, most consistent food in B'town. Their veal chop, soft-shell crabs, goose and roast pork are better than anywhere - including Rome! I hope they resist the temptation to change things with the move to the new place. Best of luck to Marco!!

Anonymous said...

Nice to see Robert Dyer focusing on his core competency this morning, rather than babbling about dead people not voting for him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this report. Very relieved. We love Pines of Rome.

Anonymous said...

Nice that the block between Wisconsin, Montgomery and Hampden is coming together at last.

weski said...

Good for PoR! White pizza all around!

Anonymous said...

For my first ten years in Bethesda I just assumed PoR was a mob front. Then I ate there once, and quickly realized the mafia would never tolerate what was being served, they would've torched that place long ago to put it out of its misery.

Anonymous said...

Pines of Rome is awful. Look at their menu and they state they are proud to use Dececco pasta. Yes, the same boxed hard stuff you can buy at Giant for $1/box. Not kidding! What real Italian place isn't using fresh paste made on-site

As for the soft shell crabs, those are good but it's pretty hard to screw up dipping a crab in batter and frying it.

The place is still in business thanks to the old people who visited it in its glory days and have since lost their sense of taste. Go there at 5:30pm and the place is packed, and then it's empty by 7:30.

I predict a decline in business when they move, as their clientele will just get confused when it's no longer in its current location, and head back home.

Anonymous said...

The space has been up in the air for years and years. Going to sell, not going to sell, thinking about selling, definitely not selling, before Jemal bought it in 2014. I'm guessing it's mo-to-mo.

Maybe Marco wants to slow down a bit. Smaller space. Probably a smaller menu. Why spend money updating the old space? I can't wait to see the new place.

An Italian restaurant run by an Italian with deep roots in Italy and the Adriatic.
It's an authentic neighborhood Italian trattoria. Marco, even with his occasional directness, it a treasure.

Anonymous said...

I'm appalled at the venom against a local business. You don't like it, fine. That's no reason to be so ignorant and nasty the people who do like it.

Don't go there. Go to another of your trendy places that lasts a few months.
Have you even been to Italy? I'm thinking not, since they use dried pasta almost exclusively. A light breading on a soft shell is the goal, it's all about the freshness of the seafood. Pines of Rome has always been about really.fresh.seafood.

Anonymous said...

this is American food, not Italian

Anonymous said...

No, it's not.
It's a traditional Italian cafe.

If it's not your style, that's okay.
Lying about it is not okay.

Anonymous said...

7:54 - as true as the Chinese food we eat is what they eat in China. It's very Americanized which is ok actually. Ever been to a Mario Batali restaurant? Now that's the caliber were talking about which Pines is not nor every was.

Anonymous said...

The funniest part is that with all the standard snark, hate and vitriol that is typically on this blog, it's Pines that gets defended the most!

Anonymous said...

There are serious commenters on here but a lot of buffoons too. The serious ones, like me, are just calling it the way it is. There's no snark or hate. I wish Pines does well with their move. But the fact is, it's an old, tired restaurant who's food and atmosphere are from a bygone era and weak at best. Old and classic can be great and should stay. But old and really pretty awful, will fail. I'm surprised they've lasted this long. When you drive by their place, it looks like they're either closed or no longer there at all. That's not good.

Anonymous said...

Someone tell me which Giant has DeCecco for a dollar a box. It's usually more like 3.

Anonymous said...

@10:28 I agree. I don't really care if they go under or not. The place is dated and behind the times. Check out the delapidated tile floor, or the wine served in regular glasses instead of wine glasses. Or the lack of salt and seasoning in their red sauce. It's just one thing after another that is entirely unremarkable. The Yelp reviews on this place agree with my assessment.. so are all us random people in a conspiracy to badmouth PoR... or perhaps the place is actually mediocre?

Anonymous said...

@10:29 Ok it's $2.49 at Target, not $1: https://www.target.com/p/de-cecco-spaghetti-pasta-16-oz/-/A-17260062#lnk=sametab

Does PoR make their marinara sauce in-house or is it the Sysco special?

