100 Best Restaurants 2008: Vermilion

No. 45: Vermilion

Cuisine: Anthony Chittum, formerly at Notti Bianche, presides over an eclectic menu—it embraces the cooking of Italy, France, and the American South—that avoids gimmickry and splits the difference between trend and tradition, refinement and rusticity.

Mood: For years, the interior of this Old Town haunt was the draw, with its atmospherically lit downstairs, red-brick walls, and Colonial-era gas lamps. The cooking is now reason enough to visit.

Best for: Diners who relish simple cooking that minds the details; also anyone looking for a before- or after-dinner drink at the bar—the cocktails are potent and imaginative.

Best dishes: An elaborate charcuterie board served with pungent mostarda and pickled veggies; Gin Sin, an addictive, easy-to-drink cocktail of Hendrick’s gin, muddled mint, and seltzer; house-made fettuccine tossed with butter and partnered with a delicate whole trout; ravioli filled with smoked cheese; a brunch burger made of freshly ground meat; orange-blossom panna cotta.

Insider tips: Chittum trained with Todd Gray at Equinox, who trained under Roberto Donna—which means Chittum has a gift for pasta making. He’s also got a love for such old-fashioned crafts as casing and curing his own meats, so zero in on his excursions into sausage making. And don’t miss brunch, one of the best in the area.

Service: ••½

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.