The Restaurant Project: Graffiato (July)

July 31, 2011 § 5 Comments

Something happened in July that hasn’t before:
We went back to the same restaurant not once, not twice, but three times.

Yes. That’s how good Graffiato is.

[let’s pretend like there’s the obligatory paragraph about Mike Isabella and “Top Chef” here, ok? I am feeling lazy/hungover for reasons that will become apparent later]

Our first trip, we had reservations in the upstairs dining room, and after some tense negotiations and a “please no octopus” plea, we settled on the chef’s tasting menu. (Obviously, the first and foremost draw here is the chicken thighs with pepperoni sauce from “Top Chef”, the dish that gave Gail Simmons an orgasm on cable television — would those be included? We weren’t sure, but pretty much everything on the menu looked alluring.)

That first visit, Mike Isabella sent us:

  • A bread special — a polenta bread, a focaccia, a raisin bread, and an olive oil jam (they need to bottle the jam and sell it online; I’d buy a case)
  • Marinated sweet peppers — the weakest dish of all three visits, sooo salty
    Trio of ham — country ham, prosciutto di parm, and a holiday ham from Pennsylvania. The ham was a bit lost on me. Cheese > Ham.
  • Sweet corn agnolotti — A fancy way to say ravioli, in my 25% Italian opinion. Very, very good.
  • “Countryman” Pizza — Oh. My. God. The menu describes this as “black truffles, fontina, and duck egg” but it should say “prepare to have your mind blown.” The pizza arrives at the table with the egg still in one piece, then the waiter spreads it across the pie. It changed my life and immediately ended my love affair with Domino’s pizza. (I know. I’m a slob.)
  • Potato gnocchi with pork shank — Apparently this was a dish from “Top Chef” as well; I don’t remember it. I have never liked gnocchi, ever, but this was transcendental. So soft and light and the pork … I would eat this every day.
  • Chicken thighs — Yup, Gail Simmons was right … the pepperoni sauce is amazing. The chicken is perfect. I didn’t orgasm or anything. But, frankly, I was still thinking about the Countryman.
  • Dessert — raspberry gelato and Nutella cookies. Both excellent, but mostly unnecessary after all the food we’d eaten at this point.

The second visit was a gamble; it was a Saturday at 6 p.m., and I said to Scott, “I can’t stop thinking about that duck egg pizza.” He suggested we roll into D.C. and just try to squeeze in at the bar.

It worked — faster than I would have imagined, Scott parked while I went in to wait, and two seats opened up the moment I walked in (I only had to fend off some douchebag who suggested we share one of the seats [Him: You can sit on my lap! Me: Or I can punch you in the face!]).

Second visit menu:

  • Snap peas — an attempt to put something green in our bodies before all the calories that would come next.
  • Pork ribs — Like.
  • Countryman — Clearly.
  • Chicken thighs — For dipping pizza crusts into pepperoni sauce. This should be a menu option.
  • Also, they’ve got Zinfandel on tap, and DC Brau stocked at the bar, making me and Scott equally happy.

Two weeks later, which also happened to be last night, the same thing happened.

“I can’t stop thinking about that pizza…”

So off we went. And again, magic happened when I walked in, two seats at the bar immediately opened up, I threw up some sharp elbows to nab them, and made besties with the bartender over the ManU/Barca game while Scott parked.

Sadly, we branched out a little bit last night. No Countryman:

  • Cauliflower — roasted, with mint and pecorino? Yes, more please.
  • Spiced red beets — Only Scott ate these. I hate beets. Scott says they tasted like beets and that the nuts they came with tasted like nuts. (And that is why I am the writer of this project.)
  • White House pizza — An interesting spin on the white pizza, with mozzarella and ricotta, plus prosciutto and honey drizzled all over it. Sticky fingers. Good … but no duck egg.
  • Zinfandel!
  • DC Brau!
  • Prosecco! (I asked to see the specials, and the bartender brought me a prosecco. It was loud. I drank it. Hence my lazy this morning. Yes, two drinks will do me in.)

If you live in D.C., you should go to Graffiato. Soon. Reservations, the last I checked, were booked for the next eight weeks, but there’s no reason not to roll the dice and try to get a seat at the bar.

Let’s talk about the space a little bit. Upstairs is a bit loud. I’m getting old and deaf and I have trouble with loud. It’s also tight — the tables upstairs are very closely organized; you will get to eavesdrop on your neighbors’ conversation, if that’s your sort of thing (obviously, it is a hobby of mine). The bathrooms, regardless of upstairs or downstairs, require you to pass by the kitchen and the staff, which can be a little disconcerting (this seems to be a trend in new restaurants, so everyone can see the chef, but it feels a bit weird to be IN THE WAY, particularly if there is a line and you’re two steps from Mike Isabella, and he’s making fun of one of his waiters). The front of house staff seemed a little disorganized on our first visit, but obviously improved by the third. When we ate upstairs, I would have put our waiter, Kevin, in my purse and stolen him if I could have. By our third visit, the bartenders, particularly Emily, knew our  names. We’ve fallen in love with Graffiato a little bit, not just because the food is great, which it is, but because it feels like the kind of place you can walk into and feel welcome. That is not easy to do.

We’ll certainly be back.
(We have a reservation next Monday.)

On the Docket for August: We’re not sure yet. Our August weekends are already all booked up, including a visit to Volt for brunch and a long weekend in Miami. We’ll likely pick a spot in South Beach. And we’ll undoubtedly be back at Pubbelly.

June = Smith Commons
May = Lyon Hall
April = Pubbelly (Miami)
March = Volt
February = Kushi
January = Let’s not talk about it.

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