Graffiato means “scratched”. I didn’t watch Top Chef this past season so I’m not sure why Mike Isabella calls his new place (open June 2011) “scratched”- maybe I’ll get a chance to ask him someday. Right now, though, I don’t really care. I just can’t wait to eat there again.
Apologies in advance for the subpar photography- I found that while the dishes were lovely, I was more interested in eating them than immortalizing them.
I got there early and had a very nice chat with a waiter, took a few shots to start. When Andrea showed up and menus were passed around I was pleased to find that we had pretty much the same things in mind- always a good thing when you go out to eat with someone. Started with the Chicken Thighs in Pepperoni Sauce that Top Chef judge Gail Simmons raved about.
Delicious, with tender chunks of chicken (who knew a chicken thigh could be that good- maybe there’s something to this organic thing after all!). But the texture of the sauce was a lot like what I imagine it would be like if you licked a piece of very fine sandpaper. (Not sure why I’d want to do that, but that’s neither here nor there.) Anyway, I’m glad I tried it, but I probably won’t go for it again.
Next came dish #2- the Potato Gnocchi, which frankly inspired foodgasms from both of us. I’ve only ever had burrata in the raw at Co.Co. Sala, so I was intrigued by how it would taste over hot pasta- particularly this gnocchi. Answer: creamy and delicious.
I don’t know how to describe those peas- they were the size of marbles (not shooters, but the smaller ones), very tender, tasty, and with the consistency of a MacIntosh apple. I would have thought they were bionic, except that Graffiato buys its produced from local farms. They were so good that Andrea left one on her plate and I finally had to ask her if I could have it.
The gnocchi was quite simply the best I’ve ever had- pillowy, in fact. I want to learn how to make gnocchi like this, but in the meantime I’m happy to sit at a table at Graffiato and let the chef prepare it for me. The braised pork shank was lightly spiced and cooked perfectly.
Next up was dish #3: White House pizza.
I’m a big fan of cheese, of course. The more on there the better- and the mix of mozzarella, taleggio, and ricotta was unlike anything I’d ever tried. The proscuitto was the most tender I’ve ever had and the honey added a light flavor that was both sweet and spicy- you had sweet, salty, and textures that worked so well together.
The crust was perfect. Andrea noted that there was a lack of floppiness you see in most thin crust pizzas, it wasn’t soggy but it also didn’t shatter, and it was cooked through. I gave her my crusts in exchange for the pea. WORTH IT.
We had a dish of complimentary nuts (or rather I did, Andrea is a no nuts-sense kinda gal) and I ordered D.C. Brau- a light summer lager that’s locally brewed and very good with everything and I’ll be looking for it elsewhere. By the case if I can find it!
It was a very good meal and I’m already planning a return trip to try the Tasting Menu ($55), for which the chef builds a 5-course meal based on his preferences and whatever thing from the menu you want. Regardless, I’ll be going back to try the Bone Marrow ($9), Green Salad ($7), and Market Pizza ($15) because I can’t say no to squash blossoms. Ever. The menu is on the site and worth checking out.
The only quibbles I had are ones that I’m sure will be ironed out as the restaurant finds its footing: Our waiter turned surly when we didn’t seem interested in ordering more than what we did, but really the food is tasty and filling and the recommended 4 dishes (per person?) would have been excessive. The folks clearing dishes tried to take things away from us before we were done- I think I bared my teeth at the woman who tried to take off with the gnocchi. We still left a good tip, but when it came time for dessert we went elsewhere: the desserts are not terribly inventive, in my opinion, and although the sorbetto sounded good, the baked goods were things I could make at home. If you have food allergies or issues of any kind, don’t rely on the menu- ask. Not all the descriptions of dishes were complete.
[Oddly enough, Opentable had them all booked up, but while we were there a lot of tables were empty. I got the reservation at the last minute through the Graffiato site (so I didn’t get the points) but it was strange that there were suddenly tables open through the restaurant’s link to Opentable, but not on Opentable. Weird? I’ve never seen that before. Note: First floor tables and the bar are walk-in with a 30+ min. wait, so if you can get a reservation for the tables on the second floor, I would.]
This is the only restaurant in the country to have Prosecco on tap, and the cocktail list looks spectacular with their excellent choices in small batch liquors and inventive mixes, so I will probably go back as soon as I can just for that- and more of those pistaschios. Judging from the variety of comments regarding the up and down quality of the food, and the waitstaff experience we had, I’m waiting on the $55 tasting menu for a bit until the staff and servers have had a chance to get into a groove. Hurry up, Graffiato.
707 6th St. NW
Washington, D.C. 20001
Reservations: (202) 289-3600
Located near Red (Gallery Place/Chinatown) and Yellow (Mt. Vernon Square) stations.