Cocktail Bar Grazie Mille Is Grazie Nonna’s Moodier New Sibling

Sip Amaretto sours with Chianti popsicles and snack on deep-fried pizza.

Grazie Mille has a moodier vibe than its next door neighbor Grazie Nonna. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Grazie Mille, 1100 15th St., NW.

Grazie Nonna, which rode the Italian-American nostalgia wave when it opened last year, now has a showier cocktail bar neighbor. Grazie Mille, sticking to owner Casey Patten’s gratitude-expressing naming scheme (his downtown sandwich shop is called Grazie Grazie), opened for drinks, Italian bites, and live-spun music last week.

With low lighting, velvety textures, and a wall of mismatched vintage mirrors and portraits, Grazie Mille has a moodier vibe than the festive Grazie Nonna, which pays tribute to Italian-American Sunday dinners. 

“At Grazie Mille we wanted it to be a little more refined, elegant, and light,” says chef Gerald Addison, who leads the kitchen at both places. “This is the buttoned up version of Grazie Nonna.” 

The eateries share a single kitchen, but Grazie Mille’s food and cocktails refer more to Milan and Campania than to Philly and Jersey. The menu, Addison and Patten say, is based on the “apericena,” the northern Italian cocktail hour that tends to spill over into dinner. They imagine that diners will visit Grazie Mille for cocktails or a glass of wine, but the menu is equipped with large-format dishes like risotto and baked pasta for those who want to stick around.  

Mille Oysters—an invention of Addison’s—are an Italian-inspired riff on the charbroiled oysters that he and Patten tried on a research trip to New Orleans, a cocktail bar capital. Along with the breadcrumbs, parsley, and butter typical at southern seafood institutions, Addison added pecorino and Calabrian chili. 

Along with fried clams and artichokes, Addison also fries a pizza montanara, a specialty of the mountains around Naples, where cooks traditionally deep-fried their dough rather than baking it. The focaccia baked for Grazie Nonna next door becomes a cocktail accompaniment at Grazie Mille, and is adorned with stracciatella and sweet confit tomatoes, or briny tonnato sauce with celery salad. If your cocktail hour becomes a full-on dinner, Addison recommends the shareable baked mafalde pasta with truffled cream, roasted mushrooms, and provolone. 

Baked mafalde with mushrooms is among the largest of Grazie Mille’s shareable dishes. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

Drinks are mostly Grazie Mille’s own inventions, unlike the Negroni bar offerings at Grazie Nonna. Concoctions like the Milano (brandy, rye, Cocchi Rosa, and orange bitters) and the Palermitano (aged rum, marsala syrup, and cocoa bitters) incorporate Italian cocktail essentials, but there’s a spirit of invention behind the bar. The Soronno Sour, for example, comes with a Chianti popsicle. 

Another distinctive feature of Grazie Mille is the DJ booth, which will highlight a rotating cast of DJs spinning exclusively vinyl. Resident DJ Chris Styles, who will kick off the program, says his aim is eclecticism. 

“We’re doing anything from disco to Prince to Brazilian jazz to Latin funk to classic golden era hip-hop to spacey lounge to Black Keys kind of rock,” Styles says. “It really just has to be groovy.”

Patten, whose hoagie chain, Taylor Gourmet, shuttered its stores in 2018, has staged a significant comeback to the DC restaurant scene. Grazie Mille replaces another Patten venture, Little Chicken, which he plans to reopen at the Wharf early next year. 

Ike Allen
Assistant Editor