Peter Pastan's relaxed townhouse dining room.

From January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants

THE SCENE. This narrow dining room in a Dupont Circle townhouse might no longer be the subtly subversive place it was when it opened 18 years ago–insisting that fine dining could also be casual dining and making it safe for people to wear jeans out to dinner. But there's still a lot to be said for owner Peter Pastan's purist interpretation of Italian cooking, which relies almost exclusively on the simple goodness of first-rate ingredients.

WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. This is the kind of small, personal restaurant that most food lovers have dreamed of opening. Peter Pastan and his chef, Jerry Corso, actually have the skill to make it work.

WHAT YOU WON'T. Though there's more room to spread out, thanks to a recent refurbishing that jettisoned some tables, the atmosphere still can be claustrophobic and noisy when the restaurant is full–which it almost always is.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.