Friday, February 14, 2014

Acqua al 2

Located directly across the street from the historic Eastern Market, this is the third Acqua al 2 to open (first in Florence, Italy and second in Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego, CA). This fine dining Italian restaurant is a welcomed new edition to the neighborhood and whose anticipated opening created hyper buzz around town and overbooked nights. Since their opening in 2010, we have returned for various special occasions and Acqua al 2 remains one of my favorite restaurants in DC. Closest Metro is Eastern Market. 



June 2010: Offering a traditional Tuscan menu with appetizers, first course (pasta or rice), and second course (meats), immediately my taste buds were aroused. One thing that caught our eye was the sampler courses where the the chef picks five dishes for you to try. We decided on the Assagio di Primi as our appetizer - the sampler of five vegetarian pastas. Each plate arrived one by one, fresh, and piping hot from the kitchen. The flavors and techniques were very authentic to the Tuscan region and we enjoyed each pasta immensely. I was skeptical of the $13 per person price tag for the small pasta plates, but I suppose it is a fun way to be able to try the different dishes. Service was very friendly and attentive - maybe even overly so with the constant filling of our water glasses. By the time our main meat course arrived, we were pretty filled up with pasta, bread, wine, and water. Unfortunately, I did not love my chicken - although it was cooked very well, it was slightly under seasoned and I was just too full from all the carbs to truly enjoy it. The restaurant itself is narrow, typical row house style with a bar near the entrance and a private dining area in the back. As for the decor - it is a mix of country chic with some charming elements and some too kitschy for my taste. Also one thing that we found most odd were the cartoon paper place settings that alluded to them being a chain restaurant and brought the class level down just a tad. All in all, Acqua al 2 serves authentic Italian cuisine and I would definitely come back for some other appetizers and pasta dishes.

December 2010: Keith and I returned for our Christmas dinner. We shared baked appetizers and were very satisfied. The specials of the evening sounded delicious, but I stuck to the original menu. Acqua al 2 is proving to be a local favorite, as the restaurant was pretty full on this bitter cold night. 

May 2011: We hosted a private event for 20 people here and Ralph and his staff did an excellent job. Ralph was great in allowing us to customize our menu and we could not be more happy with the service and the quality of the food. Everyone was very satisfied - and I heard comments that this was some of the most fresh, well seasoned food (coming from my 82 year old Italian grandmother) to this is better than Bobby Flay's restaurant (coming from my mother). I highly recommend Acqua Al 2 for private functions - they can hold up to 26 in the Ponte Vecchio room or 18 in the Mercatino room for dinner and slightly more in each for cocktail parties.

We started with the antipasto platter, with fresh bread and wine. Next was the salad course, where our guests could choose between the caprese, caesar, or house mixed salad. Then came 5 different pastas that were shared family style - the gorganzola gnocchi was by far the star of the evening. Next, was the main course where guests could choose between veal chop, Port wine chicken, or the Branzino - which was so delicate and flavorful and the risotto that accompanied it was to die for. Lastly, the dessert sampler of tiramisu, chocolate cake, cheesecake, and biscotti. We were all rolling out (slowly) and would have stayed longer since everyone was enjoying themselves so much - but there was another private event after ours. Overall, I cannot thank Ralph and his team enough - we had a five star meal in our local neighborhood establishment - just what we wanted to share with our guests.

August 2012: We returned to celebrate my mother's birthday. Ralph greeted us warmly and sat us in a nice private booth tucked away in a corner. He presented us glasses of Prosecco to start off our celebratory evening. Keith and I immediately knew we wanted to start with the shared Assagio di Primi as our appetizer - the sampler of five vegetarian pastas. This time we had bowtie with porcini mushroom sauce, rigatoni with eggplant and tomato sauce, shells with broccoli, penne in a vodka sauce, and fussili with sweet red pepper sauce. All were amazing as expected, the favorite being the penne all vodka and the fussili with sweet red peppers. Ralph also sent out the Shrimp Ravioli for us to try, and they were freshly handmade with nice filling. My parents especially enjoyed the ravioli and stated they would come back just to order a plate of them.  New pictures from this meal are under the dashed lines below.


