“Esquire” Names Roberto Donna Chef of the Year

The controversial Italian chef is reemerging in the spotlight.

Roberto Donna wins (back) points for his work in the kitchen at Al Dente. Photograph by Scott Suchman

It’s been quite a week for Washington dining and drinking

in the national press.
Esquire just posted its annual roundup of Best New

Sadly there’s not a single DC eatery among the top 15 (Bon Appétit disagrees),
but one well-known face made the list:
Roberto Donna, who clinched Chef of the Year
for his recent reemergence at Al

(formerly La Forchetta) in Upper Northwest.

John Mariani notes in his

that Donna, “despite being one of America’s greatest chefs . . .
had a habit of leaving
restaurants before the paint dried.” There’s no mention of why
Donna departed said
restaurants (multiple

perhaps?), among them the original

that put him—and high-end Italian food in Washington—on the
map, Bebo

and Galileo
. Maybe

Al Dente is the official new era that Donna has been striving
for. Mariana marvels
that “he’s cooking his pants off, serving dishes so deceptively
simple they seem like
sleight of hand.”

Check out the issue when it hits on the stands on October 16 for a “classic” recipe
from the Italian toque.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.