Food

Inside Downtown DC’s New Italian Restaurant and Illuminati-Inspired “Luxe Micro Bar”

The Hamilton Hotel revamps its food and drink with an ex-Fiola team.

Via Sophia is the latest hotel restaurant looking to convince locals it’s more than a hotel restaurant (see: American Son, everything at The Line).  The “upscale modern osteria,” located in Franklin Square’s Hamilton Hotel, officially opens June 12 with Neapolitan pizza, pastas, and other southern Italian specialties  from former Fiola Mare chef de cuisine Colin Clark. An adjoining “luxe micro bar” called Society, inspired in part by Yale’s Skull and Bones Society, serves $19 cocktails and caviar. Both additions are part of a larger revamp from new hotel owners EOS Hospitality, which started in the lobby and will soon extend to the rooms.

“We really want the public to perceive this restaurant as an independent,” says Director of Food and Beverage Joe Palminteri, who comes to DC from boutique hotels in Miami and New York. “It’s not a hotel restaurant. It’s just an amazing restaurant at the corner of 14th and K. It’s probably not fair, but too often when people think hotel restaurants, they think maybe a little stodgy.”

Via Sophia’s menu starts with a selection of meats, cheeses, crudos, and antipasti. Neapolitan pizzas are cooked for 90 seconds in an 880-pound wood-fired Acunto Mario pizza oven imported from Naples, Italy. In addition to your classic margherita, pies come with toppings such as wild mushrooms or clams, mussels, and calamari. Clark and his sous chef trained under pizzaiolo Roberto Caporuscio of New York’s Keste Pizza & Vino and Don Antonio to perfect their pies.

House-made pastas include a cacio e pepe bucatini, pappardelle with rabbit ragu and ramps, and ravioli with seasonal goodies such as asparagus tips, fava beans, and morels. Given chef Clark’s background at Fiola Mare, you’ll also find plenty of seafood—from a monkfish ossobucco to grilled Norwegian salmon with romesco, charred broccolini, and black garlic dressing—in addition to entrees such as a Florentine steak for two.

The restaurant is open beginning at breakfast with continental staples (yogurt parfait, bagel with smoke salmon) and Italian twists (ricotta pancakes, squash frittatas). Via Sophia is also the first DC restaurant to carry beans from Coffee Manufactory in Los Angeles.

Via Sophia’s revamped dining room includes a 20-seat bar area. Photo courtesy Via Sophia.

The space has been completely reconfigured since its days as 14K Restaurant, which closed in December. Among the new attractions is an upgraded 30-seat patio lounge and expanded 20-seat bar area. “Master mixologist” (and military vet) Zack Faruki, who came from Fiola, has assembled a lineup of Italian-inspired cocktails and mostly Italian wines and beers. The one redeeming quality of 14K was its happy hour, which Via Sophia plans to continue. Weekdays from 4 to 6:30 PM, find $5 draft beers, $6 wines, $8 cocktails, and $15 pizza and beer-or-wine combos.

A mirrored skull and bones overlooks Society. Photo courtesy Society.

For something a little swankier, head next door to Society. If Via Sophia is an “extension of your living room,” as Palminteri describes it, Society is “super luxurious, shamelessly expensive” with “super butler-style service, super intimate service.” The moody 14-seat bar is decorated with black leather, antlers, and an old grandfather clock.

Bartender Zack Faruki will have domain over the cocktails at Society. Photo by Joy Asico.

Faruki’s drink menu here is notably more upscale than at Via Sophia with $19 cocktails and high-priced spirits. “It’s about a $15,000 back bar,” Palminteri says of the extensive liquor collection, which includes Remy Martin Louis XIII cognac and Highland Park 30-year Scotch. The food menu is limited to cheese, charcuterie, olives, nuts, and caviar.

“The ethos behind this space was Skull and Bones, secret societies, the underground Illuminati, if you know, you know-type situation,” Palminteri says. “We really want it to be a sense of exclusivity.”

“Society on K” cocktail with gin, creme de violete, blue curacao, sour mix, egg white foam, lavender bitters, and cardamom bitters. Photo by Joy Asico.

Via Sophia and Society in the Hamilton Hotel. 1001 14th St., NW. 202-218-7575. 

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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.