Feature

10 Hottest Italian Restaurants in DC

By Rina Rapuano  |  February 29, 2016
Credit: Scott Suchman

Last time we checked, Italian food was listed as the most popular cuisine for Washingtonians — but there are still too few Italian restaurants in this city. It’s improving, for sure. Just look at the upcoming openings of All Purpose from the Red Hen folks, Sfoglina from the Fiola crew, RPM Italian out of Chicago and Alta Strada from chef Michael Schlow. But while we wait for those to hopefully open, here are 10 fairly new Italian spots everyone seems to be talking about right now:

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  • Casa Luca

    Arguably the most casual of the Fabio and Maria Trabocchi trio, this place is more elevated than your average red-checkered-tablecloth neighborhood hangout. Don’t miss the seasonal piccoletti (small bites) found at the top of the menu or the Sunday brunch.
    Must-Try Dish: Crescia bread with ’nduja; bucatini with pork ragu; brodetto di San Benedetto
    Insider Tip: Chef Erin Clarke hosts a Saturday lunchtime cooking class once a month that includes snacks, drinks, cooking demos and a sampling of the finished dish.

    1099 New York Ave. NW; 202-628-1099

  • Credit: Greg Powers

    Centrolina

    Chef Amy Brandwein, who spent a good chunk of her career cooking with Roberto Donna, opened her first solo restaurant last summer in CityCenterDC. The space is two concepts in one: an Italian osteria, plus a market featuring grab-and-go lunches, housemade sauce, imported groceries and a coffee bar.
    Must-Try Dish: Octopus with potato confit; paccheri with veal and beef ragu; tuna with bone marrow
    Insider Tip: The market is also open for breakfast from 8–10:30 AM daily, offering frittatas, muffins and bagels that can be washed down with barista-made coffees.

    974 Palmer Alley NW; 202-898-2426

  • Credit: Fiola

    Fiola

    Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s flagship dynamo — which, incidentally, came in at the very top of our last restaurant survey — continues to impress Washingtonians with its pampering service, luxe Italian dishes, outstanding wine program and overall special-occasion feel.
    Must-Try Dish: Lobster ravioli; oysters, granita and caviar; polenta, fonduta and truffles
    Insider Tip: The restaurant recently changed its menu to a prix fixe format and launched Sunday dinner service with live jazz.

    601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; 202-628-2888

  • Credit: Greg Powers

    Fiola Mare

    Yeah, we know. This makes it a hat trick for Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s Gruppo FT Restaurants. But a list of hot Italian restaurants in DC isn’t complete without each and every one of them, and they are each quite distinct. The most recent addition to the group, this white-tablecloth seafood spot in Georgetown is known for its decadent seafood platter and spectacular views of the Potomac.
    Must-Try Dish: Oysters and caviar with zabaglione; raw-bar seafood platter; lobster ravioli
    Insider Tip: The back bar hosts a monthly speakeasy night that highlights both popular and lesser-known classic cocktails, such as February’s spotlight on the Aviation, The Honeymoon and The Blinker.

    3100 K St. NW; 202-628-0065

  • Hank’s Pasta Bar

    Chef Nicolas Flores oversees the extensive roster of handmade pastas at this brand-new spot by restaurateur Jamie Leeds of Hank’s Oyster Bar fame. There are also a few risotto options, as well as simple small plates like escarole salad, meatballs and grilled bread topped with house ricotta, honey and black pepper.
    Must-Try Dish: Linguini with clam sauce; meatballs; duck ravioli with thyme-butter sauce
    Insider Tip: Reservations are accepted for parties of six or more; otherwise, diners can call 30 minutes before they arrive to get their name on the waiting list.

    600 Montgomery St., Alexandria; 571-312-4117

  • Lupo Verde

    This gorgeously rustic spot has been ultra hot since the minute it opened — likely due to the fact that it’s in a prime location, features a fantastic patio and offers a buzzy vibe along with reliably good food coming from the kitchen. Be sure to order a cocktail here.
    Must-Try Dish: Italian cheeses served with accompaniments; fried artichokes with bagna cauda; squid-ink pasta with prawns
    Insider Tip: A second location is set to open in Palisades in May.

    1401 T St. NW; 202-827-4752

  • Masseria

    Executive chef and owner Nicholas Stefanelli made a name for himself as the longtime head of the kitchen at Bibiana, and the chef worked with design firm Grupo 7 to balance the rustic-industrial look. Inside serves a tasting menu only, while the patio offers an à la carte bar-bites menu.
    Must-Try Dish: Barbabietola, a beautiful beet appetizer; linguine with XO sauce; oro cioccolato for dessert
    Insider Tip: The stunning patio — decked out with fire pits, loungey couches and a cigar menu — will likely be the place to gather this summer.

    1340 Fourth St. NE; 202-608-1330

  • Nonna’s Kitchen

    Above the casual Alphonse Italian Market and Osteria on U Street NW is a completely separate dining concept featuring upscale, modern takes on Italian food. Chef Will Artley recently came on board to take over the kitchen, adding beautifully plated dishes. He's also preparing to launch a series of interactive events with lesser-known Italian producers.
    Must-Try Dishes: A starter of carrot, lobster and feta; ravioli with egg yolk and speck; oxtail with with impastata (a dense, creamy ricotta) and eggplant
    Insider Tip: The restaurant opened with a tasting menu format but recently switched to offer à la carte dishes, as well.

    1212 U St. NW; 202-735-0525

  • Credit: Laura Hayes

    Osteria Morini

    It didn’t take long for this New York import from mega-chef Michael White to emerge as the best reason to visit the Navy Yard — aside from seeing a Nats game, of course. And save room for dessert; pastry chef Alex Levin’s sweet plates are every bit as compelling as the pastas.
    Must-Try Dishes: Spuma di mortadella crostini; bucatini with crab and sea urchin; lemon-ricotta cheesecake
    Insider Tip: The restaurant offers a great Morini Mondays deal, when bowls of pasta run $10 all night.

    301 Water St. SE; 202-484-0660

  • Credit: Scott Suchman

    Red Hen

    This Bloomingdale favorite is coming up on its third anniversary, but you wouldn’t know it from the two- and three-hour wait times. It must be the killer combo of outstanding food, wines, cocktails and service that keeps everyone so eager to return.
    Must-Try Dishes: Ricotta crostini with truffle honey; rigatoni with sausage ragu; trout with celery root “clam chowder”
    Insider Tip: The team has been working on opening a new restaurant in Shaw called All Purpose. It’s been pushed back a few times, but the current ETA is April.

    1822 First St. NW; 202-525-3021