The Italian Invasion: A Guide to the Many Pizza and Pasta Spots Popping Up in Washington

The era of the wood-fired pie on every corner has arrived. Pour yourself a Negroni and let’s get into it.

By: Jessica Voelker

Pop culture continues to obsess over the zombie invasion, but a wave of new spots shilling wood-fired pies, house-made pastas, and Negronis by the gallon mean that here in Washington, we’ll likely be undone by carbs and cocktails by the time the brain-munching undead arrive. In addition to these new spots, we’ve seen an overhaul at Elisir—now rustic-casual Osteria Elisir—a remodeled beer bar at Pizzeria Paradiso in Georgetown, and a G sandwich pop-up at Penn Quarter’s Graffiato. There’s no doubt Italian is taking over Washington. Let’s get into it.

Currently open:

Ancora

600 New Hampshire Ave., NW

The gist: After closing the long-running Kinkead’s in Foggy Bottom, chef/restaurateur Bob Kinkead opened this Italian restaurant in the former home of Rivers at the Watergate. Think of it as a sort of elaborate pop-up—the restaurant will close temporarily in the fall for a much-needed decorative overhaul.

Menu: The meal begins with antipasti, salads, and some crudo dishes, and seafood master Kinkead divides the secondi options into fish and meat dishes. A list of shared plates includes tuna carpaccio, crostini, and a salumi plate.

Also there’s: A fast-casual lunchtime spot, Campono, set to open next door with brick-oven pizzas, subs, and panini, salads and gelato, and coffee and pastries in the morning. That should be up and running in August.

Negroni situation: The half-moon bar is your best bet for negronking yourself before or after a show at the Kennedy Center.

Opened: February 2013

Amusing something that has been Yelped about it: “Wondering if ‘Brand of Bob’ is the reason for the prices” —Denis O.


Etto

1541 14th St., NW

The gist: A 42-seat, no-reservations spot from the owners of 2 Amys and the Standard.

Menu: Think thin-crust, wood-fired pies, meats, and fresh burrata and ricotta, plus salads and fish dishes.

Also there’s: A much-buzzed-about chocolate salami among the dessert selections.

Negroni situation: Etto’s rendition of the classic Campari cocktail uses local Green Hat gin and house-made red vermouth.

Opened: May 2013

Amusing something that has been Yelped about it: “None of this ‘compromising the integrity of the dish’ blather I sometimes get.” —Margie H.


Ghibellina

1610 14th St., NW

The gist: It’s a wood-fired-pizza-and-small-plates spot from the owners of Acqua Al 2 in Eastern Market. Ample bar space includes a street-view perch up front for pizza and drinks, a long section lining the restaurant where the full menu can be ordered, and a horseshoe-shaped area for beverages only.

Menu: Executive chef Jonathan Copeland curated the list of soup, salad, pasta, pizza, meats, contorni (side dishes), samplings of cheeses and salami, and amply portioned secondi that make up this menu.

Also there’s: Six Italian beers among the craft brew selection, including the tasty Baladin Nora.

Negroni situation: Fans of the cocktail will find a welcome variation in the Formula di Camino, with Beefeater gin, Carpano Antica sweet vermouth, and bitters.

Opened: May 2013

Amusing something that has been Yelped about it: “The reason for 4 stars only—THE BATHROOM SINKS. 2 and a half inches from where the water comes out to the bowl. YA can’t fit your hands under it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! if you try it’s WATER VILLAGE UP IN THERE!” —Paul W.


La Tagliatella

2950 Clarendon Blvd., Arlington

The gist: A 20-year-old European import debuted its first Washington-area outpost in Clarendon this spring and has quickly become a favorite spot for happy hour.

Menu: Among salads, antipasti, risotto options, pizza, and calzones lies a selection of gratinati that includes four types of lasagna. It’s a very large menu.

Also there’s: Two outdoor dining patios, where the daily HH is available 4 to 7 on weekdays and Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 to 4.

Negroni situation: Generally, the cocktail list seems to cater to sweeter palates. Witness the Tiramisu-Tini, with Van Gogh vanilla vodka, Patrón XO Cafe, amaretto, cream, and espresso. But surely they can Negroni you upon request.

