“Esquire” Names Roberto Donna Chef of the Year

The controversial Italian chef is reemerging in the spotlight.

By: Anna Spiegel

It’s been quite a week for Washington dining and drinking spots in the national press. Esquire just posted its annual roundup of Best New Restaurants. Sadly there’s not a single DC eatery among the top 15 (Bon App├ętit disagrees), but one well-known face made the list: Roberto Donna, who clinched Chef of the Year for his recent reemergence at Al Dente (formerly La Forchetta) in Upper Northwest.

Critic John Mariani notes in his writeup that Donna, “despite being one of America’s greatest chefs . . . had a habit of leaving restaurants before the paint dried.” There’s no mention of why Donna departed said restaurants (multiple lawsuits, perhaps?), among them the original Galileo that put him—and high-end Italian food in Washington—on the map, Bebo Trattoria, and Galileo III. Maybe Al Dente is the official new era that Donna has been striving for. Mariana marvels that “he’s cooking his pants off, serving dishes so deceptively simple they seem like sleight of hand.”

Check out the issue when it hits on the stands on October 16 for a “classic” recipe from the Italian toque.