|Graffiato's Pumpkin Zeppoles Nestled in Caramel|
Blah describes the way I have been feeling lately about the newcomers to the DC dining scene. But, and this is a big but, when B and I tried Graffiato this past weekend that Blah feeling instantly morphed into Bravo, Brilliant, Bring-on-More!
A note up front: it took us about a month to get a reservation at Graffiato. While it was unquestionably worth the wait, if you do not want to plan that far ahead, the downstairs bar area provides room for approximately 25 walk-ins and offers the full menu.
Graffiato is Mike Isabella's (formerly of Zaytinya) ode to Italian-American food, but with a characteristically un-Italian-American twist: only small plates. The dining room is sparse and casual; you will not find any white tablecloths here. But what you will find is exceptional food, solid service, and an overall atmosphere that provides culinary treats without taking itself too seriously.
The "country man's pizza," which had a mushroom puree base and slow poached egg, was every bit as polished as the slightly more upscale potato gnocchi with shaved truffles. Both tasted of fall goodness--earthy, indulgent, and leaving you wanting more. A chestnut marscapone ravioli topped with brown butter, brussel sprout leaves, and winter squash was truly a bite of Thanksgiving. Isabella is perhaps best known for his pepperoni sauce and this too delivered, adding spice to an indulgent, fork tender plate of chicken thighs.
While the service originally lagged, it quickly picked up. House filtered sparkling and still water are offered gratis--one of my favorite new restaurant trends. The wine pairings managed to compliment each of the four courses, which is quite the feat, given the number of plates in each. My one complaint was the starter of Virginia sparkling wine which predictably lacked the crisp, bold features of its California and/or French cousins.
Graffiato is fun, affordable, and somehow manages to have a sense of humor, while clearly taking food very seriously.