100 Best Restaurants 2011: Galileo III

Only the top 40 restaurants were ranked in 2011's Best Restaurants list.

This third incarnation of the restaurant that made Roberto Donna famous arrives in the wake of reports of the chef’s legal troubles and after the shuttering of his Bebo Trattoria, a Crystal City venture marked by abysmal service and often indifferent cooking. But here Donna is chef, not owner, leaving him to concentrate on what he does best: cook.

Almost lost amid his troubles with the law is the fact that Donna remains among the best in the business, capable of elevating a humble risotto into a dish of depth and distinction or bringing so much soulfulness to a chestnut soup that you forget the precious tableside pouring. His forte is pasta—agnolotti, ravioli, taglierini, all delicately fashioned and sauced.

The restaurant aims to deliver an experience somewhere between Donna’s famed Laboratorio, with its luxury excesses, and the comparative accessibility of the former Galileo. Diners choose three courses for $55, four for $72, five for $89. Portions are small and prices high—the marvelous branzino is one of the few courses sized like an entrée, but it comes with an upcharge.

Donna seems energized by the reboot, and his new staff is more accommodating and attentive than any the chef has had in years. Galileo isn’t what it was, and Donna isn’t what he was. And in some ways, that’s a good thing.

Also good: Budino of Parmesan, a cross between a savory crème brûlée and a rich parfait; cappellacci stuffed with squash; agnolotti stuffed with spinach and ricotta; black taglierini with lobster; gianduja semifreddo; chocolate torte.

Open Monday through Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturday for dinner. Expensive to very expensive.

 >> See all of 2011's 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.