Veteran Italian Restaurant Tosca Reopens in Downtown DC With a New Look and Chef

Owner Paolo Sacco revamps the power spot, adding a chef's tasting counter and lounge.

Tosca reopens in Downtown DC after a long pandemic closure with a new look and menu. Photography courtesy of Tosca

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One of DC’s veteran Italian restaurants is ready for a comeback. Ristorante Tosca will reopen downtown on Tuesday, May 25 after being closed for much of the past pandemic year. Owner Paolo Sacco used the pause to redesign his 20 year-old restaurant and hire a new chef, Phil Marzelli, a second-generation Italian-American who previously served as the executive chef at Fabio Trabocchi’s Casa Luca and Sfoglina Downtown.

Dark chocolate and rum mousse with berries.

Tosca built a reputation as a classic DC power spot, especially at lunch, where lobbyists, lawyers, and politicos would meet over short-rib agnolotti at white-clothed tables. But the days when the Obamas would drop by for date night are long past, and Sacco observed that much of the nighttime energy—and younger clientele—were drawn to booming restaurant neighborhoods like 14th Street and Shaw. Sacco says he wanted to “lighten up” the typically hushed dining room, and give it a more relaxed feel with Italian tiles, an expanded white marble bar and lounge, and walnut tables (tablecloths TBD).

“Being a power spot is kind of an inspiration for a lot of restaurants. It’s great, but I’m a little over it in the sense that I just want a restaurant that everyone enjoys— a welcoming place without people being intimidated because it’s white tablecloth or jacket and tie,” says Sacco, a 40-year veteran of the industry who operated Terrazza in Friendship Heights and Posto on 14th Street (both now closed).

That’s not to say Tosca 2.0 is entirely dressed down. Marzelli created a more seasonally focused dinner menu with splurges like whole grilled Dover sole or a tomahawk steak for two. A new chef’s tasting counter is where Marzelli will prepare six-course menus for a handful of customers ($135 per person before drinks, tax, and tip). There’s also a new 30-seat private dining room.

Diners will find more eclectic dishes like hamachi crudo with cucumber dashi and chilies; pappardelle with morels, ramps, and guanciale; and grilled octopus with romesco sauce, meyer lemon confit, and fingerling potatoes. Regulars will also recognize Tosca classics like that short-rib agnolotti or grilled veal chops.

Tosca will reopen for dinner to start, and add lunch service in early June. While the pandemic hit businesses in downtown DC particularly hard—due to vacant or offices, hotels, and tourist attractions—Sacco says he’s hoping for a new wave of energy. 

“We want to be a restaurant that’s more vibrant and energetic. I’m sure we’ll have pushback from some regulars, but it’s a matter of taking that step,” says Sacco.

Tosca. 1112 F St., NW

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.