“RIP Alphonse on U Street. You were one of my favs — yet so few got to know you.”

by Prince Of Petworth September 14, 2016 at 9:50 am 47 Comments

1212 U Street, NW

Alphonse opened with great anticipation after a major renovation back in August 2014. This was the spot from one of the owners of Russia House and Biergarten Haus. Thanks to all who sent @PoPville tweets. Were there any other fans?

Thanks to Mike Levine for sending:

“RIP Alphonse on U Street. You were one of my favs — yet so few got to know you.”


Tim Fegan also notes that Nonna’s Kitchen closed upstairs as well:


  • JMR

    Bummer! I only ate there once, but several times we got fresh pasta to go and cooked at home. In my experience,the food was really good!

    • KneePlay5

      We did exactly the same. Time to invest on a pasta maker.

      • JMR

        If you have a kitchen aid mixer, the stainless steel pasta attachment is great!

        • BethPopville

          OH, just got one of these! Any tips for making great pastas? Or recipe blogs?

          • JMR

            We use semolina, water, olive oil and salt. (Google Bobs Red Mill recipe) You have to let it knead with the dough hook longer than you’d think. It should be soft but elastic. Make a lot of dough, divide it into whatever portions you will need, and freeze the extra dough balls. The spaghetti cutter is more challenging than fettuccini. It’s been a while, but I think I just followed the instruction book that came with the attachment! :-). It’s a fun date night in!

    • JohnH

      Guess their month long vacation in August wasn’t a great idea….

      • jsauri

        It wasn’t a real vacation. The chef at Nonna’s quit unexpectedly. They were looking for a new chef. But they didn’t want to necessarily advertise the sudden departure.

        • JohnH

          So you lose a chef and close for a month and advertise it as a vacation? Did this one chef make 100% of every item that was ordered? There are other people that work there that were impacted based on that decision too. Not sure that’s really much better in the reasoning department…

  • textdoc

    Was this where Bistro Ulah (Ulah Bistro?) used to be?

    • U Streeter

      Ulah’s old space is next door – it became Prospect

  • Idontgetit

    It was a beautiful space but I admit I only got take out a couple of times.

  • kapitolhill

    Great spot, and I thought they put a lot of nice work into it. With that said, it’s a tough “Italian” market in DC right now – and to be on U St, you really need to stand out.

  • rachel

    I went in once to try to get a coffee and couldn’t get anyone behind the counter to acknowledge me (it wasn’t busy). After like 10 minutes I left and walked down to Coffee Bar. I never went back.

  • anon

    I was so excited about this place and then went there for a sandwich. The bread was so stale it was nearly inedible but I ate it anyway, and was disappointed. There are too many other good sandwich places nearby so this place totally fell off my radar.

  • Sandwich

    I ordered a sandwich there once and a beer. They brought me the beer and soon after the sandwich, at which point the manager told me I had to eat it outside of the restaurant. He said the sandwich is considered “takeout” and could not be consumed at the bar. It was really weird and unexplained, so I stepped outside to eat the sandwich they prepared for me. BAI.

    • that is nuts!

    • That’s an odd business model, since you wouldn’t be allowed to drink the beer outside…

  • Tsar of Truxton

    Italian and “small plates” just don’t go together. I thought it was only ok, and the portions were super tiny.

  • U Streeter

    I think their problem is that they tried to be a restaurant, a bar, a café, a deli, and a bakery, all in one. I was hoping for a good Italian market, ala A Litteri or something in New York, but I only got 10% of that. And the food when it came out was meh. But its a shame, because the folks working there (or the guy owning it) seemed very passionate.

    • jcd

      I agree, but had less ambitious standards–I wanted them to be an equivalent to Vace in Cleveland Park, just closer. (I think A. Litteri’s is bigger–at least it’s more densely packed). If they had offered more fresh pasta more often, I would have gone more often.

    • DM

      I imagined it like the Italian Store in Clarendon, which would have been wonderful. I only ate at Alphonse once–I had a slice of pizza the day of the funk parade from the table they had out in front–but wasn’t wowed.

  • U neighbor

    Not surprised. There was something “off” about this place. Service was simultaneously poor/inattentive and over-friendly/trying-too-hard, and the place was empty.
    I think this city maybe takes for granted the great service at the plethora of great restaurants — something I notice acutely when I eat in the suburbs.

    • Ashy Oldlady

      The association with Biergarten Haus kind of grosses me out. You usually don’t see cockroaches every single time you go to a restaurant or a bar, though that was my experience the half dozen or so times I went to Biergarten Haus. I would never eat anything from that kitchen.

    • LittleBluePenguin

      Where are you going in the city that you’re receiving excellent service? I don’t go out a ton, but almost every place in DC I’ve been to for dinners with friends or family (minus my few local watering holes), I have been very disappointed by the service. Surly folks who act like I’m lucky they’re even considering bringing me my food, or folks who act bored and like they wish I would go away already. I’m really not an unkind person, I have family members who have been or are currently serving as waitstaff, cooks, bussers, etc. and I know how important it is to be a good guest. But I am always surprised by how many folks I’ve encountered here that give me the impression they wish I and my fellow diners would shrivel up so they wouldn’t have to wait on us

      • Truxton Thomas

        To me, this is a big part of the difference between legitimate gourmet restaurants and pretenders that try to get by on their concept. For fancy anniversary and pre-show dinners at Marcel’s, Blue Duck or the old CityZen at the Mandarin Oriental, I have always been made to feel welcome and comfortable. But as you say, many places have a dour, too-cool nonchalance that detracts from the experience.

