January, 2004: Cafe Milano

To fully appreciate the success of Franco Nuschese's Italian restaurant, drop in late at night when the bar and dining room are packed with an international crowd of socialites, celebrities, movers and shakers, and patrons who aspire to be any of the abov

To fully appreciate the success of Franco Nuschese's Italian restaurant, drop in late at night when the bar and dining room are packed with an international crowd of socialites, celebrities, movers and shakers, and patrons who aspire to be any of the above. To appreciate the food, it's probably better to go at lunchtime, when the atmosphere is more relaxed and the restaurant is populated mostly by ladies taking a break from a day of shopping in Georgetown. It's to Nuschese's credit–and that of his executive chef, Domenico Cornacchia–that both crowds feel at home.

Cornacchia's menu mixes the familiar and the surprising, never losing sight of the basic simplicity of good Italian cooking–antipasti of crisply fried calamari and baby smelts or stuffed olives, Ascolana-style with caponata; pastas named for famous design houses, such as the very good Orecchiette Kiton, with artichokes, anchovies, and air-dried ricotta; simple second courses like a crisp-skinned sea bass in a herby tomato broth with couscous or roast chicken with Jerusalem artichokes and wild mushrooms. Café Milano is an all-too-rare combination of style and substance.

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