Food

Our Take on Three New DC-Area Italian Restaurants

Lupo Verde Osteria, Mia's Italian Kitchen, and San Lorenzo—reviewed.
Chocolate-coffee semifreddo at Lupo Verde Osteria.

Lupo Verde Osteria

4814 MacArthur Blvd., NW; 202-506-6683

You can expect certain qualities at Med Lahlou’s Lupo restaurants. Stylish spaces are a given, whether at the 14th Street flagship, Lupo Verde; Lupo Marino at the Wharf; or this Palisades osteria. The last of these, which includes a cafe and market, is in an intimate converted house. Another plus: cocktails designed by local amaro maker Francesco Amodeo. Try the Toto, with vodka, Mandarin liqueur, vermouth, and basil.

The wildcard is the food. There are a few oddball pairings—octopus with watermelon, kale, and potato chips comes to mind—though execution is a bigger issue. A seafood pasta is comforting, while garlic-cream-filled ravioli arrive cold. Artichokes are beautifully fried, but a steak is tough, served with unripe peaches. Such flaws are more forgivable at a true neighborhood osteria. With entrées reaching $42, they’re harder to swallow. Perhaps chef Todd Sprik, who recently took over, can render the food as swoon-worthy as the setting. Expensive.

Mia’s Italian Kitchen

100 King St., Alexandria; 703-997-5300

Clams oreganata at Mia’s Italian Kitchen.
Clams oreganata at Mia’s Italian Kitchen.

The latest offering from Alexandria Restaurant Partners—which runs a diverse array of places in and near Old Town—looks more Italian-American-themed than actually Italian-American. The darkly lit dining room is done up with raw-brick walls, maroon leather banquettes, and ceilings painted like the Sistine Chapel. The menu takes a wide-armed approach to the cuisine—with giant mozzarella-stuffed meatballs and Italian beef sandwiches alongside egg-yolk ravioli with sage-scented brown butter and grilled branzino with puttanesca sauce.

We start with a round of clams oreganata—cherrystones stuffed with bread crumbs, oregano, and lots of lemon—and a fat loaf of cheese-rippled bread. Crisp-bottomed pizzas are among the surest bets, whether topped with salami and honey or sausage and peppers. Pastas have been less consistent—cacio e pepe was robustly seasoned but overcooked, while rigatoni Calabrese deftly channeled Nonna. Moderate.

San Lorenzo

1316 Ninth St., NW; 202-588-8954

Pesto gnocchi at San Lorenzo.
Pesto gnocchi at San Lorenzo.

Chef Massimo Fabbri fussed over pricey entrées for 17 years at the fine-dining restaurant Tosca, and he very well could have continued with more of the same. “I had the following,” he says. “I had the people that wanted to partner with me.” Instead, the Italian chef has brought the carefree vibe and rustic cooking of his native Tuscany to a new osteria in Shaw.

Handmade pastas are simple but finessed. Pappardelle with rabbit ragu is fortified by a stock made from the animal’s roasted bones, white wine, and thyme. Gnocchi in a creamy ricotta pesto takes on a striking green color thanks to blanched basil leaves. Both come in fairly petite portions best for a light appetite or first course (as is traditional in Italy). Fabbri says he got one comment card saying the pastas were “too small for a fat American family.” Those folks probably should have opted for the fall-off-the-bone pork ribs covered in herbs. The menu instructs: “Yes, you can use your fingers.” Moderate.

This article appears in the October 2018 issue of Washingtonian.

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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.

Anna Spiegel
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.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.