Still Room to Grow

SFOGLINA

4445 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008 (http://www.sfoglinadc.com/)

** (Good)

Our first encounter with chef Fabio Trabocchi was last summer at his original, and superb, restaurant Fiola. When I heard about his latest entry into the D.C. dining scene: the pasta-centric Sfoglina, I was intrigued. Sfoglina, the Italian word used to describe the traditional female pasta makers who roll out pasta sheets by hand, rightfully spotlights different pasta varieties throughout its menu. Spending a recent evening out with the family noshing, expectations may have been a little high given our previous Trabocchi restaurant experience. And while it may have been impossible to match the luxury of the original, we found the newest addition to Van Ness a welcome change to the neighborhood.

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Believe the Hype

ALL-PURPOSE PIZZERIA

1250 9th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001 (http://allpurposedc.com/)

*** and 1/2 (Excellent/Outstanding)

Sometimes restaurant hype can be difficult to live up to. With high expectations, even a so-so meal can bring everything crashing back down to earth in a hurry. So when the braintrust behind Red Hen opened up the pizza-centric All-Purpose right down the street from the Convention Center, it was no surprise that the initial word was positive. After Tom Sietsema proclaimed All-Purpose his favorite D.C. restaurant in the Washington Post Fall Dining Guide, my expectations started to get a little out of hand. But there are occasions where restaurants justify the hype. And after securing two dinners recently, I can say without hesitation that All-Purpose is slinging the best pizzas in the District; and some of the best pies I’ve had, anywhere.

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A Pillar of Penn Quarter

FIOLA

601 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20004 (http://fioladc.com/)

*** and 1/2 (Excellent/Outstanding)

Fiola, the Italian fine dining bastion from Chef Fabio Trabocchi, has been well established for some years now. Recently, however, the original DC establishment from Chef Trabocchi has had much of its press stolen by his newest restaurant, the seafood-heavy, Fiola Mare. But, we may be seeing a resurgence from the former. With its supposed top-notch pasta and seafood, along with a recent shining review from Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post, Fiola was among the top choices in searching for a location for my mom’s milestone birthday celebration. And after our dining experience, there is no denying that the Trabocchi original continues to shine bright.

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A Once Elusive Chef Plants Roots

PETER CHANG

20A Maryland Avenue, Rockville, MD 20850 (http://peterchangarlington.com/)

** and 1/2 (Good/Very Good)

Chef Peter Chang used to be a difficult man to track down. His story, at this point, is relatively well known. Once the chef to the Chinese Ambassador in Washington, D.C., Chang took his show on the road – and on the run – to various small restaurants up and down Virginia, constantly moving out of fear of being caught. Word would quickly spread of his whereabouts, crowds would follow, and – poof – Chang would move on. After many years, Chang has finally settled down and opened up several restaurants, including two eponymous locations in Arlington, Virginia and Rockville, Maryland. A recent familial outing at the Rockville location for my dad’s birthday revealed that the rumors of Chang’s skill are without a doubt true; and that his restaurant offers the best Chinese food to be had in the DMV.

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Pizza, Beer, and So Much More

BIRROTECA

1520 Clipper Road, Baltimore, MD 21211 (http://www.bmorebirroteca.com/home)

** and 1/2 (Good/Very Good)

Growing up in the suburbs of the DMV, whenever we made the trek up to Baltimore, there were only two destinations: the Inner Harbor/Aquarium or Camden Yards. In recent years, however, Baltimore has seen a real resurgence within its dining scene: Mid-Atlantic-centric menus (Spike Gjerde), big name chefs (Michael Mina), and neighbors expanding into the city (Bryan Voltaggio). So during a recent outing with my family, when I decided to break them out of their comfort zone and head toward the Hampden/Clipper Mill area and Birroteca, I received more than one puzzled look. But, by the time the meal was over, everyone seemed to understand that there was a lot more to Charm City than the Inner Harbor.

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A Baltimore Staple

WOODBERRY KITCHEN

2010 Clipper Park Road, No. 126, Baltimore, MD 21211 (http://www.woodberrykitchen.com/)

*** (Very Good/Excellent)

Baltimore tends to be the lesser known city in the DMV; the little brother of Washington, DC. And in some respects it’s true: there are less attractions, less restaurants, and contains a smaller population. My wife and I tend to skew towards DC whenever we want to go out – whether it’s dinner, drinks, or meeting up with folks. There are exceptions to the rule though; some fantastic finds in Baltimore…you just have to know where to look.

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