Thursday, July 31, 2014

Aggio

Aggio by Chef Bryan Voltaggio offers modern interpretations of Italian fare, and is located inside his other restaurant, Range, in the Chevy Chase Pavilion. Closest Metro is Friendship Heights.

Image via Zagat
We rarely come up to the Maryland border, and since we were up there for another event, we decided to 'pop in' to try Aggio afterwards. It was fairly late when we arrived on this Thursday, around 8pm, so we were seated right away. We had been to Range before, and we were escorted towards the back area where we sat that first time, and where the new restaurant-within-a-restaurant now exists. The decor is much more masculine and dark, with a cosmopolitan vibe.


Diners can choose dinner from an a la carte list or leave decisions to the chef by ordering a six-course tasting menu.  A cellar of 150 Italian wines is also up for choosing.  We happened to pick a sophisticated red with complex notes akin to a rich pinot noir, called 2009 Bussola Ca' del Laito Valpolicella Superiore Ripasso from Veneto, Italy.  This moderately priced bottle was surprisingly excellent.


While waiting for our first course to arrive, we nibbled on fennel pollen breadsticks. Then a savory funnel cake made with Parmesan cheese arrived. The idea was fun and playful, yet the execution was disappointing as ours were both cold and greasy. Next, we munched on more bread - an olive focaccia, accompanied by mortadella mousse and creamy whipped burrata with olive oil.


I started with a light and summery Heirloom Tomato Salad with burrata and grapes.  The sweet grapes and tomatoes were bright and popped in my mouth.  While fresh, I was not that excited about the dish.


Keith started with another light and summery dish - Scallop Crudo with puffed rice, pistachio, and radish.  The scallop was cut into chunks and not that fishy.  I had a bite, and at first thought the puffed rice overpowered the sweet scallop.  But then my second bite married better on my palate.  This plate reminded me of a similar one we had at Ripple recently.


Third, we shared the Octopus with lentils, calamari, sprouted wheat berries, grape agrodolce, and pistachio.  All these flavor profiles paired perfectly with our red wine.  The octopus was tender, yet still had bite to it.  It was lovely.


For our main courses, we each decided to order a pasta.  Keith chose the King Crab
spinach tagliatelle, buttered popcorn, and the house version of 'Old Bay' seasoning.  Sadly, there was no trace of crab despite the royal name.  The popcorn was also just a buttery puree on the bottom.  The noodles were slightly overcooked.  The creamy sauce was almost too plain and reminded him of those quick pasta packets that come with dried powder, in which you simply add water or milk to make at home.


Keith longingly stared at my pasta dish - Calamari Bolognese.  This squid ink spaghetti was perfectly al dente and covered in a bolognese made from pepperoni, and topped with more dried pepperoni bits.  The combination of salt and spice was addictive.  I only wish the portion was much bigger, as the mound of pasta was roughly the size of small plum.  Being the good wife that I am, I did share some with Keith and he remarked that he much preferred this bolognese to his lackluster tagliatelle.


I was feeling a bit happy and in a good mood, perhaps from the wine, but was ready for dessert.  I decided on the Pistachio in Olives.  An olive oil cake with pistachio cream and pistachio dust was presented artfully with cherry sorbet on top.  The cake was moist and the cherry was a nice blend of tart and sweet, making this dessert well-rounded and a nice finish to our meal.


With our check, we were presented with some chocolate truffles.  One with almonds and the other made with lavender and tea.  Just the right amount to cater to chocolate lovers.

Service was top notch, and better than our experience at Range. Even though we were not there to celebrate a special occasion, the wait staff made us feel as if we were.  Keith smirked when I answered to our server that we were "simply celebrating each other" - which may sound corny, but is really all that matters to me.  There were a few hits and misses with the food we ordered, yet this impromptu dinner was an enjoyable one, and made our trek to Maryland worthwhile.

Total Rating: 4
Food: 4, Price: 3.5, Service: 5, Ambience: 3.5, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Heirloom Tomato Salad
with burrata, grapes

Octopus
lentils, calamari, sprouted wheat berries, grape agrodolce, pistachio

Calamari Bolognese
squid ink spaghetti, pepperone, parmesan

Pistachio in Olives
olive oil cake, pistachio cream, cherry sorbet

Plus Keith ate:
Scallop Crudo
corn, pistachio, radish

King Crab
spinach tagliatelle, buttered popcorn, our bay

Aggio on Urbanspoon

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