Anonymous said...

Again, no reason to insult the people who actually DO know what they are talking about. Why must you call me a buffoon for having a different opinion? Are you that thin-skinned?

Mario Battali isn't trying to have neighborhood cafes. Pines has never gone for an exclusive vibe.

I'm Italian. My family is Italian, born and bred in Bari. I'll trust mama's opinion over an anonymous one. She says the food is authentic, even if the cooks and waiters are latin. She wishes they had outdoor tables. Ciao.

Anonymous said...

"She wishes they had outdoor tables" - I agree. Bari, on the east coast of Italy, has it's own unique and delicious cuisine... any chance your mother would like to open a restaurant?

I think what I, and others who are critical of the restaurant, may be saying is that Pines is not the sicilian-american cooking that we're most familiar with from the northeast. Chicken or eggplant parm, baked ziti, etc, these are the things my NY soul craves down here. And, well, Pines has never quite delivered on those.

Anonymous said...

I was the one who said there were a lot of buffoons on here but wasn't making that comment about anyone in particular. I'm Irish and I know what is and isn't good Italian food and Pines doesn't have it. I also mentioned Batali. Why isn't he interested in coming here? He may be. We have money, education and are well traveled. He'd do extremely well here I'll say that. Here's the deal: If Pines were so good, it would be impossible, all the time, to get a table. That's just a fact. This just doesn't have the goods. Will they close finally? Who knows. And by the way, most other restaurants in town are sub par too just to show I'm not beating up on Marco whoever he is.

Anonymous said...

He's the owner and exec chef. What I've been trying to get across here is that's it's a traditional local trattoria. That's all it's ever been and that's all it's trying to be. Like mamma says, you come into my house and we eat, we drink, we talk, we laugh and have good times.

I wish Bethesda had more fine dining restaurants too. Or even pop-ups. That's what I was pushing for years ago for Bethesda. A dining destination. What do I know. TPTB decided retail was the future.

Irish so you know Italian food? Weird. Ok. Q: What does an Irishman get after eating Italian food? A: Gaelic breath.

I need a drink. Ciao.

Anonymous said...

That's a good joke. I really like it. This is going to come off boastful but it's my background. I know more about food than most here anyway having spent the vast majority of my adult life in world-class, full-service catering here in the area as well as many other facets of the hospitality industry. These great places that we seem to be in agreement about, by the way, will not come here because of the stifling restrictions Democrat politicians (who know nothing about business and in fact are anti-business) see fit to employ. What's even more of a disincentive is the DLC. No good food establishment is going to come to MoCo having to deal with an arcane system offering ridiculous prices, terrible selection and the worst service in the industry. Are there a few? Sure. Jeff Black, who I know personally, has done well. Many, many places at all prices points have opened in DC in the last few years and hundreds are very good to excellent.
What restaurant in Bethesda is tough to get a table? Houston's that's about it. That's a clue isn't it? Not good enough.

Anonymous said...

And by the way, opening neighborhood cafe's (so you know) is exactly what Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich, his partner, do. I've been to several of their places in NYC and they are mostly in quiet neighborhoods and all are serving such good Italian food and wine that it's beyond belief. They could fit in here and open precisely the place you desire would do so. Me too.

scott brand said...

I love Pines of Rome. A nice place to get a glass of wine and pasta. Why the hate?

Anonymous said...

@Scott I can buy the same $2.50 box of Dececco pasta they use at Giant, and the $8 bottle of wine from the beer store around the corner, and produce the same meal as PoR without much hassle. It's unremarkable.

Anonymous said...

PoR is another of these places (like Gifford's) that's more about tradition and legend than quality. With so much of Old Bethesda gone (or going), it's hard to hate on PoR. Though, yes, it's certainly not a fine dining destination! Or even a "local trattoria" (come on, people). But that's fine, because it has long been a weirdo little Bethesda institution.

But that's also why this move will kill them.

Anonymous said...

I see where "ugly americans" came from. This is the most "disposable" society ever. Everything old is disdained and in need of demolition, while new and shiny is revered.

