Friday, October 29, 2010

notti bianche

notti bianche
824 new hampshire avenue NW, washington, DC 20037
tel: 202) 298-8085

what was consumed: marinated olives, eggplant carbonata, organic baby lettuce salad (pine nuts, golden raisins, apple, goat cheese, balsamic vinegar), baby arugula caesar salad (white anchovy, garlic croutons, parmigiano reggiano), buscatini with mussles and sausage (turnip greens, pecorino romano), hand crafted pappardelle bolognese (wide flat noodles with meat sauce, fresh herbed ricotta cheese), herb marinated grilled chicken breast panzanella (garlic chicken, tomato, cucumber and bread salad, salsa verde), grilled salmon (eggplant caponata, sun-dried tomato butter, bagna caoda bruschetta), chocolate budino (pistachio gelato, cocoa nib brittle)

americanized italian food is often the 'go to' meal when i'm cookin' up a storm at home. it's easy, tasty, and filling ... and there's so much variety! but sometimes, you want something special, or something you can't make, or has ingredients that are not readily available to you ... or you just don't want to make your own spaghetti. to an italian restaurant we go! but where? there can never really be too many italian restaurants. unfortunately, more often than not, i find myself not being able to select any particular one as my "go to." places are either family style (i.e., too much food for as many as there are in the party - i know. it happens. shocking), too expensive, or just flat out not good.

notti bianche had been thrown around as a place to try for some time now. being a hotel restaurant made us apprehensive (though hotel restaurants are usually pretty reliable), but more than that, it's in an area that's sort of inconvenient. that is, there really isn't anything else around notti bianche. but when you have something goin' on at gw's lisner auditorium, or if you're looking for a place to eat before something at the kennedy center, then notti bianche should most definitely be at the top of your list. and those days when you want some good italian food, make the trek out to foggy bottom and visit the good people at notti bianche!

so, parents were in town and sister's husband had a rehearsal at gw's lisner auditorium and it became my job to find a place to have dinner (which i was happy to do). so, after a quick walk around the kennedy center, we got to notti bianche right when they opened. we had made reservations, though it didn't look like that would've been necessary as the dining area was surprisingly empty. maybe that's because our reservation was for 5pm. no matter. we were happy to be greeted, immediately seated, and waited on with much attention. and so, after asking some questions and trying to accommodate everyone's tastes (which is pretty easy to do with my family as we are not really particular), we put in an order. a large order. hey, there were 5 of us!

we began our meal with some appetizers of marinated olives and eggplant carbonata (what a carbonata is was one of our questions). the olives were deliciously marinated with some herbs and olive oil. i find myself enjoying the firmer olives over the squishier ones, but that didn't deter me from helping c consume the entire bowl. we smeared eggplant carbonata (cooked eggplant stewed in a chunky tomato sauce with herbs) on our delicious bread (by the end of the night, we consumed 2 baskets of bread - delicious!).

the rest of our food then arrived, just as we asked it too (that is, the salads didn't come before the rest of the entrees - wonderful!). so, between the salads, the pastas, the entrees, and all of the things that were already on our table, it got pretty cramped (and we were at a large table!). the entrees were really tasty. the herb crusted chicken was juicy and paired well with the salsa verde, interestingly. and having the chicken sit on a bed of well seasoned fingerling potatoes and brussel sprouts (yum!) made the dish so very complete. the salmon was also grilled deliciously (though i guess i don't find anything super special about grilled salmon. i can, though, each pounds and pounds of it - so yummy) and came on a bed of the eggplant carbonata - yay! more eggplant carbonata the better! haha ...

but the pasta. the pasta was definitely the hit of the night. at least for me. the pasta was cooked just right - "al dente," but not too al dente. chewy, but not too chewy. you know. delicious. as for the gravy, i have friends who say that bolognese is how they determine the quality of an italian restaurant. i think they would approve of this place! the bolognese was served with super duper wide pasta - different from what i've had in the past, but all delicious. the buscatini was also something i'd write home about. with an oil based sauce, we slurped up the pasta and all of the fixings that were included. i've tried to use bucatini in the past and felt like it was long elbow macaroni. but not here at notti bianche! i think i could've eaten another bowl of this (granted, i'm a fan of oil based sauces).

we ended our dinner with a taste of their chocolate budino and pistachio ice cream. not being a fan of desserts, i had no more than a taste; there were others at the table who are bigger dessert fans. the budino was delicious and went really well with the crunchy cocoa nib brittle that topped the dense budino. the illy coffee i had with dessert was a nice end to the meal.

some may say the ambiance at notti bianche is ... quiet. it is. the clientele that was there when we were there was also older (but i think that's more because we got there at 5pm!). i liked that it wasn't all crazy loud and it wasn't overrun by massive amounts of people (though i frequent and enjoy those places as well). but the service was great, so i didn't particularly pay attention to the ambiance!

all in all, i'd have to say that dinner at notti bianche was a great success. delicious and super fresh food with good company. i can't wait to go back!

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