301 Water Street, SE, Washington, DC 20003 (http://www.osteriamorini.com/washington-dc/)
** and 1/2 (Good/Very Good)
When I read a profile on Osteria Morini’s pastry chef Alex Levin, I immediately noted it as a restaurant to take my wife, who has a notoriously sweet tooth, for her birthday. We arrived for an early dinner on a Sunday evening, and given the locale: set right against the water with the city skyline as its backdrop, it was definitely the right time to go.
Osteria Morini, offering a variety of pastas, wood grilled meats, and seafood entrees seems to lean heavily toward the earlier courses: with multiple cheese, charcuterie, and crostini options. We, however, decided to go with the Polpettini, which featured prosciutto and mortadella. Though there were plenty of the bite-size meatballs to go around, I expected the cured meats to give the dish more of a pop. They were perfectly acceptable, but I expected more from a restaurant featuring so many cured options. The house-made focaccia made up for many of issues, as it provided for an excellent delivery device.
We moved onto the pastas; the Cicatelle (baked ricotta gnocchi with duck ragu and brussels sprouts) for her, and the Gramigna (cabornara with pork sausage and pecorino) for me. The gnocchi were perfectly cooked pillows of pasta, holding in the savory bites of
duck, brussels and the sharp caciocavollo cheese. A hit in both our eyes. The Gramigna, with its creamy and salty sauce was tasty, but was dwarfed by the gnocchi. And the pork sausage, while providing fantastic flavor to the dish, could have a texture that seemed a bit gritty at times. We also shared the Patate Fritti, smash and fried potatoes, which had a wonderful crispy exterior with a soft interior and salty notes from the pecorino. I think they’d pair well with the wood grilled proteins.
But oh, the desserts. While I knew going into the meal that dessert would be a must, I am rarely blown away by sweets. I had been eyeing the Tartaletta (pine nut and pistachio tartlet with lemon curd, candied Meyer lemon, and vanilla gelato), but the Mele (apples, vanilla bavarian, brown butter cake, and maple pecan gelato) had my wife’s attention. Naturally, we
ordered both. And is that wasn’t enough, the house saw fit to send out their favorite: Tortino (warm guanaja cake and vanilla gelato). I say this without hesitation: the pine nut tartlet is the best dessert that I’ve had in the DMV area, period. The tart taste of the lemon, with the earthy nuts, and sweet pastry shell were a perfect mix. The shell itself was crisp, and the filling smooth, save for the crunch of the pine nuts and pistachios. I found the Mele to be a little one note, and on the sweet side. The Tortino, for chocolate lovers, is a win. Rich, warm, and welcoming, the cake was very good, but incredibly filling.
Osterini Morini has plenty to offer, between its views, pastas, and desserts. Although there are a growing number of restaurants popping up on the Southeast Waterfront, the osteria has high points that are worthy of traveling to. Even if you were to do dinner at a neighboring establishment, you’d be wise to end your evening with a sweet from Osteria Morini.
Atmosphere: The restaurant is a casual dining room tucked away in the corner of the Southeast Waterfront with a view. The severs are friendly and attentive, and the dining room is welcoming to couples, groups, and families.
Noise: A surprisingly quiet restaurant, where we were able to hold conversation without any issues.
Recommended Dishes: Cicatelle (baked ricotta gnocchi), Gramigna (cabornara with pork sausage), Tartaletta (pine nut and pistachio tartlet)
$$$$ – $100 to $150 for dinner for two
Note: This review originally ran on December 19, 2015 on our old site and was re-published on WordPress.