For Intrigue and Imbibing, the Roger Smith Hotel Was Tops

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By The Metropolist
Friday, April 3, 2009

Our alphabetical march down memory lane grows ever closer to its natural conclusion at the letter "Z."

The Roger Smith Hotel

A decade earlier, my sister Dorothy had enjoyed dancing on the Roof Garden of the Roger Smith Hotel. Now it was the late 1940s. Washington was caught up in finding and indicting Soviet spies. The names of Whittaker Chambers and Alger Hiss were on the front pages of The Washington Post and The Washington Star. The downstairs lounge of the Roger Smith Hotel was the perfect place for my date and I to discuss those exciting times.

He was an attorney whose job entailed finding communists working for the government, a perfect subject for a darkened piano lounge and two people enjoying tall drinks.

-- Louise Diver, Montgomery Village

Roma Restaurant

Their food was good, although not spectacular, but it is the only Italian restaurant I know of that had an African theme. At the entrance you were greeted by a stuffed tiger and the wall decoration featured African animal trophy heads. Also, most of the excellent waitresses were from Africa. The best part was the outdoor courtyard in the back of the restaurant away from the traffic noise and fumes. There you could spend a romantic summer evening, under a real grape arbor, enjoying your meal while being serenaded by a piano player and strolling violinist.

-- Nancy Pearson, Kensington

I lived in the neighborhood, and it was one of my favorite places for many reasons. Anna Abbo, widow of Frank, was always fashionably dressed as she ushered patrons to their tables and shared gossip with those she knew well.

The beautiful murals on the walls; the stuffed animals which were a souvenir of Frank's safaris; bartenders Lois Rothwell, John "Squid" Squitera and Vinny Baretta. Especially Squid, who would regale the patrons with stories of coming to Washington immediately after World War II. Playing bridge there on Monday nights. Wonderful southern Italian food. My favorite was always the stracciatella soup, which wasn't made very often. Mrs. Abbo would call me at work to alert me that the chef had made a batch and if I couldn't get there during the day, she would save two bowls for me to collect after work.


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