No wonder the place is always buzzing. Not a seat free outside! We planned on eating in the bistro area in the back anyhow. I had called ahead because lunch in Byward Market is an inundation like no other. In some places, if they are any good, it is standing room only at lunch AND dinner time. Not something you want to go through when you have a small child. I always have my son with me when I dine, so this will ALWAYS be a consideration. They let me know that 11:30 was a good time to arrive, so I got there 5 minutes early. Lol...yeah, I'm that way. It gave me a chance to look around the market.
There wasn't a section of this place that wasn't crawling with people everywhere I turned. But it was time to get down to business. I looked at the menu at 9 am, long before I picked my Mister up from work. I had already done the all important line of questioning by asking what their customer favorites were and what their signature dishes were. My Mister ordered one that was on the list, but I went solo on my choice and ordered up the Club Italia; we got a little pizza with goat cheese for the Sprout.
While we waited for our order I took what small amount of pictures that I could. Quite frankly, there was no way to avoid pictures of other customers, but I did my best to protect their privacy.
Our Table More Seating
We weren't there very long before the Sprout was getting testy. It was nearing his nap time, so this didn't surprise me, but it gets old. Parents, I'm sure you know the feeling. They didn't have high chairs here but, that didn't seem to matter today. The Sprout demands more and more "big boy" things these days include no high chairs, glasses without lids and real utensils...we'll say it has been a "trial". When I asked for my usual "water with lemon please" they didn't have lemon in house. So, our waiter left and went across the street to a vendor in Byward Market and bought some. Nice guy. I really appreciated that. But, I'd think more about that later...our lunch was up, I was hungry....
The club had a chicken breast and pancetta, spread with pesto and melted friulano cheese on what seemed to be nicely toasted focaccia bread. The chicken was very moist but crisp on the outside; fitting the texture of the bread it was between. I love pancetta and prosciutto so short of serving it raw or burned you wreck either one. It was perfectly prepared. The friulano was a very nice addition of salt to the sandwich. I know sometimes it can have a hint of hazelnut to it and this is where things got tricky. The pesto has pinenuts... After a couple bites I felt like I was eating a nutty, chicken & pancetta sandwich. I didn't finish my other half. I brought it home and I am still working up the nerve to take a couple bites and see if this overly "nutty" experience is limited to the heat accentuating the oils in the nuts. It is quite possible that once cooked this sandwich would be better served cool... All in all...really you can't go wrong with a nice crusty breaded sandwich. But I could have done without the salad, if you could call it that. In one bite it was clear this was just an oil & balsamic drizzle; devoid of any flavor but those two elements. It was in serious need of a bit of sea salt, garlic and perhaps some crushed red pepper or basil. Or BOTH. I finished it because every girl should eat her greens (especially when your 18 month old is watching!) but I had to add some salt and pepper before I could take another bite.
Before I came the people I talked to on the phone told me that their busiest day is Wednesday, when their lunch special is spaghetti and meatballs. It was pasta primavera today. I saw a couple people order it. I also eyed some refrigerated cases in the market area that had fresh made pasta that you could take home and boil for dinner. I'm guessing they are more known for their pasta than anything else. If we ever go back, I'll be certain to order the pasta. If indeed....
I decided the one thing I could love about this meal was the bread my sandwich came on. Before we skidaddled out of there I grabbed a loaf of focaccia for home. I paid the bill and we were on our way. I won't lie; I've had WAY worse experiences in town. But, would I go back? The jury is out. If you've had better experiences, feel free to let me know. For the service, I'd totally be willing to give them another shot. Making you feel comfortable and taken care of can heal even the freshest of wounds. The place has a history, no doubt they have potential; I'm a sucker for effort. If you have the time and you're down on George Street around 11...detour to La Bottega... Let me know what you got, how it tasted and if you'd go back. I'm very curious. I went there wanting to love it and left wishing I could have liked it more.