For our main courses, the fish specials stood out to me so I chose the Scallops, that were pan seared in a white wine sauce and served over risotto.  The scallops were extremely tender and melted in my mouth and even though I had enough starch from the pasta sampler, I still ate all the risotto that was studded with chunks of fresh zucchini.  It was absolutely delicious.  My mother order the Rockfish that was also perfectly cooked with lovely flavor, served over a caponata of eggplant and peppers.  The size of the piece of fish was just right and my mother truly enjoyed her meal. Even though one may think fish is not what they should order at a Tuscan Italian restaurant, the fish specials at Acqua al 2 highlight the passion and finesse of the kitchen.


Keith ordered Lombatina al Pepe Verde, a hand-cut veal chop sautéed and topped with a green peppercorn, brandy, dijon mustard and cream sauce.  The chop was a bit on the smaller side and the sauce was a bit over powering, yet the meat itself was cooked nicely.  My father ordered the Filetto all' Aceto Balsamico, a hand-carved filet mignon topped with a balsamic reduction.  The sauce looked black on the plate, but once he cut into the meat, you could see the red warm center.  He really enjoyed the sauce and flavor of the meat and also stated it was one of his favorite items.  To add some freshness, Keith and my father shared a side of the sautéed spinach that was cooked lightly with some garlic. We were all happily stuffed, but being that it was my mother's birthday I knew we should order dessert.  My mother couldn't decide, so we ordered a sampler of four desserts: chocolate cake, passion fruit panna cotta, tiramisu, and cheesecake.  Additionally, they brought out the caramel semifreddo that was covered in dark chocolate.  My favorite was the incredibly dense and velvety panna cotta, while my father loved the tiramisu (he stated he would eat a whole large platter of it), and my mother's favorite was the semifreddo which reminded her of luxurious gelato.  All in all, we had another excellent meal at Acqua al 2.  The staff treated us like family, showed us gracious hospitality, and my mother felt like a queen.  The food and service is better and better each time we return to Acqua al 2.  The close location to our house is bonus, yet I don't want to spoil myself too much by dining at this neighborhood gem.  Nevertheless, Acqua al 2 remains one of my Top 10 favorites restaurants in DC. Bravo!

February 2014:  Keith and I returned for the $85 per person Valentine's Day menu.  We had a pretty decent dumping of snow from the last storm, and were happy that we picked a place close by.  Even though it was still very slushy on the streets, I knew that Acqua al 2 would be warm and inviting inside.  The restaurant was pretty packed, but service was perfectly timed out as they only offered the prix fixe menu.

To start, Keith chose the Zuppa di Ceci, a delightful chickpea soup.  He would have preferred it to be more silky, but there were still large chunks of chickpeas in it.  I started off with the Insalata del Mercato, featuring chicory, blood oranges, and capers in lime-vinaigrette dressing.  It was simple and refreshing.  Next, Keith enjoyed the warm Strozzapreti al Radicchio Rosso - fresh, hand-rolled ricotta cheese and spinach balls baked in a house tomato sauce with parmesan and shredded radicchio.  This dish had such a traditional homey Italian flavor, and was perfect to eat with the fresh bread.  I continued with the lighter salad type course, Burrata con Bietole.  Creamy Burrata cheese sat on top of red and yellow beets, drizzled in a honey-beet dressing, and topped with fresh basil.  The cheese was lovely with the perfect amount of saltiness to accompany the sweet beets.

