At D’Acqua, the rooms have been given an Italianate polish, with sponge-painted terra-cotta walls and Adriatic-blue tablecloths. Only the dropped ceilings and garish exit signs are remnants of the dining room that was Jack Abramoff’s Signatures. It’s a new day for a notorious space.
The politicos who made Signatures their roost have yet to embrace Francesco Ricchi’s new place, which means that the attraction at the bar is not the nightly meeting of movers and shakers but the display of fresh seafood: red snapper and bronzino nestled in ice along with clusters of oysters, langoustines, and octopus.
Take your cue from the display and focus on dishes truest to the Italian spirit of freshness and simplicity—dishes prepared by chef Enzo Febbraro with a minimum of flash and adornments. That means a whole roasted bronzino or heaping, sharable bowls of pasta—a linguine alle vongole is loaded with fresh baby clams—or a beautifully grilled Cornish hen.
More complicated preparations can disappoint. One night’s appetizers included a soggy fritto misto, an Italian-style shrimp tempura with agrodolce that would be at home at P.F. Chang’s, and a vegetable terrine that was more about looks than taste. And desserts might leave you wanting. There’s an $8 arrangement of sfogliatelle, the mille-feuille-like pastries you can find for less than a dollar in Little Italy delis (they’re better up there), and scoops of rich but icy gelato made off-site by a former Galileo pastry chef.
If the affable Ricchi is around, he might walk you over to the display and open the cavity of the bronzino to show off the redness of its blood (“So fresh!”) or discourse on the glories of the salt-crusted turbot. Domed in salt, then baked, the shell is cracked open at the table with a flourish. Its silken deliciousness will cost you: A two-pound serving, which feeds two dainty eaters, goes for $64.
D’Acqua, 801 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; 202-783-7717; dacquadc.com.