Spaghetti and meatballs have dominated the menus at the Italian restaurants that have opened here in the past couple of years, and Vento, with its delicate house-made pastas, breaks from the pack. But the restaurant, from the team behind Siroc, hasn’t opened to the good reviews its sibling garnered. The dining room tries for sleek and loungy but ends up dimmed and impersonal—it’d fit in at any slightly upscale hotel. And although it’s been open for almost half a year, the kitchen is still up and down: Highlights of a recent meal included a nicely lemony shrimp tagliatelle, a tangy grilled-octopus salad with olives and fingerlings, and a decadent but delicious bowl of gnocchi with Gorgonzola and baked pear. But on the same table there was a dry and grainy lamb sausage, polenta so crazy-rich that even a spoonful seemed like too much, and mediocre desserts that only reinforced that hotel-restaurant feeling. Despite the red-sauce boom, Washington doesn’t lack for Northern Italian cooking, and Vento is more gently priced than say, Tosca (or even Siroc). But it has a ways to go if it wants to catch up to the competition.
Vento, 2120 P St., NW; 202-833-1750. Open Monday through Saturday for dinner, Sunday for brunch and dinner.