It was less than a year ago that Hakan Ilhan opened Al Dente and tapped veteran chef Roberto Donna to lead the kitchen, and already the duo are planning to expand. Donna tells us a new 180-seat restaurant—equipped with another 120 patio seats—is on track for a late summer or early fall opening at the corner of Fourth and I streets, Northwest. The name: Alba Osteria, an homage to truffle-centric Alba, Italy, where the team recently traveled.
Details are still being worked out, but the concept will be as casual as its Upper Northwest sister restaurant (don’t go looking for Galileo IV) and geared toward a young Penn Quarter-area crowd. Expect an expansive bar with plenty of beers and wines by the glass, plus a large salumi counter. There will be pastas and pizzas—a wood-burning Italian oven is already set in the space. The menu will be divided by dish types, as opposed to courses, so you might find a meatball section featuring three different varieties, and other trios of options in such categories as gnocchi, fresh fettuccine, stuffed pastas, veal, and chicken. A few dishes will come from Al Dente, but most of the offerings will be new.
Planning for a new restaurant isn’t the only thing keeping Donna busy these days. At Al Dente, he has started up a smaller version of his much-lauded and lamented Laboratorio del Galileo. He’s calling it “Roberto’s 4,” which refers to the four counter seats opposite the open kitchen where he cooks. The 12-plus courses include such Laboratorio revivals as pasta alla chitarra with sea urchin, diver scallop crudo with Ligurian olive oil, roasted squab breast with duck liver, and gnocchi with lobster sauce. It’s $85 per person, with an optional $45 wine pairing, and the meal is only available Tuesday through Thursday for one 7 PM seating (to make a reservation, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org).
Check back in for more details as the project develops.