GALLIC GALL: The food is fine at La Nicoise, an unpretentious Georgetown restaurant specializing in French and farce; still, the staff does everything in its power to distract patrons from the fare.
Their diversionary tactics include the cheeky effusiveness of owners Raymond Losito and Jean-Louis Martin, who may give you the old double-cheek kiss and a dollop of outrageous flattery as they lead you to your table; the famous rollerskating waiters, wheeling by in two lanes and weaving in and out among the closely packed tables (never fear: a house rule is "never serve anything flambe' on wheels"); and the kitschy, colorful murals of French street scenes.
But it's La Nicoise's raucous, rude after-dinner cabaret show -- perhaps the most enjoyably awful entertainment in town -- that really finishes the maneuvers.
The dessert dishes are barely cleared before the lowbrow, high camp, bawdy burlesque begins, starring a dedicated amateur cast of the owners, waiters and dishwashers, who will exact their revenge for the time you spilled the bordeaux or asked (sacre bleu!) for a doggy bag.
See, while you've been busy cleaning your plates, they've been scouring the crowd for likely patsies, and they delight in delivering impromptu insults and bad jokes in a patois thicker than the hollandaise.
Only the hardy (and the foolhardy) sit close to the stage -- veterans know that a vigorous spoof of the old Dubonnet commercial is coming up, and the performers zestfully drench the first row (towels are thoughtfully distributed before that bit).
According to one employee, the show "hasn't changed much in 17 years," and they wind up with the worst drag act you'll ever see -- all good fun, in bad taste. Just thank heaven that little girls aren't like the ones at La Nicoise.
LA NICOISE -- 1721 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Open seven days, 5:30-midnight p.m., show begins at 10 p.m. daily; 8 and 11 p.m. Saturdays. Entrees from $13.50-18.00. All major credit cards accepted. Call 965-9300.