Palena Coffee Shop Already Hits the Mark

By Rina Rapuano  |  November 15, 2013
Credit: Rina Rapuano

It usually takes more than two days for a new restaurant or cafe to start knocking it out of the park, but Palena is no ordinary restaurant. We stopped in on its coffee shop's second day of business since we were in the neighborhood, curious but intending to be forgiving since the concept is still so new.

No need to be generous in our assessment of chef Frank Ruta's newest endeavor, it turns out. We were pleased to see a fully stocked bar of glorious savories and sweets, and even more pleased once we got them home and started tasting.

Of the savories, the Yukon gold frittata stood out for its layers of buttery potatoes and perfect seasoning. A small pizza with olives, two dollops of  creamy cheese, tomatoes and onions was also outstanding, in no small part due to its masterful crust.

Pastry chef Aggie Chin's sweets include a moist ricotta mini pound cake subtly scented with honey and a chocolate-glazed donut notable for its glaze actually tasting like chocolate instead of just sugar.

The coffee was the one unsuccessful order, with the tasty masala chai latte landing on the bar far too lukewarm.

But that’s fixable - and it was, after all, only their second day (202-537-9250).