Opened: April 2013

Amusing something that has been Yelped about it: “They actually don’t have any chicken in the restaurant. No chicken Parm. No chicken alfredo. Just no chicken at all.” —Julie K.


Ninnella

106 13th St., SE

The gist: Three Italian-food vets have opened this cozy neighborhood pasta spot in the former Park Cafe on the eastern edge of Capitol Hill’s Lincoln Park.

Menu: Antipasti, handmade pastas, lamb ragu lasagna with butternut squash, tomato sauce, and grana cheese, a roasted lamb rack, and tiramisu and panna cotta for dessert.

Also there’s: A four-seat cedar bar.

Negroni situation: There’s something about the atmosphere—long, skinny room, warm light, gaslight fireplace—that makes us more likely to request a fruity Italian red from the cellar.

Opened: February 2013

Amusing something that has been Yelped about it: “The lazagna is perfect—not too heavy and just the right portion so I don’t feel like I have to feed everyone at my table.” —Nate H.


Piola

2208 14th St., NW

The gist: The globe-dotting pizza chain founded in Treviso, Italy, made its Washington-area debut in Arlington. Its new 14th Street location has exposed-brick walls and piping and vaulted ceilings.

Menu: Choose from 40 different brick-oven, thin-crust pies, plus antipasti and pastas.

Also there’s: A daily 5-to-8 happy hour with free snacks.

Negroni situation: Plan to take a cab home. The bitter gin drink will run you just $7.50 at Piola.

Opened: May 2013

Amusing something that has been Yelped about it: “Piola feels like a mediocre pizza place that belongs in Chinatown.” —Adam D.


The Red Hen

1822 First St., NW

The gist: The smell of roasting garlic fills the section of Bloomingdale now home to this sophisticated but relaxed neighborhood restaurant with Italian-inspired dishes—a collaboration between chef Michael Friedman and restaurant vets Sebastian Zutant and Mike O’Malley.

Menu

Also there’s: Reservations! The restaurant does reserve seats for walk-ins, but you can plan ahead and secure a table.

Negroni situation: Red Hen’s version—gin, Cocchi Americano, and Sicilian orange and maraschino liqueurs—is our favorite of the drinks we’ve tried there so far.

Opened: April 2013

Amusing something that has been Yelped about it: “A bit pretentious with describing their food (‘how the Romans ate?’ I doubt it, and it shouldn’t matter).” —F.Q.


Vendetta

1212 H St., NE

The gist: Blair Zervos, Jimmy Silk, Ricardo Vergara, and H Street nightclub despot Joe Englert have replaced the beloved Red Palace with this red-sauce restaurant where Vespas hang from the ceiling.

Menu: Antipasti, salads, pastas with mix-and-match sauces, and a cocktail menu featuring Italian amari with some riffs on classic drinks.

Negroni situation: The house version adds orange juice to the mix.

Also there’s: Two 25-foot indoor bocce courts, $4 on-tap Prosecco during happy hour, and outdoor “grotto” seating.

Opened: May 2013

Amusing something that has been Yelped about it: “A huge rabbit bone that somehow found its way on the plate represented a potential choking disaster.” ­—Venu N.


Coming soon:

Alba Osteria

Fourth and I streets, Northwest

What we know: This casual spot from Hakan Ilhan and Roberto Donna, the owner and chef at easygoing Al Dente near American University, pays homage to Italy’s Alba region with meatballs, pastas both stuffed and stringlike, and—you guessed it—wood-oven pizza.

Also there’s: A salumi counter and a big bar.


Arcuri

2400 Wisconsin Ave., NW

What we know: Wood-burning pies are the main event at this Glover Park spot in the former home of Kavanaugh’s Pizza Pub. The restaurant’s four owners have overhauled the space for a neighborhood trattoria look—chef Dick Jones’s list of dishes will also include crostini and house-made pastas, according to Eater. The restaurant hosted an open house on June 1, so this should happen any day now.

Also there’s: House-made limoncello.


