Saturday, October 29, 2011


"In June 2011, Chef Mike Isabella opened Graffiato, an Italian-inspired restaurant in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, DC. The 130-seat spot allows Chef Isabella to interact with guests while he crafts comforting dishes from seasonal produce and locally cured hams, hand-rolled pastas and marinated vegetable accoutrements.

The two-story layout features an open ham bar on the second floor and a large wood oven tucked behind a U-shaped counter with 15 bar stools on the first floor. Both stations encourage dialogue between the guests and chefs. Chef Isabella serves seasonal, artisanal pizzas and small plates inspired by the food he grew up eating in New Jersey prepared by his Italian-American grandmother. With heavy influence from Chef Isabella’s Mediterranean and Latin culinary training, Graffiato is anything but a traditional Italian eatery. Food, wine and beer are sourced domestically, and often from the East Coast. Look for unique cocktails, domestic wine and Prosecco served straight from a tap." Closest Metro is Chinatown-Gallery Place.

We trekked out on this blistery cold and wet autumnal day to try lunch at the highly anticipated new restaurant from Top Chef alum, Mike Isabella.  We were seated upstairs and I immediately noticed the silver chairs - exactly the same as Chef Spike's over at Good Stuff Eatery.  However the decor was much nicer with dark wood tables, a wooden buffet station featuring various wines, and interesting cartoon-like characters painted on the walls.  One detriment, was the annoyingly repetitive Michael Jackson soundtrack - don't get me wrong, I love me some MJ, but it was just too loud and too repetitive, that is was starting to become a distraction at times.  Another oddity was the switch up of servers.  We were greeted by a nice gentleman who gave us the introductory spiel explaining the "small plates" concept and then shortly after, a young lady came over and wanted to repeat the spiel.  We told her we already heard it and were ready to order.  Throughout our time there, however, the two kept switching places and it was a little confusing - was one a trainee? Is it just a communal service atmosphere they run? We were not the only confused ones, as the table next to us mentioned the same thing.  

Anywho, on to the food.  We were warned that each dish would simply come out whenever it was ready, but our food all arrived at once.  I suspect it was due to the fact that it was not that crowded in the dining room.  The small plates are indeed small, yet full of big flavor.  The gnocchi were so soft and pillowy and perfectly comforting with the mushroom sauce.  Keith had high expectations for the chicken thighs in pepperoni sauce, as well as I, ever since that finale episode of Top Chef All-Stars when Gail Simmons was awestruck over his pepperoni sauce.  It was cooked very well and the pepperoni was definitely prominent, yet the dish was missing its cabbage element and could have been a lot warmer.  It was a little let down to eat cold, especially since the servers stressed so much how they timed when the food came out, so that it would not get cold.  Nevertheless, we enjoyed it and I'm sure I saw Keith dip his pizza crust into the left over pepperoni sauce every now and then.  Yes, the pizza crust - it was soft and chewy and thin at the same time.  The calamari on top was cooked perfectly and the spicy sauce was interesting.  However, the menu listed provolone as a topping, which was totally unnoticeable.  Overall, I was impressed with what little food we had.  Although slightly over priced, the food was high quality and very enjoyable.  On our way out, Chef Isabella was coming in and exchanged hellos with Keith.  It was good to see his point of view in the food and in the decor. I am glad we came out in this icy rain and I look forward to a return trip soon. 
Make easy reservations to Graffiato on CityEats

Total Rating: 4.3
Food: 5, Price: 3, Service: 3, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5
What Micky Eats...

What I ate:
Chicken Thighs
in pepperoni sauce
Photo: Graffiato Website

Roasted Potato Gnocchi
with wild mushrooms, parmesan, truffle

Jersey Shore Pizza
fried calamari, tomato sauce, provolone, cherry pepper aioli
Photo: Graffiato Website

Graffiato on Urbanspoon

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