Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Mike Isabella's GRAFFIATO is a mighty inventive modern Italian take(5-1-12)

While I started my diet this week, I had to be very careful and picking GRAFFIATO ( across from the Verizon center at 707 6th St, NW turned out to be a great choice. Of course, we avoided the pizzas and his famous flatbread with his grandma's sauce (if you watched Top Chef), and settled in with a bottle of CASTELLO di LUCIGNANO "Il Solissimo" 2001 which is a great cab/Sangiovese blend that will truly fill your mouth with flavors and work with all the foods served here. We also tasted the GRAFFIATO Red Nebbiolo from Purcellville, VA (I forget which vineyard makes this for them) and it was spicy, but a bit light. All he wines are served by the bottle or the glass! The SPICED PISTACHIO Nuts that come to each table are a nice little treat and not a carb loader, which I am trying to avoid. Dishes here are "tapas" style and meant to be shared. The Polenta- Crusted SOFT SHELL CRAB is one crab split in two with ARUGULA PESTO, PICKLED RAMPS and Micro-Arugula. It's a divine and not heavy at all preparation of this local treat. We were hooked. SPRING GARLIC SOUP with Crispy SWEETBREADS & PICKELD RAMPS (do u sense a theme?) is an indulgence, and I later found out is cream-based (oops!) but was a superb novel soup with several small crsipy sweetbreads for crunch in the bowl. Marinated OCTOPUS comes with Romesco Sauce, Calamata Olives and Almonds. It is marinated in Red Wine Vinegar making it quite tangy, but if you like slight pickling and octopus, this dish is for you. It is finished in the wood oven and served hot. Our divine server Christina said it was not her cup of tea, and I can truly understand why; she was spot in that some people like it and some don't. She suggested the spaghetti or gnocchi for a pasta dish that my friend wanted, but he headed straight for the LOBSTER RISOTTO with MASCARPONE. I had a couple of bites, and while it was a very tasty dish and quite rich too (and loaded with lobster), it was way past al dente. I am a firm believer that risotto must be al dente; Christina explained the customers seem to prefer it softer, even though it is the wrong way to serve it. The restaurant is very plain, with unfinished floors and ceilings and wobbly wooden tables with not too comfy metal chairs. We had a nice big table upstairs at the front window which was nice, but very chilly with the a/c vent above us. The noise tended to be centered towards the rear and kitchen, so we were happy we did not have to raise our voices to converse as some others might have. While we loved everything, a highlight here is the veggie dishes: BROCCOLINI come with a slightly spiced pepper relish (red pepper puree), walnuts and feta which adds the perfect taste to a wonderfully prepared al dente vegetable. Roasted CAULFILOWER is also sheer perfection cooked with Pecorino Cheese, Red Onion and a slight hint of mint. This is a great place to go with friends and try many different dishes, or just for a pizza after the Verizon Center show or game, but be sure to reserve; the place was full by 7pm on a Tuesday!