Cuisine: Washington has never been blessed with an abundance of Italian restaurants—until 2009, when we saw an explosion of pizza-and-pasta shops and every third restaurant opening seemed to trot out a version of grandmother’s meatballs in red sauce. Competition notwithstanding, this expense-account haven remains virtually unchallenged as the premier destination for Northern Italian refinement. Chef Massimo Fabbri is a virtuoso of pasta, which he makes daily.
Mood: The beige dining room is as bland as the food is comforting—pleasing the lawyers and lobbyists who flock here to talk business and twirl tagliatelle. Servers are polished if a bit mechanical, but they’re fluid in a way that recalls the era that their white jackets and bow ties suggest.
Best for: A client lunch or dinner.
Best dishes: Simple but satisfying salads, including one with shaved radicchio, poached pears, and a square of Gorgonzola or soft buffalo mozzarella with a mosaic of beets; ribbons of carrot pappardelle sauced with rabbit ragu; small pillows of ravioli concealing veal, prosciutto, and mortadella in a rich wine reduction; deconstructed carrot cake; bomboloni bursting with pomegranate reduction and served with bittersweet-chocolate gelato.
Insider tips: For a livelier experience, sit at the bar, where happy hour—nightly from 5:30 on—means free plates of sausage and baskets of focaccia and you can get an affordable half order of pasta.
Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.