There’s a decent Little Italy option in the region that might be a good option for Italian cuisine lovers who can’t always indulge their cravings in New York. Ozzie’s Corner Italian is a new “mega eatery” in Fairfax Corner. (11880 Grand Commons Ave.). The latest venture of the Great American Restaurant Group, this Italian concept focuses on mid-priced entrees with an emphasis on service. Standouts include the lasagna, grilled “brick” chicken and a wonderfully light homemade foccacia.
Hoping to capitalize on previous his previous success, master chef Roberto Donna is close to opening his third incarnation of Galileo (600 14th St. N.W.) in the old Butterfield 9 space downtown. Diners can feast on Tuscan-inspired dishes that can be ordered trattoria-style at the curved bar, or settle in for a two-, three- or four-course meal plus dessert in the cozy dining room.
The highlight of the menu, if you and a group of your friends are feeling adventurous (and especially hungry), is chef Donna’s “Laboratorio” concept. “Laboratorio” is a reinvention of the traditional chef’s table in that the dinner party of 10 to 12 people is seated in a curtained-off area directly in front of the kitchen. What follows is a tasting menu of anywhere from 12 to 15 courses guaranteed to give the diner the complete tour of Tuscany. There is a private dining space on an outdoor balcony which is perfect for gatherings.
The “Meatless Monday” campaign has started to take root in the District, encouraging residents to explore vegetarian options at least one day a week to promote health and well-being. Nage (1600 Rhode Iisland Ave. N.W.) and Nora (2132 Florida Ave. N.W.), two of the District’s heavy hitters have jumped on the bandwagon by expanding their vegetarian options on Mondays to try and capture the interest of our fair city’s herbivores.
Nage expands its menu with nine offerings like a late-summer wild mushroom baklava while Nora continues the organic tradition with vegetable pho and ratatouille gratin. Other restaurants jumping on the vegetarian train worth mentioning are Zest Bistro (735 8th St. S.E.) in Capitol Hill, which offers not only a “Meatless Monday” dinner option but a lunch option as well; Penn Quarter’s Poste (555 8th St. N.W.) harvests from its courtyard garden to add local flavor, and Ethiopian eatery Dukem’s (1114 U St. N.W.) menu has a host of veggie-only options all week long.
Logan Circle has a slick new Thai choice with Teak Wood (1323 14th St. N.W.). Serving inexpensive traditional dishes and a surprisingly extensive sushi selection, Teak Wood is a younger incarnation of the Regent, though just as impressively decorated.
Rustik Tavern in Bloomingdale (84 T St. N.W.) specializes in artisanal pizzas made in its wood burning oven, but the fare is not strictly Italian. Diners can also enjoy designer sandwiches and small plates, but the real draw here is the extensive craft beer menu. Whimsical brews like Stone Arrogant Bastard and Flying Dog Raging Bitch IPA balance with more traditional selections like Yuengling and Peroni. Rustik is open every day at 4 p.m. with a daily happy hour until 7.
If there’s one thing chefs like to do other than cook, it’s give each other awards. For the first time in four years, the Starchefs.com online culinary magazine is giving 16 area savory and pastry chefs, sommeliers and mixologists their “Rising Star” honors during a walk-around tasting on the rooftop of Charlie Palmer’s Steak on Oct. 26. What makes this so special is that the tasting is open to the public ($95 for regular admission, $150 for the VIP treatment with caviar, champagne and a pre-event reception) and guests will be treated to signature dishes, wine pairings and sample cocktails from honorees like Bryan Voltaggio (Volt), Bertrand Chemel (2941) and Carlton McCoy (Sou‘Wester). The complete list of the new Rising Stars and ticket information can be found at starchefs.com.