A few weeks ago, I was able to visit the new and improved Cesco Osteria and Co2 Lounge on Woodmont Avenue in Bethesda. Most people would be familiar with this locale from its predecessor, McCormick and Schmick’s, known for their fresh seafood and famously good happy hour. Unfortunately, their lease was up and they decided not to renew, so Cesco decided to jump into the space.
Cesco has for years lived on a corner block on Cordell Avenue, and earned a reputation over the years for quality Italian food from head chef Francesco Ricci. Brett and I have always wanted to try their food but never had the opportunity. So when I went to lunch with a few coworkers and vendors we do business with, this was one of the first places that came to mind.
Walking in, the space was huge. It seemed even bigger than when McCormick was there. We were seated right away and I immediately recognized our waiter from Mussel Bar. I guess they had recruited him over to the new digs. For lunch, there are essentially two menus to choose from — the main menu has more formal signature dishes from the chef, while the casual menus (which were also our placemats) included pizza and build-your-own pasta or salad with different ingredients.
I ordered the soup of the day, which was lobster bisque with angel hair pasta. It wasn’t cream-based so I didn’t find it very heavy, and it served as a nice starter. I tried not to consume all of the pasta in the soup since I knew I wanted pasta for my entrée.
I decided to try a homemade pasta dish and went with the gnocchi with roasted vegetables, ricotta, and a light tomato sauce. I have to say, this might have been one of the better gnocchi dishes I have had recently. The potato dumplings themselves were light and fluffy and paired really well with the roasted vegetables that seemed almost like a ratatouille. There was just enough sauce to bind everything together but it wasn’t too much where that was all you tasted. I really loved my entree and could have easily finished the very large portion but somehow made it home with enough to share with Brett. He agreed that it was a great gnocchi preparation and expressed his eagerness to try Cesco as well.
Overall, everyone was happy with their dishes and enjoyed the service and atmosphere. I would come again to try one of their build-your-own pasta dishes and see what their happy hour is like.
I should state that this review is solely for Cesco Osteria and not its new counterpart lounge, Co2 Lounge. There are many things I could say about that, but I’ll just let the press release speak for itself. One bit of advice for the restaurant: we know you want to be exclusive for your club, but just having a sign-up form on your website is not an inviting way to get to know a restaurant. It would be helpful to also post information on the restaurant, the chef, and the menus. In the world of Yelp and Facebook, no one wants to be surprised with menus or prices before eating somewhere.