Here's another long-standing local small business and you all breathlessly, anxiously, smirkingly anticipate their failure. They've employed what? maybe 20-30 people for 30+ years. You can bitch all the time about these other people and their personal issues and business failures, but you can't root for a long-time business owner who lives and works in Bethesda?

Anonymous said...

"Their veal chop, soft-shell crabs, goose and roast pork are better than anywhere - including Rome!"

In a website filled with stupid comments, this might be the all time stupidest.

Anonymous said...

@7:58am: For the sake of my sanity, I've convinced myself that they're talking about Rome, Idaho.

Anonymous said...

7:40am -

I love old stuff. Call me an "ugly american" if you want, but you're wrong and you're the one doing the name-calling, and that's not nice. Sorry if we crap on one of your favorite places, but you have to respect that others might see it differently. I never had a good experience at PoR. Period.

But really, I love Bethesda institutions:
Vace - best pizza in Bethesda. Or at least my fave. Been here for ages. Puts PoR to shame on pies. Perhaps you disagree, and that's cool.
Giffords - nothing has ever measured up
Tastee - only after midnight. I don't make it till then anymore.
Blacks - hands down the most consistent restaurateur in MoCo.
Grapeseed - gonna miss that place. Luckily Barrel&Crow carry the bloodline.
BGR - gone way downhill, but when they first opened they were bomber. Expansion didn't help them.

I'm sure I'm missing a bunch, so help me fill these in... Has anyone ever had lunch at the Georgetown Grill? 20 years here, and I never have. But people must, because it's always been there.

Anonymous said...

Good post and a fair assessment. Geo'twn Grill amazes me. It's only open limited hours, no one ever raves about it and it has been there for a long time. The food business can be strange sometimes and even puzzling. I haven't been but I would bet it isn't that great. Take Grotto Pizza for example in Delaware. It's a hugely successful and loyal pizza chain that families at the beach all the way to the students at U of D in Newark flock to every day. Weird thing is, Grotto Pizza is among the worst food and certainly pizza I've ever eaten. I had it recently in Bethany cause my little boy was hungry and all kids eat pizza. It's just god awful stuff. I would even say that Pines fits this weird model where they've really never been any good but have managed to have a great business and a loyal following. Here's another news flash for you. Tastee Diner's food isn't that great. I love the diner but don't go for breakfast, one of the hallmarks of any diner. Why? Cause it's unimaginative, lacking in quality ingredients, absent many scratch made items and it's simply stale. You're right on the money about Pines and it isn't about the people who run it. What it at issue is business. Hechinger's learned that the hard way when Home Depot came to town. Innovate, adapt or die.

Anonymous said...

So, I see the answer is NO. You can't root for a long-time local small business as they try to adapt, go to a smaller space, try to stay in the local economy instead of shuttering or moving out of Bethesda.

You keep calling it one of my favorite businesses. A successful business, carrying on in a community where they also live. Yes, that is something I like; something I prefer over national chains.

Anonymous said...

9:32 - I don't get the anger, we CAN agree to disagree. You love PoR, you dig their food, and I don't. That's fine. It's not that I'm not rooting for a smalltown business to succeed, heck they've done pretty well without my support, and where in my list of favorite places is there NOT a small locally owned restaurant? PoR is just not MY cup of tea, that's all. Yeah, I wish them well, and hope they can adapt to a new space. But I'll be honest, they haven't adapted to anything since the Carter administration. They get by on their loyal fanbase. I am not a fan of Tommy Joes either, but I wished them luck on their relocation, and I will do the same for PoR. Sometimes these moves can be invigorating for a staid business, other times it can be the beginning of the end. See how I listed Grapeseed as a favorite of mine? But they too were a victim of not adapting quickly enough, as well as a non-business friendly environment in MoCo. Why you bring up national chains? I didn't mention any national chain, and everything I listed was native to Bethesda. I despise national chains, but in order to beat them you better offer better food and better service... because they can absorb obnoxious lease prices better than the local guys can.