I had heard of DARLINGTON HOUSE right north of Dupont Circle (http://www.darlingtonhousedc.com) ages ago when it opened, I had even met the Chef Fabio Beggiato and promised we would visit. It took a long while for us to get there, but it was worth the trip last Saturday, when we took Samuel for a family dinner over the Labor Day weekend. I am usually not a fan of dining out on Saturday, but this holiday weekend things are always so quiet, it can often be quite nice. we arrived a 6pm and the dining room up one flight was pretty quiet. It was quite full by the time we left.
Darlington House occupies a beautiful town house on 20th Street just above Q street facing Connecticut Avenue where the old Childe Harold pub used to be. Downstairs (and on the street) is a rustic and quite noisy "cantina" and we could feel the noise and vibrations coming through the floor, but they were not too bothersome. The dining room has old wooden floors and a modern, old world feel and is comfy, classy and bright with huge windows overlooking the park opposite. We were seated in the table at the window which was very nice. The staff is attentive and knows the food well, but they need to get the huge wine list updated as we chose two items that were out of stock.
We ending up choosing the SANCERRE 2009 La Crele from Thomas et Fils which was one of the very nice lower end wines; the list gets into the high hundreds! The bread came and while it was plain, there was nice olive oil and balsamic for dipping. Samuel ordered the FETTUCCINE alla BOLOGNESE which I could have sworn was a veal-base rather than beef and was truly delicious.
It was hard to choose, so we took the advice of our helpful and handsome server Jhonathan (from Columbia) who insisted I start with the VITELLO TONATO. He was right on. The veal was sliced thin with a superb and not too rich sauce with grapefruit segments that gave it a special punch (I know, I am not supposed to eat grapefruit, but I indulged once for the first time in years!). Will had the unamazing CAPRESE salad, but it was nothing special.
We then split a SPAGHETTI CHITARRA which I was so excited about after having the similar sauce the week before at Cafe Nonna. This excellent preparation was with sauteed jumbo LUMP CRAB, black OLIVES and cherry TOMATOES and was nice, but even with the crab, the flavor punch was not there as in Cafe Nonna!
We moved on to a bottle of TORRE MIGLIORI, a Montepulicano d'Abruzzo from Cerulli Spinozzi which Jhonathan offered to us at the price of a lower-priced wine we ordered but was out of stock. We adored this light red with our main courses, especially at the $5+ savings!
Will had the BRANZINO special, grilled with Garlic and Lemon-Zest Risotto, a perfect dish balancing the flavors and really starring the superb fish. My SCALLOPINI alla SALTIMBOCA was three huge flattened pieces of veal with prosciutto, superb sage and Polenta and Broccoli-rabe on the side. The meat was superb and tender and the sauce divine, but there was so much, I had to ask for a doggie bag; only the polenta was unexciting.
We decided to split an order of TIRAMISU which looked like it had taken a bath in cocoa powder, which Samuel declared as "not my type" of dessert, but it was quite tasty nonetheless.
The prices here are high, but the food quality is quite good, especially with the meat and fish dishes. I think we would return, but again, there are so many great Italian places, Darlington House will have to wait its turn behind so many others we love.