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My DC Bites: Italian Small Plates at Graffiato

August 22, 2013

I took a break from the New York food scene and headed down south on a work trip.  While down in our nation’s capital, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to sample what DC has to offer.  Graffiato was a top recommendation from a coworker and even though I try to deny it, I am a pretty big Top Chef fan so the fact that Mike Isabella was the owner just made my decision that much easier.

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Located on the edge of Chinatown, the Italian-inspired restaurant stood out among the others in  the neighborhood.  A large bar downstairs is accompanied by a quieter upstairs section.  I couldn’t help but take a second look at the mural of cartoon like vegetables that welcomed us as we ascended the stairs.

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I started dinner with a pineapple and sage soda, one of the five homemade sodas offered.  I loved the soft earthy flavor that the sage lent to the sweet and tart pineapple.  The wine list was quite unique as well with a wide selection from various states, including Idaho and New Mexico.

The Italian-inspired food at Graffiato featured seasonal ingredients dressed up in small plates.  We were had saved up a big appetite and opted to skip the pizzas in order to try as many small plates as possible.

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Our first small plate was a light yet creamy burrata with kumquat and smoked pork loins.  Simple as the plate was, it would have been nicer if the flavor of the smoked pork loins shaved over the burrata was more prominent.

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When I heard that the special that night was flatbread with a pepperoni sauce, I couldn’t resist.  The stripes of hot fresh pizza dough was dusted with salt and herbs and were the perfect vehicle to deliver the savory and spicy pepperoni sauce.

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We followed up the pepperoni sauce and pizza with a saute of summer squash in a mint pistachio pesto – surprisingly refreshing.

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And now onto the meatier dishes.  A piece of nicely charred octopus was tender and sat on top of a flavorful tomato mostarda with pickled onion and romaine.

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The New Jersey scallops were seared and served with a charred smoky eggplant puree, peas and lemon peel.

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Even though I hardly ever order chicken (who does?) at a restaurant, the lure of the pepperoni sauce was hard to resist.  The chicken thighs had a crispy salty crust that sealed in the moisture, making it juicy and tender.  Another beautiful vehicle to have some more of Mike Isabella’s pepperoni sauce.

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Finally, we wrapped up with a lovely plate of sweet corn agnolotti.  The little nuggets burst with sweetness from the summer corn with a hint of earthiness from the chanterelles and nuttiness from the pine nuts.

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Even though dinner could have ended beautifully with the agnolotti, we couldn’t resist ordering dessert.  The chocolate budino with a drizzle of olive oil, olive oil gelato, pine nuts and stewed cherry was a perfect study on sweet and savory.  The citrus notes in the olive oil and big flakes of sea salt brought out the bitter sweetness of the rich creamy chocolate pudding.  This delicious meal in a casual and relaxed setting was a fantastic way to end a long day of travels and meetings.

Graffiato | 707 6th st NW, Washington, DC 20001 | http://graffiatodc.com

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