Pasta Italiana is a 5-year-old Woodley Park restaurant with more than 80 reviews and a one-star overall rating on Yelp. Ouch. Slams include “You would be happier with a bag of chips from the liquor store next door.” Curious if this was a case of Yelp bullying, Express asked Tim Carman, a food writer for The Washington Post, to dine at Pasta Italiana and review his experience. He graciously (and bravely) obliged, and this is his report. You can also read how Pasta Italiana’s manager feels about the restaurant’s poor Yelp reviews here. (Holley Simmons/Express)

Before digging into my plate of lobster ravioli with pink cream sauce I dug into the Yelp reviews of Pasta Italiana, a shopworn eatery in Woodley Park. The restaurant takes more hits than a tackling dummy.

You could argue that Pasta Italiana, like that tackling dummy, has been designed for abuse. The place sets itself up for a fight before you take a bite: It trumpets the word “organic” on the front door. Its wait staff may or may not, depending on whom you ask, claim the pasta is made in-house.

The place all but has a “Kick Me” sign taped to its back.

And kick it you will once the food arrives. The garlic-cream sauce draped over flabby, overcooked cheese ravioli was chunky and lukewarm; if there was garlic in the sauce, only a beagle could detect it. The gnocchi was a mountain of gluey pasta covered in a meat sauce many degrees shy of hot; the gnocchi sat on the plate, solid and immovable, as if molded from clay. The lobster ravioli came stuffed with a stringy mixture speckled with tiny dices of the advertised crustacean but tasting more like crab sticks.

Pasta Italiana feels as if it were still trading on its location, a mere half-mile from the National Zoological Park, trusting tourists will accept this halfhearted fare as a quick solution to quiet hungry, sunburned kids. But it may be living on borrowed time: Two parties at tables near me fled the scene before ordering a single dish, clearly heeding the warning signs around them.

Diners are smart these days; the Yelp reviews reflect this fact.

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