100 Best Restaurants 2010: Tosca

No. 33: Tosca

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.

Service: •••

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Very expensive.

See all of 2010's 100 Best Restaurants

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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.