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First Look: Alba Osteria
December 19, 2013 | 11:04AM

All words and photos: Stephanie Breijo

Bordered by the Alps and the river Po sits Piedmont, Italy. The mountains, plains and river flank and curve their way through and around a region–Italy’s second largest, for those keeping score–that is well regarded for both its agriculture and natural beauty, but above all else, its food.

Executive Chef Roberto Donna, born and raised in Piedmont, is here to bring you a taste.

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On December 30 Alba Osteria, sister restaurant to the award-winning Al Dente, opens its doors with a Piedmontese menu which so closely ties itself to tradition that the whole experience verges not just on culinary but educational. Were you aware, for instance, that Piedmont is home to over 170,000 acres of vineyards? Or that its signature dish is pasta, with more variations than any other region in Italy? Had you heard, by chance, that the people of Piedmont catch and prepare freshwater fish straight from the river?

Alba Osteria–named for the city in Piedmont–prepares its dishes accordingly and offers over 100 wines (four on tap), fresh housemade pasta (which we heartily recommend sampling), and freshwater-only specials; you’ll find no fish on the menu year-round here. The mountains of Piedmont also provide ideal terrain for the elusive white truffle, which you’ll find in the osteria’s specials or during seasonal tasting events.

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“It’s a very traditional menu,” owner Hakan Ilhan tells me. ”The traditional cuisine of Piedmont can be very poor, like fried pigs feet, and goes to the very rich like fillet of beef with topped with chicken liver pate.”

Expect a range of items, all housemade, like the tajarin (a rich pasta made with egg yolk). Even the gelato and sorbet is made at Alba Osteria. When you do find seafood on the menu, you might spot trout or saltwater cod, perhaps some lobster ravioli.

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One of the most striking features of the new space is its wood-fired pizza oven, imported from Naples. The orange-tiled oven can cook a pizza in 1.5 minutes flat, reaching up to 1,000 degrees fahrenheit–handy if you’re looking for a quick Neapolitan-style bite and yes, they serve lunch, though the new restaurant will start with dinner only on the 30th. From there they launch lunch and happy hour and in early 2014, a brunch we can’t wait to taste.

Alba Ostera is located at 425 I Street NW open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11AM to 4PM, dinner Sunday through Thursday 4 PM to 12 AM, Friday and Saturday 4 PM to 1 AM, and brunch Saturday and Sunday 10:30 AM to 4 PM.

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