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There has been a good amount of buzz surrounding this new Italian restaurant near the Verizon Center. Grafiatto, the two-floor restaurant was opened in June by Season 6 Top Chef contestant, Mike Isabella. Fun fact: Isabella was also runner-up for Top Chef All-Stars.

Isabella is from New Jersey, but he is certainly not a newcomer to the D.C. area. Isabella served as the executive chef of Jose Andres’ Zaytinya prior to Grafiatto’s opening. His new restaurant  has an industrial vibe that’s dimly lit, with dark wood and rock music playing in the background. The drinks at the 15-stoo bar are creative and the glasses some are served in are fitting to the trendy restaurant.

On the second floor, diners can view the open kitchen and see chefs plating the Italian infused tapas. Grafiatto serves pizza from their wood-fire oven, but I’d recommend the other pasta and vegetable dishes.

To the left is the pumpkin risotto with smoked provolone and a balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. To the right is a special, lobster spaghetti with Isabella’s homemade tomato sauce. Below is the Chestnut Agnolotti. Much like ravioli, the pasta was stuffed with what resembled a pureed butternut squash, brussel leaves and brown butter. The agnolotti had a soft homemade texture with a sweet aftertaste.

We also ordered the Broccolini topped with spicy pepper relish and feta, as well as the brussel sprouts cooked in maple, pancetta and egg. I know most people cringe at the thought of brussel sprouts, but one bite of these and you’d have a hard time saying anything other than “Oh my gosh, these are amazing.” If you’re looking for a meat selection, the Pork Ribs with
sicilian oregano and coriander yogurt had a great flavor.

If you’re looking for a Fall dish right around now, the standouts for me were the risotto and agnolotti. In fact, in a recent review by the Washingtonian, Todd Kliman says:

“Isabella’s take on agnolotti might be the area’s finest pasta dish.”

Being that Grafiatto had a wood-fired oven, we also ordered the Vermont pizza with melted leeks, farmhouse cheddar, bacon, baby potatoes. I would have liked for the bottom crust to be a little crispier, but the ingredients stole my complaints away.

Grafiatto is a foodie’s dream. The dishes are small enough to try an array of menu items and they taste like Italian mom was in the kitchen making them. While some other reviewers say consistency is Grafiatto’s biggest setback, I believe they’re about  to take a giant leap forward.

Want to go there? Make sure to get reservations.

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Trattoria da Franco

I just happen to be doing an Italian restaurant review on National Eat Italian Food Day. Trattoria da Franco is located in Old Town Alexandria in a pink townhouse that is 300 years old. Walking up a several stairs, white lights are hung around the entrance. Inside, there are three dining rooms, one upstairs and two downstairs. My table was set up right against a little fireplace. Getting toasty by the fire while eating carbs– is there anything better?

This restaurant has been in town for the past 25 years and on the back of the menu you can learn more about their chef who had previously cooked for the likes of the Queen of England and Winston Churchill. Pretty impressive, I guess.

We started off with the bruschetta for $6.95. The two slices of breads with capers, finely chopped onions and tomatoes were tasty. For dinner I ordered the melanzane parmagiana. Layers of thinly sliced eggplant were sandwiched between melted mozzarella and topped with a creamy marinara and basil sauce.

The flavor itself was delicious, but at times I found myself biting into just the cheese and not finding eggplant for several more bites. There was plenty of sauce on the plate.  I ended up wishing I would have ordered their special for the night, pasta (which is all homemade here) with asapargus and chicken in a light cream sauce.

For dessert I split the zuppa inglese. It was a trifle filled sponge cake with custard, strawberries and whipped cream. The menu says “crowned with fresh strawberries” but there were two.

The cake itself was moist but I found the chocolate sauce and whipped cream to be overpowering. If I were to go back I would get some sort of pasta. And, what would make go back is not necessarily the food, but more so the cozy atmosphere.

Also, after reading several other reviews out there one common occurrence seems to problems with the bill. Funny that our bill had an extra $26 dollars added on that we luckily caught prior to paying. Some of the other reviewers weren’t so lucky.


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