May 17, 2012 | by Jonathan Howard
Washington Posto

Melissa Taylor and Matteo Venini of Ristorante Posto. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ristorante Posto (1515 14th St., N.W.) delivers a fine dining experience with a caring and attentive staff and a menu full of mouth-watering selections. The exquisite dishes send your taste buds soaring, so much so that you forget you’re sitting in a former car dealership.

On a recent Sunday evening, my husband and I and three friends dined there. Our table was located beside the wood-burning pizza oven that warmly fills the back of the dining area. The high ceilings and the rich wood throughout create a comfortable yet elegant dining area. Even at 9:30 p.m., the dining room felt energetic with smiling staff bustling about and diners engaging in lively conversation.

Our waiter approached, greeted each of us individually and asked if we would like to start our evening off with one of the numerous wine offerings. We weren’t sure which bottle to order, so he brought selections for us to try from the Enomatic wine system behind the bar. Thanks to this single-serving wine pouring and preservation system, we were able to select a crisp Kerner white that carried a clean and citrusy flavor.

Posto specializes in classic and modern Italian dishes; its staff works with local farms to obtain organic vegetables and they import Italian ingredients. If you’re looking for an affordable dining experience, you can enjoy one of their delicious pizzas and a glass of wine; if the mood strikes you, though, you can savor a more extravagant multi-course meal.

Chef de Cuisine Matteo Venini unveiled a new spring menu last month. He’s a self-proclaimed “meat guy” and his favorite item is the Antra, a pan-roasted duck breast with pearl onions, dried cherries and spinach in a port wine reduction. We decided on seven entrees from the new menu, which included two different pizzas. Some of our favorites were the Piccante Pizza, the Tonnato and the Cappallacci.

The Piccante Pizza included spicy salami and Italian sausage — a truly delicious thin crust pizza made with the finest ingredients and the perfect amount of heat for a spicy food lover like me. The Tonnato is thinly sliced rabbit loin in tonnato sauce, which was light and fresh but intensely flavorful. The Cappallacci consists of handmade pasta filled with scallops, green peas, with nerodini mushrooms and artichokes and a hint of marjoram. The perfectly balanced earthy flavors of this pasta dish were delectable and the plate barely made it around the table as each diner reluctantly passed it on.

Venini prides himself on providing an authentic dining experience and it shows.

We’d barely finished when dessert menus were handed out. New pastry chef Melissa Taylor was previewing items from a new dessert selection that was unveiled last week. Taylor says she “has been savory cooking all her life, but pastry is her passion.” The item she was previewing was the white chocolate orange semifreddo with blueberry compote and rum sauce. She “loves all of the elements of this dessert” and of the three desserts we ordered, this was our favorite as well.

Other additions to Taylor’s dessert menu include an amaretto-soaked almond cake, a “summery” saffron honey Panna Cotta with passion fruit curd, a tour of chocolate plated on what Taylor refers to as “coffee soil,” and an intriguing chilled cantaloupe soup with tangerine gelee. Taylor said when she began at Posto, Venini wanted a dessert soup on the menu, and that’s how the cantaloupe soup was born.

Venini says he “loves the [Logan Circle] neighborhood and loves the people.” With a dynamic new spring menu that doesn’t disappoint, an attentive and talented staff and a gifted new pastry chef, Ristorante Posto is a treasure in an unassuming location where even the most discriminating taste buds will realize their good fortune.

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