Big-name New York restaurateurs chef Michael White and Ahmass Fakahany aren’t finished opening restaurants in DC. It’s been five years since the Altamarea Group owners debuted their first Washington eatery, Osteria Morini, in Navy Yard. Now they’re ramping up again for new project in Mt. Vernon Triangle: Nicoletta Italian Kitchen, a pizza and pasta-centric joint slated to open by late fall.
“We take our time,” says White. “Opening restaurants is one thing, but having the longevity and keeping them flourishing is another.”
Altamarea’s collection of NYC Italian restaurants varies widely in price and vibe, from luxe seafood spot Marea to East Village pizzeria Nicoletta. The new DC outpost will land somewhere in the middle. Though it takes its name from the pie shop, Nicoletta Italian Kitchen is a new venture that involves more than just pizza (though there’ll be plenty of that, too). White says the idea is to channel an Italian piazza where people can gather and graze.
“I know the word ‘community’ has been played out, but that’s what a piazza is,” says White. “People are congregating. You can get a pizzetta, a piece of nougat, some cafe or cappuccino.”
The menu is still in development, but diners can expect a range of homemade pastas like rustic tagliatelle ragu or lasagna with “super crispy and crunchy in the corners.” Lighter fare will include entree salads such as roasted vegetables and faro. A full bar will pour Italian-inspired cocktails, beers, and wines.
Like at Nicoletta, the hand-tossed pizzas will be made with a three-day fermentation process for the dough, which helps develop a rich flavor. The sturdy crust leans medium in thickness—no soupy Neapolitan here—and takes cues from both White’s native Wisconsin as well as his adopted Italy. His favorite pie: the Calabrese, with homemade fennel sausage cooked directly on the crust to catch all the sausage-y flavor, plus a rustic tomato sauce, mozzarella, onions, and thick-cut pepperoni.
“That’s the meat lovers pizza, if you will,” says White.
Nicoletta Italian Kitchen. 901 Fourth St., NW.