Sometimes there’s nothing better than a hearty and savory Italian meal, especially if it includes pasta. I savor the taste of rich, flavorful sauces and doughy, chewy pasta. Whether it be a gnocchi bolognese or a creamy cacio e pepe, pasta really makes my world go round.
In my hometown of Boston, the holy grail of Italian food is found in the North End neighborhood, also known as Boston’s Little Italy. When you head 400 miles south to Washington, D.C., however, you’ll discover the epicenter of charming Italian cuisine rests in our very own Georgetown neighborhood. That isn’t to say, however, that there isn’t phenomenal Italian fare located beyond the edges of the Georgetown bubble.
Last week, the perfect opportunity to explore the District’s Italian cuisine came. During the annual Metropolitan Washington Winter Restaurant Week promotion, dozens of restaurants in the area offered much more affordable prices for their fares. For as low as $22 for lunch and $35 for dinner, guests could enjoy a full three-course meal from a menu specially curated by each restaurant.
I kicked off Restaurant Week with a roommate dinner at Modena, a chic, upscale Italian restaurant located in City Center. I was promptly greeted by a hostess who seated us at a spacious circular table, socially distanced from the few other diners allowed on the premises. The single-use menu was composed of some of the restaurant’s specialities, all made with daily house-made pasta.
To start, I had the most finely ground, juicy meatballs with a velvety tomato and olive oil sauce. It was phenomenal. Paired with the fresh complimentary focaccia bread, the meatballs and bread made an absolutely dynamic duo. After the appetizer, I was already on the brink of a self-prescribed food coma. My entree, gnocchi with oyster mushrooms, truffles and parmesan, activated all of my tastebuds.
The dish was creamy and filling, and the soft, chewy texture of the mushrooms matched perfectly with the melt-in-your-mouth homemade gnocchi. The cherry on top — or should I say berry on top — was the mixed berry sorbet garnished with edible flower petals. I went home with a case of full-fledged food coma that night, but I have no regrets about it!
Little did I know my journey with Italian restaurants during Winter Restaurant Week would only get better as the week progressed. The day after visiting Modena, a friend and I impulsively decided to take on my roommate’s recommendation to try RPM, a restaurant in Mount Vernon owned by celebrity couple Giuliana and Bill Rancic. We ventured out to the restaurant on Friday for a nice three-course lunch. Although RPM was chic like Modena (while similarly following all COVID-19 safety measures to a T), the atmosphere was modern and trendy.
RPM’s contactless, pandemic-friendly online menu made ordering effortless. As a wholehearted lover of caprese, I started my three-course meal with the caprese salad, which came with an assortment of baby tomatoes and fresh mini mozzarella balls topped with basil leaves. What really stood out to me, though, was the main course: an immaculate, creamy and tender cacio e pepe. I didn’t think the meal could get any better, but my dessert of chocolate mousse and espresso beans in a small mug really brought the meal to a new level. And for just $22, my wallet and my stomach were grateful for Winter Restaurant Week.
As the week came to a close, I found myself adding more restaurants to try during next year’s event. These two restaurants really brought something special to the table, and I can say with full certainty that I would willingly go into a food coma for either of them again. As I wait in anticipation for next year’s Winter Restaurant Week, I hope to continue exploring and curating some of my favorite Italian and non-Italian restaurants in D.C.