When I think about D.C.’s Italian scene, two things immediately come to mind, Fabio Trabbocchi Restaurants and Lahlou Restaurant Group. Both started out as one off restaurants that have built their way into local chains (or maybe local empires is the correct word) and both of them are trying to ruin my life by luring me through the door with the promise of delicious carbs and enough Negroni’s to kill a man. In the dark fight for D.C.’s Italian soul, it’s Rabio vs. Lahlou and no matter who loses, we win. More pasta is the best kind of pasta.
So considering how many amazing Italian places we have in this city (especially if you include spots outside of the Trabbocchi / Lahlou groups like Red Hen, Centrolina, Osteria Morini, Casolare, etc), why would you hop on the 80 bus and take that slow, long trek out to the Palisades? 1. Because trying new things is fun and 2. You can finally fully enjoy Lupo Verde without battling the crowds on U Street or without having to step a foot onto The Wharf. Lyfts and taxis and buses exist. With the right planning, there’s no excuse not to go anywhere anymore.
And if you do make that trek, you’ll be greeted by a welcome sight, a wonderful Italian restaurant masquerading as an imposing row home (…right next to the bright lights of a suburban gas station, because you are kind of in the middle of nowhere). Step inside and Lupo Verde Osteria is as warm and inviting as their cozy nook on 14th, but definitely bigger. Luckily, the menu doesn’t reflect the difference in size. You’ll still find a curated list of Italian dishes, some of which very greatly from the options available at Lupo Verde and some that are pulled straight from the 14th Street menu. Here are the best things we had over the course of the evening.
People rave about Lupo Verde’s fried artichokes, but I don’t get it. It’s elevated carnival fare and isn’t nearly as enticing as some of the other antipasti available. Grab the creamy burrata paired with bright beets and crunchy watermelon radishes for the summer or the porchetta with juicy white peaches, apricots and crunchy cabbage. Both appetizers run the gamut when it comes to flavor and texture, mixing salty, sweet and fatty perfectly. Pair them with the delicious Peppino cocktail made with gin, lemoncello, prosecco, lemon juice and bitters and you could probably make a meal out of the antipasti section alone.
But that would be stupid because you’d miss out on the best section in the menu, the pasta. While you might spy some similarities between the Osteria list and the 14th Street offerings, there’s enough variation to make it worth your time. Sure, the cacio e pepe is the same, but it’s such a staple, we can’t really complain. If you’re looking to mix it up a little, our favorite pasta of the bunch was the Gemelli made with silky homemade gemelli pasta and a hearty neapolitan ragu, with some basil and pine nuts thrown in for good measure. Usually I prefer a seafood pasta to a meaty pasta, but the Gemelli was impossible to beat. From the brightness of the basil to the crunch of the pine nuts to the overwhelmingly fragrant smell of the ragu, everything was on point.
And if you wanted to eat nothing but pasta and skip the entrees, you’d be right. The branzino at the Osteria is perfectly cooked and the NY strip steak with its eggplant mousse is even better, but none of them beat the highs you get after biting into some perfectly cooked pasta. So order another round. Go for the Sapore Di Mare with its succulent seafood and its over the top saffron. Treat yourself to the best.
One thing you can’t skip is the architectural wonders that Lupo Verde Osteria refers to as desserts. All of them are delicious, all of them are a treat to the eye. You can go simple and grab Bomboloni with its fluffy doughnuts and Nutella spread or the beautifully plated Capri Island that comes with a healthy dose of dry ice (and a delicious meringue). Either way, you’re gold.
One thing to note is that the Osteria has an adorable Italian market, right out of your stereotypical Italian countryside dreams, right next door. You can pop in whenever you’d like to buy pasta and cheese and meats, but you can also completely rent it out. They can fit as few as two or as many as 10 people into the space and they will create a custom chefs tasting menu to go along with the experience. Considering it’s where the kitchen is actually located, you’re really getting dinner and a show. If you want a really intimate Italian dinner with a handful of your closest friends, this is without a doubt the way to go.
You just have to convince them to come out to the Palisades.
Lupo Verde Osteria is located at 4814 MacArthur Boulevard NW.