Food

First Look: Locanda

Good grazing on the Hill

Tart, lemony dressing and nubs of ricotta make this zucchini carpaccio special. Photographs by Stacy Zarin-Goldberg.

If the mod home-decor store West Elm made a restaurant starter kit, it might look like this: a few wine racks, angular oak tables, and curvy orange plastic chairs. That plus a concrete floor and a series of blood-red paintings by an Adams Morgan artist are about all that decorates Locanda, a new Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill a few blocks from Barracks Row.

But while the less-than-original space feels stark, it doesn’t lack for warmth when owner Aykan Demiroglu is around. Clad in jeans and a polo shirt, the former Le Paradou general manager stays on a constant loop around the dining room, chatting with a clientele largely made up of Hill residents.

“Tuesdays are our Saturdays,” says Demiroglu, referring to the neighborhood patrons who treat the place as their eat-in kitchen during the workweek. And indeed the rustic plates—chicken under a brick, a Milanese-style pork chop—seem suited more to a family dinner than to a night on the town.

In the early evening, Locanda lures locals with 30 wines by the glass and a grazing-friendly menu of cheese, cured meats, and Mediterranean small plates. But miniature dishes such as a gritty fava-bean spread on crostini or a limp squash blossom stuffed with grainy mozzarella are outshone by larger appetizers like the zucchini carpaccio, a palette of green and yellow circles enlivened by a lemony dressing and soft nubs of ricotta.

Desserts, such as this gelato trio, are a highlight at Locanda.

Locanda makes its own fettuccine, gnocchi, and ravioli (fillings change daily) by hand. But two of the best pastas are store-bought. Thick loops of calamari-shaped noodles, tossed in a tangy green sauce of parsley, capers, and anchovies, are complemented by sweet grilled shrimp, clams and mussels in their shells, and rings of firm squid. And there’s an everything-but-the-cheeseboard mac-and-cheese with tube-shaped maccheroncelli—baked in a shallow cast-iron pan for maximum crustiness—with Tallegio, Gorgonzola, and Parmesan.

Cheese also finds its way into an unexpected but winning dessert: a fried turnover filled with pecorino and slathered with flowery Acacia honey. Nothing cookie-cutter about that.

 

Locanda, 633 Pennsylvania Ave., SE; 202-547-0002; locandadc.com. Entrées $11 to $25.

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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.

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