January 2007: 100 Very Best Restaurants

No. 86: Notti Bianche

Has any restaurant space been more cursed than this one? For years the dining room of the GW Inn kept up a comical pattern of shuttering and reopening a few months later as something new. Even the decor feels temporary: Save for a few Italian liquor posters, the sponge-painted orange room is a holdover from Notti’s short-lived predecessor, Nectar—or is it from Zuki Moon, the noodle house there before that?

But Notti Bianche, which has drawn an audience beyond GW parents and Kennedy Center–goers, is likely to have staying power. That’s partly due to flexibility: Wines can be ordered in half pours, pastas in half portions. But it’s also thanks to chef Anthony Chittum, who has built a solid Italian-American repertoire that eschews red-sauce clichés.

A former protégé of Todd Gray at Equinox who just turned 30, Chittum doesn’t fall into the trap of showoffiness that’s common among young chefs. Plucking dishes from all over Italy, he’s content to tweak rather than reinvent. Carefully folded pasta kerchiefs hold smooth kabocha squash and are lightly dusted with crushed amaretti. The familiar duo prosciutto and melon gets new life from a few sprigs of fresh spearmint. If some of the simpler stuff—spaghetti with crushed tomatoes, roast chicken—is dull, other standards—like a light chicken-liver crostini or an eggplant caponata, the crown jewel of his bruschetta plate—are lovingly rendered.

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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 Logan Circle.