Bar di Bari

1401 R St., NW

What we know: Washington Business Journal sleuthed out this new wine-and-coffee cafe from Aaron Gordon (Red Velvet, Fat Shorty’s, Drafting Table, that debacle-plagued doughnut shop          on P Street) at 14th and R streets, Northwest.

Also there’s: A 52-seat patio.


Casa Luca

1099 New York Ave., NW

What we know: The vacated home of Againn will become casual Casa Luca, a restaurant named for the young son of Fiola chef/owner Fabio Trabocchi that is set to open this summer. Rustic dishes—grilled meats, pastas, meat and cheese plates, and entrées such as porchetta-style monkfish with baby artichokes—will be accompanied by on-tap wines by the glass and cocktails from Jeff Faile, bar manager at Trabocchi’s Fiola (and, we should say, in large part responsible for our obsession with Negronis).

Also there’s: An overhauled interior by designer Peter Hapstak.


Fiola Mare

3050 K St., NW

What we know: Trabocchi’s other new project, a seafood-focused Georgetown waterfront restaurant, should open by the end of the year. Inspired by the chef/owner’s experiences along the Adriatic Coast, Fiola Mare will feature a raw bar, seafood pastas, and whole fish dishes carved tableside. The 9,000-square-foot restaurant will have a 20-seat bar with even more cocktails from Faile and a global selection of wines.

Also there’s: Valet parking.


G

2201 14th St., NW

What we know: Mike Isabella already opened one location of his Italian-style sandwich shop G GrabAndGo in Edison, New Jersey, but the one slated for 14th Street will also include a nightly dinner service—four courses are $40, and the chef will cook dishes inspired by the ingredients of the day.

Also there’s: Kapnos, Isabella’s Greek restaurant next door. Both spots should open this summer.


Greenhouse Bistro

2030 M St., NW

What we know: Masoud Aboughaddareh, owner of Fujibar and Barcode, is planning an Italian restaurant with an enclosed herb garden in the former Hudson space in the West End. The restaurant is already equipped with a pizza oven; expect pastas and sandwiches along with pies.

Also there’s: Brunch.


Gregorio’s Trattoria

7745 Tuckerman La., Potomac

What we know: Fans of the fare at Mamma Lucia will be happy to hear that the unfussy Italian dishes will be available in the Cabin John location formerly home to Umberto’s. Bethesda Magazine reports that father-son owners Donald and Greg Kahan are also planning to change the name of their Reston restaurant.

Menu: Italian-American favorites—scampi with linguini, lasagna, cannoli, and tiramisu dominate the edible oeuvre at Mama Lucia.


Italian Gourmet Deli

1707 L St., NW

What we know: Popville first noted a sign in the window of a former Quizno’s near the Farragut North metro. The chain serves breakfast panini and full-on egg entrées in the morning, and sandwiches, burgers, subs, soups, and salads at lunch.

Also there’s: Locations in Chantilly and Alexandria.


M Café Bar

1634 14th St., NW

What we know: The Chevy Chase restaurant, offering options such as calamari, pastas, thin-crust pies, and cannoli, has relocated to 14th and R streets, Northwest, and should reopen any day now.

Also there’s: Outdoor seating.


Nicoletta Pizzeria

355 Water St., SE

What we know: New York restaurateur Michael White brings his pie concept to the seasonal stalls at Yards Park—it should be serving this fall.

Also there’s: Gluten-free pizza.


Osteria Morini

301 Water St., SE

What we know: Nearby at the Lumber Shed, look out for a 4,250-square-foot outpost of White’s SoHo concept, Osteria Morini. The restaurant serves dishes from Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region—a lot of pastas and roasted and grilled meats—which will be offered in individual and family-style portions. Last we heard, it was due to debut this summer.

Also there’s: A plan to offer seafood selections not found in New York, a nod to the waterfront location of the Washington spot.


Pete’s Silver Spring

962 Wayne Ave., Silver Spring

What we know: Silver Spring will be home to the fourth location of the consistently excellent Pete’s this month. The restaurant will be helmed by chef Alisa Rivkin, reports Eater DC.

Also there’s: Calamari—at Silver Spring, Eater says Rivkin will likely add her own rendition of the fried rings to the standard Pete’s menu.