For chef Daniele Catalani, there’s nothing political about food. The Tuscany-born chef delights political bigwigs and locals alike with a menu composed of highly seasonal, homestyle Italian food. Catalani earned his culinary bona fides working in restaurants throughout Europe, and he made his way up to the exclusive chef position at Galileo by the age of 23. He also appeared on Iron Chef America in 2003 during the battle of Donna vs. Morimoto, where he assisted in spatula-to-spatula combat. Today, he fills Toscana Cafe's menu with classic entrees such as gnocchi with basil pesto or ravioli with roasted eggplant and goat cheese.
Zuppa Fresca, nestled on Northeast K Street, welcomes lunchtime crowds into a breezy, recently remodeled restaurant landscape swathed in natural light. Chefs decorate platters with traditional garlic and pesto flavors, before serving them amid the waves of light emanating from alternately yellow and red walls. The diligent staff accommodates guests using the OpenTable online reservation system, ensuring prompt seating during peak times and preventing needless scuffles over favorite tables and who gets to ride shotgun on the dessert cart.
After visiting Ella's Wood Fired Pizza, a reviewer from the Washington City Paper went over the moon for its signature crust. Baked in the eatery's namesake oven, Ella's Neapolitan-style thin crusts are "perfectly crisp with a hint of smoke," while touches of olive oil and sea salt lend "tremendous flavor." Of course, the fixings atop that flavorful foundation are equally swoon-worthy. Ella's cooks handcraft nearly 20 specialty pies, from the di mare's pairing of pesto and shrimp to the bosco's medley of roasted tomatoes and roasted-garlic puree. The culinary team also yields decisions to diners, who can customize pizzas with 40-plus ingredients—including fingerling potatoes and vegan soy cheese—along with the option for a gluten-free crust.
Alongside pizzas, the kitchen staff specializes in traditional and creative Italian dishes, from mushroom ravioli with roasted red pepper sauce to risotto balls filled with gooey mozzarella. Plentiful beer and wine options complement meals, which unfold in a cozy interior with rustic Italian touches such as stone columns and a corner reserved for napping gondoliers.
A small kitchen can create big flavors, and a new world eatery can be inspired by old world recipes. Such is the case at Fresco The Italian Eatery, where cooks serve pastas such as baked ziti alongside fresh pizza pies and hearty meatball calzones. Their soft drinks come in 32-ounce mega-cups, the correct size to wash down their hearty meals.
Aria Pizzeria & Bar alleviates daytime stress with an assortment of hearty happy-hour fare and drink specials served in a casual atmosphere boasting high-definition TVs and occasional live music. Large cheese and pepperoni pizzas ($12–$14) form an absorbent foundation for 16-ounce drafts of Stella Artois ($4) or a signature Dark n' Stormy cocktail ($5). Fill the gullet of a large group or a massive Super Soaker with a 60-ounce pitcher of on-tap Jose Cuervo margarita or Jeremiah Weed sweet tea and lemonade ($20 each) and relax in one of more than 100 outdoor seats in the Ronald Reagan Building courtyard patio. Customers that use their Groupon for Saturday-evening dinner can feast on forkfuls of baked lasagna ($9.75) or saw through the crusty exterior of a blackened-chicken sandwich with provolone cheese and aioli ($7.75). The eatery's sociable staff will also gladly validate your parking or decision to become a rodeo clown.
Finemondo brings authentic Italian country-kitchen cuisine to Washington, DC, in a warm, well-lit dining room that recalls the simple hearth of a Tuscan villa. Plunge into Finemondo's menu with hot and cold appetizers, such as the fried calamari ($9.50 for lunch, $10 for dinner), pan-roasted sea scallops ($11.50/$12.50), or mozzarella with melon and prosciutto ($8.50/$9.50). Traditional pasta dishes include gnocchi in a creamy tomato-porcini sauce ($17.50/$18.50), spaghetti and meatballs ($17.50/$18.50), and lasagna ($18.50/$19.50). Meat-eaters can whirl through the carnivortex with the braciola ($19.50/$24.50), beef rolled with prosciutto, pecorino cheese, and pinenuts; the bocconcini di vitello's ($19.50/$24.50) veal bites braised with white wine, cream, oven-dried tomatoes, and chili peppers; or a classic chicken parmigiana ($19.50/$24.50). For a captivating conclusion to these elegant exercises in Italian eats, Finemondo deals in decadent desserts, including the frutti di bosco ($8.50), which coats mixed berries with balsamic vinegar and is served with vanilla ice cream, and a crème brûlée ($7.50) with a Giuseppe Arcimboldo painting's worth of seasonal fruit.