I had a lot of travel to DC in March and April. It was a lot of hard work, and I got a lot of help from a great team. So when I went back during the first week of May, I offered to treat the team to a celebration lunch.
My DC-based lobbyist picked the venue – Graffiato in Chinatown. It’s a restaurant with a story. The chef/owner is a guy named Mike Isabella. He’s picked up a fair share of accolades in his career so far. He was named The People’s Best New Chef for the Mid-Atlantic region in Food & Wine’s survey. He did a stint at one of chef Jose Andres DC restaurants Zaytinya. But possibly he got most of his public attention by being seen on season 6 of TV’s Top Chef (a show I don’t watch).
Graffiato has a nice ambiance. Our group (7 of us) were seated in the upstairs dining room. The room had high ceilings and was comfortable, bright, and open. Our server was friendly and patient. (You know how it is with groups. They sit down and start to chat, and it’s difficult for the server to know when they’re really ready to order.)
One person at the table commented that she wished there were more choices on the menu. But our group didn’t have much trouble finding things to order. Our server advised us that the menu items are Italian small plates and suggested we order two per person. We ended up ordering a few plates to share and each person had an entrée.
Highlights of the starters: I picked ‘blistered sweet peppers’ which was a nice serving of red and yellow peppers with olive oil, capers, and smoked paprika; I thought it was very good. A couple of people had the green salad. Another had burrata with honey-glazed onions. I didn’t take a taste, but she said it was great. We also got two orders of flatbread for the table. It was served with a spicy pepperoni sauce and was very good.
For entrées, a couple of people had ‘crispy potato gnocchi.’ The photo (above) doesn’t do it justice. It was served with fava beans, mushrooms, and stracciatella which is a soft Italian cheese.
A couple of people had fish, and I think there was at least one order of roasted chicken breast. They all said their meals were good. I had risotto with lobster and mascarpone (photo below). I liked it. I thought it was good. But I’ve written in Kriks Picks in the past about how my wife says that the risotto I make at home is better than anything that we get at restaurants. In this case, I guess I’d agree. It was good, but if I go back to Graffiato, I’ll have something else.
We were celebrating, so of course we had some desserts. There was one order of the chocolate tart that was declared to be decadent. Other guests ordered gelato, and there were several interesting choices for flavors, including blood orange and caramel sea salt. I don’t mean to be boring, but I had espresso. I like it, and this one was good.