all photos: Franz Mahr
Last week, we had the very good fortune of dining at Casa Nonna’s Tavola 12, a 12-course dining experience at the bar overlooking the restaurant’s open kitchen, featuring small courses prepared on the spot by Chef Amy Brandwein.
The 12-course tasting menu changes regularly, featuring seasonal flavors and Chef Amy’s latest creations. For her, Tavola 12 is a fun way to showcase fresh ingredients and simply to get to play with new ideas in a more intimate dining setting—but no molecular gastronomy here, she warns, just an impressive array of Italian flavors and inventive preparations.
We knew that Casa Nonna was a slam-dunk for pasta dishes and loud dinners with friends, but it turns out that they do haute dining really well. Really, really well.
Our tasting menu took us from light seafood starter dishes, to richer plates showcasing fall vegetables, then pastas, heartier meats and fish and finally, dessert. Each course was extra-fun as we watched the chefs prepare the progression of twelve small plates and chatted about the selection and preparation of different ingredients. I also learned that a very hot pizza oven can double as a cook top. Neat.
Some of our favorite dishes of the night included the polpo alla pignata, or baby octopus in terracotta with potato confit and chile that was a smoky, salty way to kick off the meal.
We also went crazy for pici ale coniglo–thick, twisted fresh spaghetti with a rabbit ragut in olive jus. I wanted a huge bowl. To eat with a spoon. On a couch. In front of a fire. Think we found the ultimate comfort food since I haven’t been able to get this dish off my mind ever since.
Next up, and keeping with everyone’s current love for everything pumpkin, we dug into tortelli di cremona, little “hats,” sort of a cross between ravioli and dumplings, of pumpkin in a butter and sage sauce with an amaretti cookie crumble. Yum.
And I’m a sucker for black cod anything so I dug the next course: merluzzo nero, perfectly cooked black cod—crispy on top and fleshy below—with a mustard cream.
It wouldn’t be a great meal without wine pairings, and the mostly small-production Italian wines paired with every other course complimented the meal nicely. I had a rare moment of enjoying a dessert wine over a gorgonzola panna cotta that was topped with fig and fleur du sel. A total mind fuck for your taste buds, combining flavors of salty cheese with sweet figs and the smooth texture of panna cotta.
Between watching the dishes prepared in front of you, the sexy ambiance of the bar, the people-watching and the food itself, it’s safe to say that your next DC date night is already planned. This was sensory overload in the best way possible.
Tavola 12 is available every Friday and Saturday night for $55 per person, with an optional $30 wine pairing at every other course. Since there are only 12 seats available at the bar, we recommend calling ahead to make a reservation.
Now we’ll let the food porn photos do the talking. Try not to drool on your keyboard…