        • LittleBluePenguin

          Thanks for understanding, and for the suggestions! Maybe when I have $ to spare (which sure won’t be for a while!), I’ll check out those places, they sound great.

          • Truxton Thomas

            We have a little one—these are rare occasions!

      • Kevin

        The dozens of times I’ve been to Rasika the service has been top notch.

  • bruno

    That was quick.

  • eb

    As someone who grew up in Philadelphia and whose first non-babysitting job was as a cashier at an Italian market I found this place disappointing bc of the price. The food was good but expensive for what it was. In Philadelphia they have places like this all over; they are yummy and affordable. This to me was an example of the DC effort to elevate a cuisine but the value is just not there. And I am sure expensive U street rents play into it …

    • Anon

      But I can get a taco in Mexico for pennies on the dollar!

      • Anonymous

        Sorry, but the DC food scene is similar to Epcot Center. Most of the time we are getting reasonable concepts from other cities/countries and then they suddenly do the 50%+ DC Theme Park Mark-Up. You’re not going to fool Italian-Americans from Philly, LI, NJ, and CT that they need to be over-paying for a faux-authentic experience.

        • bruno

          Lived here a long time and I concur. Still quite difficult, compared to other big cities, to find good, inexpensive things to eat at lunch hour, that are not Starbucks or Au Bon Pain or such. Or putting it differently, it’s much earlier to find cheap eats in other cities. And that’s about my only regular gripe about DC.

          • bruno

            Above, “earlier” should be “easier’ :^) Spell checkmate!

          • BethPopville

            Ditto. I normally bring my lunch, but last week couldn’t get it together to go grocery shopping. One day I ended up with a $15 salad from Chopt. Fifteen. Dollars. And ya know what? It was crap.

            What I wouldn’t give for some of Philly’s Italian markets here in DC. Unfortunately, DC doesn’t have the same Italian immigrant history as places up north, so we don’t have the organic Italian markets and restaurants either.

  • Smittty

    The space was great but the service was generally lacking and the food was mediocre. Hopefully something better moves into that space quickly – hate to see vacant retail on U Street.

  • Franklyn Thomas the Bento Box Bandit

    I don’t really think of eating on U street proper. Maybe the Saloon or The Codmother but that’s it.

    • bruno

      The Codmother? It’s wreaks of cleansers.
      Brixton nearby is good.

      • jsauri

        Really? I’ve only been to Brixton a few times. But I found the food subpar and not worth the cost. And the staff were slow, inattentive, and had attitude. The whole rooftop scene reminded me of a VA bar. Everyone I know in the neighborhood hates that place.

        But I haven’t been in a long time. Maybe they’ve gotten better.

        • bruno

          Went with pals for a birthday gathering. Service was swift! Food was good. It was a lively, mild evening.

  • Truxton Thomas

    I was super excited when they opened, but had several bad experiences right out of the gate and never had reason to go back.

  • I love right around the finer at ate there a dozen times at least and very much enjoyed the proprietors. However, the food never did it for me save one particular dish and the portions were underwhelming as was the price. I am sad to see them go as the idea was great the execution not nearly as much. But they were and are good folks.

    I expect a lot can and will be done with the space. Just hope the folks from Amsterdam don’t take it over because few places cause more bullshit in the neighborhood that that spot and the folks boozing in their cars so as not to spend money in the place. If you think joking, j can I vote you to watch the scene in a Friday and Saturday night on the block

  • Anon

    This place closed because the chef, Will Artley, found another gig and stopped running the supper club, which was the only real money maker.

  • U Streeter

    Nona’s was fantastic and will be missed. That’s where my wife and I ate the day we eloped to the courthouse. But we recently decided to move (together) to the other side of the country, so I guess fitting. End of an era, I guess.

  • NONE

    Ate at Nona’s for New Years and it was great. When they started they had a monthly tasting menu from a different region in Italy every month. The downstairs was never good… but in concept it was a great idea to have a deli, restaurant, store take out place open on U st during daytime hours.

  • jsauri

    I loved this place. The gnocchi was excellent. The bar was very comfortable to pop in for dinner for one, and the service was always very friendly. I liked that it was never too busy (which was also simultaneously concerning). And I liked the smaller portion sizes, that were perfect for my appetite. I would often run into one of my neighbors there. It had a very warm, comfortable, neighborhood feel.

    I just moved over the Ledroit Park though, and stopped going as frequently. I guess my business must have been that slim margin keeping them open!

  • brittenh

    As an ex-Philly guy, this place didn’t have the quality or quantity of product as a legit Italian market (see numerous examples on 9th St in Philly). Litteri is as close as we have in DC, but that’s not close enough for the shopping in the ‘hood experience, alas….


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