For our pasta course, I chose the Cavatelli Con Gamberi - small pasta shells with sautéed shrimp, zucchini and cherry tomatoes in a white wine, garlic sauce with a touch of red pepper flakes.  Keith chose the Fusilli Lunghi alla Fiaccheraia - corkscrew pasta in a spicy tomato sauce with a touch of garlic.  As usual, both pasta dishes were expertly cooked and had tremendous flavor.  For the main course, Keith ordered the Filetto all’ Aceto Balsamico.  He has had other steaks at Acqua al 2, and remembered my father enjoyed this hand-carved filet mignon topped with a balsamic reduction, so had to try it himself.  It was cooked medium-rare inside as he likes it and the sauce had a nice tang to it.  I devoured my entree of Pesce del Giorno, which today was a pan-seared halibut served with parsnip puree, potatoes, and black trumpet mushrooms.  Finally, we ended our meal sharing the Assagio di Dolci.  Again, our favorite was the panna cotta prepared tonight with a simple vanilla sauce.  I am glad the snow did not keep me from enjoying another impeccable meal at Aqua al 2 with my valentine.

Total Rating: 4.7
Food: 5, Price: 4, Service: 5, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5
What Micky Eats...






What I ate:
Caprese
sliced tomato, imported mozzarella di’buffalo, topped with basil, olive oil, salt & pepper

Maccheroni all Vodka
little penne pasta in vodka & tomato sauce

Fussili Corti agli Spinaci
short corkscrew pasta in a light spinach sauce

Fussili Lunghi alla Contadina
long fussili pasta with a vegetarian ragu & touch of Parmesan cheese

Branzino
pan seared Mediterranean sea bass in a white wine lemon caper sauce
served with risotto

Strozzapreti al Pomodoro
fresh ricotta cheese and spinach balls hand rolled and baked
in the house tomato sauce, then topped with Parmesan cheese

Parmigiana al Forno
grilled eggplant, baked in the house tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese

Assaggio Di Primi  
a sampler of five vegetarian pastas, chef’s choice
rotini with pesto sauce, gnocchi with gorganzola sauce, bowtie with porcini mushroom sauce,
rigatoni with eggplant and tomato sauce, fussili with spicy tomato sauce



Petto di Pollo ai Funghi Porcini
sautéed chicken breast topped with a porcini mushroom, garlic and white wine sauce


Cannelloni Mascarpone e Funghi
Porcini mushrooms with mascarpone rolled in fresh pasta, baked in a bowl
with house tomato sauce and béchamel with Parmesan cheese

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Shrimp Ravioli

Scallops
3 jumbo sea scallops in a white wine sauce
served with risotto

Assaggio di Dolci
a sampler of four housemade desserts
chocolate cake, passion fruit panna cotta, tiramisu, cheesecake

Semifreddo
caramel with chocolate
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Insalata del Mercato
chicory, blood oranges, capers, lime-vinaigrette dressing

Burrata con Bietole
Burrata cheese with red and yellow beets, drizzled in a honey-beet dressing

Cavatelli Con Gamberi
small pasta shells with sautéed shrimp, zucchini and cherry tomatoes
in a white wine, garlic sauce with a touch of red pepper flakes

Pesce del Giorno
pan-seared halibut served with parsnip puree, potatoes, and black trumpet mushrooms


Plus Keith ate:


Tagliata Funghi
Grilled, sliced New York steak with Porcini mushrooms


Lombatina ai Funghi Porcini
a hand-cut veal chop sauteed in a porcini mushroom, white wine, & garlic sauce

Lombatina di Vitella alla Griglia
a hand cut veal chop grilled and served on a bed of fresh arugula
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Lombatina al Pepe Verde
a hand-cut veal chop sautéed and topped with a green peppercorn, brandy,
dijon mustard and cream sauce
---------------------------
Zuppa di Ceci
chickpea soup

Strozzapreti al Radicchio Rosso
fresh, hand-rolled ricotta cheese and spinach balls
baked in house tomato sauce with parmesan and shredded radicchio

Fusilli Lunghi alla Fiaccheraia
corkscrew pasta in a spicy tomato sauce with a touch of garlic

Filetto all’ Aceto Balsamico
hand-carved filet mignon topped with a balsamic reduction 


Acqua Al 2 on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

  1. I love to try the Semifreddo. I haven't gone to Acqua Al 2. Might be great to go there for a change.


    Regards,
    Haley McAdams
    Online Food Safety Certification

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I highly recommend it! If you like caramel and chocolate, this semifreddo is for you.

      Delete

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