Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.
Washington has seen a boom in Italian restaurants, from plate-passing spots for spaghetti and meatballs to lavish dining rooms for truffled risotto. Somewhere in between sits this shimmery hot spot, the latest creation from Ashok Bajaj, the mind behind Rasika and the Oval Room, among others.
In the front lounge, we could linger for hours over spiced-pear-and-vodka cocktails and tiny snacks such as roasted dates with pancetta, crisp arancini with tomato sauce, and buffalo-milk ricotta done up with rose honey and almonds.
Although the dining room can feel stiff (humorless service doesn’t help), it’s easy to get lost in a buttery bowl of squid-ink spaghetti with lump crab or one of pastry chef Douglas Hernandez’s terrific desserts. A few sips of Amari, an Italian liqueur flavored here with such accents as bitter orange and rhubarb, helps loosen things up.
Also good: Burrata salad with matsutake mushrooms; chicken-liver crostini; meatballs over rich polenta; strozzapretti, a tube-like pasta with pumpkin pesto and bread crumbs; sheep’s-milk-ricotta-filled agnolotti with lemon; grilled calamari and scallops with orange and fennel; ricotta cheesecake with orange; chocolate bombe.
Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Expensive.