Upon moving to Northern Virginia, one restaurant that I kept hearing about was Rustico. Two days after moving I was stepping into the restaurant. Two days later, I was stepping into it again.
Both weeknights I went had a similar vibe. Not too many people in the dining area, but a decent amount at the bar. Sleek lights hang in one portion of the room and a few steps down more rustic (like the restaurant’s name guys!) lighting illuminates the place.
While Rustico is known for their pizza, my eyes caught the couscous on the menu. It caught my friends too. The couscous carbornara is similar to a risotto with bacon, parmesan, black pepper, truffle oil and garlic. The best part of the dish is the poached egg that sits on top. It has a creamy consistency and they don’t go light with the truffle oil. The couscous was apparently one of the first items Rustico decided to put on the menu and it has been a popular selection since. In fact, DCist featured this exact dish along with a recipe if you want to try and make it.
Like I said, Rustico is known for their pizza which is why I ordered it a couple days later. The white pizza is fairly simple when it comes to ingredients: mozzarella, basil pesto and ricotta. The pizza is pretty thin and there is a good amount of cheese. I liked it, but I was more impressed with Pizzeria Orso down the street.
Another pizza, the spicy shrimp, came with a jalapeno pesto. Caliente! Actually, it’s not too spicy — just keep a drink nearby. Speaking of drinks, Rustico has a happy hour including an enormous amount of beers.
For $11 I also got an appetizer, the lettuce wrap meatballs with a sweet tomato aioli and a minted yogurt for dipping. Nothing impressed me about this dish other than the pig shaped cutting board.
My second time visiting I finished the meal off with a Nutella cheesecake with a dark chocolate sauce and candied hazelnuts. It was a deliciously light cheesecake. The again, I guess light cheesecake is kind of an oxymoron. Either way, if you make it to Rustico in either Ballston or Alexandria stick to the pizza or couscous.