100 Best Restaurants 2008: Notti Bianche

No. 89: Notti Bianche

Cuisine: Simple trattoria fare—spaghetti pomodoro, Caesar salad—with enlivening details courtesy of new toque Brendan Cox, who also runs the kitchen at Circle Bistro: The carpaccio, for example, is made of boar, not beef. A cut of striped bass bears an invisible dusting of fennel pollen.

Mood: In Italy, many restaurants are dead before 9 pm. At this relaxed dining room, the grappas tend to get poured earlier—especially when there’s a show at the nearby Kennedy Center.

Best for: Pre- and posttheater dinners, a low-key lunch, a meal by yourself.

Best dishes: Lightly seared diver scallops with house-made pancetta; tissue-thin slices of wild-boar carpaccio crowned with frizzled beets; sweet-potato ravioli topped with sage and Parmesan; linguine with vermouth and a generous serving of mussels and sweet Maine shrimp; pork Milanese with pickled wax beans, onions, and carrots; lemon-mascarpone cheesecake.

Insider tips: Unless you’re sharing, order pasta in half portions—they’re substantial enough to be entrées. Many of the boutique wines are available by the half pour.

Service: ••

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.