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Photos by Nicholas Karlin, Words by Norm Quarrinton

To the delight of the District’s food fanatics, the lovably eccentric celebrity chef, (and owner of Dupont’s Al Tiramisu) Luigi Diotaiuti, has expanded his Roman empire by setting up shop in Foggy Bottom. His new restaurant is Aperto and Luigi has created a menu that’s as electric as his personality–both of which we were fortunate enough to enjoy.

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Upon arrival, Souheil, Aperto’s charming GM, showed us around the gorgeous mural-ladened space–which features elegant marble tiling, and some classy chandeliers–before introducing us to Luigi. Luigi was enthusiastic about his new venture and couldn’t wait to show us his epic wine room, as well as his equally epic red Vespa. After being seated at a quaint little table by the front window, it was time to order cocktails, and tuck into some Italian grub.

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An enticing array of in-house cured meats and pates was brought to our table to help kick our appetites into gear–the prosciutto was cured to perfection, and the chicken liver pate with salsa verde was delightfully rich and creamy. Of course, we needed some beverages to help us digest all this meat, and Luis–the bar manager–made sure we were well taken care of on that front. We opted for the elegant Bacio (named after the Italian word for kiss), and the refreshingly fruity take a Ride on My Vespa (named after the aforementioned Italian moped).

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To prolong the grazing, we ordered two starters. The lamb meatballs were succulent and enjoyable, but the mussels are a must-have–perfectly sautéed, and served with a pleasant tomato sauce that can be soaked up using the generous portion of bread (assuming you haven’t already used it all to soak up the lashings of exquisite olive oil, or devoured it after smothering it in the smooth tomato ricotta–just two more of the little touches that help make Aperto such a noteworthy dining experience).

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Before moving on, Luis presented another cocktail from his exhilarating menu. The tasty tequila-based El Mariachi went down a treat. Our entrees were unsurprisingly delectable also. The generously-portioned grilled octopus was delectably soft, and comes with a smooth chickpea purée. The Laganelle is served with a luscious ragu, made with tender, juicy cuts of lamb (delicately sliced by Luigi himself).

Aperto has a lot going for it–charming decor, reasonable prices, ridiculously friendly and attentive staff (including character of a head chef), and a great location. It’s an exciting Italian adventure that will have you salivating days later.

Aperto is located at 2013 I St NW. They are open from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Friday thru Saturday they are open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.

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