Caruso’s impresses

A look into new Italian restaurant at Pike and Rose


Sophie Schwartz

Caruso’s brings a taste of Italy to Bethesda with its authentic food and environment.

 As the door to the kitchen opens and a server walks out with my pasta, I’m overwhelmed by the smell of fresh pesto and sizzling cheese. My impatient stomach grumbles as I wait to try the mouthwatering dish. 

Italian restaurant Caruso’s Grocery pays homage to traditional Italian-American food inspired by the classic ‘red sauce’ joint. Its first location opened on Capitol Hill on May 12, 2021 and its second location opened in Pike and Rose on Dec. 4, 2022.

Caruso’s in Pike and Rose isn’t found on a main road, so you have to walk through a separate restaurant called Owen’s Tavern & Garden to get inside, making it difficult to find. However, once I was it was worth the initial effort. 

The walls were beautifully decorated with antique picture frames. Black and white photos of families covered the ceiling, giving the restaurant a nostalgic and homey feel. The wooden tables, chairs and shelves gave the space a warm atmosphere and the leather chairs and wallpaper added pops of color to the space. 

My friend and I went on a weekday, so it was not very busy and we were able to be seated before our reservation. The servers were very friendly and routinely checked in on us to see if we needed anything. 

For my salad course, I had the “roasted garlic Caesar” ($11.75). The romaine lettuce tasted fresh and had a nice crunch, which made it the perfect canvas for the lemony and well-seasoned Caesar dressing. The croutons had just the right amount of parmesan and added crunchiness to the salad. However, the garlic flavor did not come through. Despite this, I would certainly suggest ordering it if you’re a salad lover. 

The second appetizer that I ordered was the “creamy burrata” ($15.50) and it lived up to its name. The velvety burrata melted in my mouth and paired perfectly with the fresh pesto that accompanied it. Also, it came with garlic bread that was crunchy on the outside and warm and fluffy on the inside, making it one of my favorite dishes. 

I ordered the “penne alla vodka” ($21.50) for my first entree without the prosciutto. The pasta was well cooked and the peas were an unexpected addition, making the pasta all the tastier. The sauce packed a punch, however, the sharp flavor that the vodka added somewhat overpowered the freshness of the tomato, so I would recommend asking for a little bit of parmesan cheese to make it worth ordering.

For our second entree, I ordered the “​​gnocchi alla genovese” ($21.75). Doused in a creamy and rich pesto sauce, the gnocchi had the right balance of chewy and soft texture. Toasted pignoli nuts sprinkled over the sauce added a nice nutty flavor. To cut out the richness of the sauce, a little lemon juice would have helped the dish, but it was definitely worth ordering.

Even when I felt like I couldn’t eat anything more, I ordered the “nutella cannolis” ($11.50) for dessert. The cannoli shell was crunchy and not too sweet, which allowed the creamy Nutella filling to shine through. On top of the cannolis were chocolate chips and hazelnuts, which enhanced the Nutella flavor. The cannoli had the perfect balance of crunchy and smooth texture making it the perfect way to end the meal. 

While the price of some of the dishes were on the higher end, the quality of the food and the portion size made up for it. 

In addition to the quality of the food, Caruso’s atmosphere made the dining experience more enjoyable. Parallel to our table was a big black window that looked into the kitchen. My friend and I were able to hear music playing and could see the servers and chefs dancing and smiling. Knowing that the people working there were enjoying themselves made our experience even nicer. 

Caruso’s truly exemplifies the appeal of classic Italian-American dining. The food was scrumptious, the prices were acceptable and the overall atmosphere was homey and comfortable. The next time you are craving traditional Italian-American food, I strongly recommend going to Caruso’s.