Words by Kaylee Dugan, Photos by Franz Mahr
Despite D.C.’s more recent foodie accolades, the District still gets a good amount of shit when it comes to dining out. Sometimes it comes from famous restaurateurs, sometimes it comes from friends, but no matter how far we come, there’s always going to be that one guy in the corner yelling about how D.C. has no good pizza options. And while some long time Washingtonians might agree with our critics (even though I’m of the opinion that much like some overworked parents battling a whiny two-year-old, we have to display a united front), the one thing you can’t fuck with is our Italian game. From Red Hen to Chef Fabio Trabocchi’s mini empire, sometimes it feels like there’s too many amazing options for a city of this size. How could one possibly choose?
The year old Aperto is one of the newest restaurants making your life more difficult. And I mean that in the best way. Kicking off with cocktails, the new seasonal drinks don’t follow the standard autumn / winter cocktail conventions. Instead of going boozy and dark, Chef Luigi’s bar team has instead created drinks that are refreshing and effervescent, but still have those classic autumnal flavors. The best example of this (and the best drink you can get on the new menu) is the Autumn Pear. It’s refreshing as all get out, but the combination of bourbon and pear manage to make it feel like a drink that’s perfect for colder weather.
After a quick round of drinks, Chef Luigi steered us straight into the antipasti section of the menu. While he talked to us about the complexity of caring for cows, we dove head first into eating all of the cheese and prosciutto we could. If you’re a huge fan of the cured meat, Aperto carries not only your classic Prosciutto Di Parma, but also has duck and lamb prosciutto. If you can only choose one, get the duck. It comes out looking like the fattiest slab of bacon you’ve ever seen, but it’s melt in your mouth delicious. Paired with a good cheese and a red that can hold it’s own and you have yourself a meal.
Don’t fill up on prosciutto though, this isn’t amateur hour. What you really want to save room for is Aperto’s fantastic pasta selection. Chef Luigi will claim he doesn’t have any favorites, they’re all his children after all, but I haven’t slaved over the recipes day in and day out, so I can confidently tell you that the gnocchi should be at the top of your list. Featuring smoked duck sausage and a cherry tomato sauce, it’s honestly some of the best gnocchi I’ve ever had. You get the smoke from the duck, you get the bright sweetness from the cherry tomatoes and you get all the carbs in the world from that hunk of tender gnocchi. It’s a match made in heaven. The ravioli and the laganelle are also fantastic in their own ways, the ravioli leans a little lighter and the laganelle is perfect for a cold night when all you want is something hot and heavy, but the gnocchi is still the winner. Sorry, Chef.
If you’re not feeling up to pasta (which is very crazy what are you even doing?), Aperto has your back with a variety of meat and seafood dishes. The grilled octopus was our favorite with its marriage of bitter, charred flavors and delicate chickpea puree, but the steak was also buttery and delicious (plus it came with some A+ Brussels sprouts).
We’re truly spoiled in this city. You could have an amazing Italian meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner without blinking an eye, but if you find yourself on K Street and you’re craving a fine Italian meal, Aperto is a very good bet.