Saturday, September 19, 2015


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Carluccio's is an international Italian restaurant group that offers a unique combination of all-day dining coupled with an in-house market with over 80 imported products sourced direct from small artisan producers allover Italy. Founded in 1999 and named after the founder and acclaimed cook, author and TV personality Antonio Carluccio, the Carluccio’s group has over 100 restaurants operating internationally in the UK, Ireland, Turkey, Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. On June 3, 2015, the first U.S. location opens in Alexandria, VA on the corner of King Street and South Union Street in Old Town.

prosciuto wrapped breadsticks; Parmesan Reggiano; olio al limone
Keith and I were invited to a preview party to sample, see, taste and hear the rich history and stories surrounding a selection of Carluccio's imported Italian products.  From a quick espresso at the bar, to a leisurely al fresco lunch on the patio, to browsing the gourmet market with more than 80 imported products sourced direct from small artisan producers in Italy, Old Town residents, foodies and families alike are in store for a real Italian treat.  Founder Antonio Carluccio states, "My mission was to bring the authentic, simple flavors and products I remembered from my childhood growing up in the regions of Italy, to a comfortable, casual all day restaurant. Celebrating the tastes of Italy is what Carluccio’s is all about."

Working with both UK based architect firm DesignLSM and Washington D.C. based architect firm, Studio3877, the first U.S. location embodies a bustling, Milanese ambiance, offering a modern approach to dining while staying true to its Italian roots. Upon entry, guests are greeted by the colorful retail and deli offerings in Carluccio's market, most imported direct from Italy. The 6500 sq. ft. space has over 150 seats for dining, including a main dining room which features a bar area where patrons can enjoy coffee, cocktails or share antipasti.

Prepping nibbles of veal, cod, and roast beef.
The bi-level space also features a second upstairs dining room with high ceilings and cozy banquettes, as well as an open kitchen with counter seating, where guests can enjoy a front row view of U.S. Executive Chef Alfio Celia – trained personally by Antonio Carluccio – and his team hard at work.

arancini; marinated olives; pancetta wrapped prawns
The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Monday through Friday 7 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.; Saturday 8 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m. - 10:00 p.m.; Sunday Brunch 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.  Minimum fuss and maximum flavor are the bread and butter of Antonio Carluccio's recipes and seasonal menus, which highlight classic, authentic, and affordable Italian dishes. During the warmer months, 14 outdoor seats will be available to dine al fresco in front of the restaurant.  UPDATE:
Carluccio's has had an overwhelming response to their arrival in Alexandria. Because of this, they have changed their hours for June and will be open only for dinner starting at 4 pm. They are also looking for additional members to add to the Carluccio’s family!  If interested, contact for additional job information.

To start the day, guests can enjoy the Breakfast Magnifica, a choice of eggs with grilled smoky pancetta, sautéed mushrooms, tomato and toasted Italian bread, served with coffee or tea and a juice ($10); the Breakfast Sandwich with a fried egg, mortadella sausage and melted provolone cheese on ciabatta, served with rosemary potatoes ($7); Tegamino made with two eggs poached in a spicy marinara sauce with roasted peppers, topped with Parmigiano cheese and served with rustic Italian bread ($12); and Panettone "Italian Toast" served French toast style with fruit compote ($9).

Lunch and Dinner include a wide variety of options including a selection of Italian starters, antipasti and salads. Traditional pasta dishes include the Penne Giardiniera, made exclusively by Antonio with Carluccio's imported giant Pugliese penne, zucchini, chilli and fried spinach balls, Parmesan and garlic ($13); Daily house-made Lasagna Tradizionale featuring layers of egg pasta, béchamel and a ground beef and pork sausage ragu ($14); Pasta con Funghi, Antonio's recipe made with Carluccio's imported egg pappardelle, shiitake, oyster and button mushrooms ($14.50); and Trio di Pasta, a choice of three pasta dishes to share ($30). Fresh fish and meat selections include Branzino e Basilico, pan-fried sea bass fillets on crushed potatoes, basil and sundried tomato with black olives ($24); Zuppa di Pesce, a traditional fish stew with shrimp, clams, pollock fillet and mussels with spicy sausage, tomato, garlic, chilli and anise ($17); Osso Bucco, veal shank, slow braised in Chianti and herbs and served with saffron risotto ($29); and Tagliata di Manzo, thinly sliced, chargrilled 22 oz. flank steak for two, served with arugula, shaved Parmigiano Reggiano, rosemary potatoes and tarragon mayonnaise ($50). The flank steak is grass-fed, grass-finished and antibiotic free. Guests can end their dinner on a sweet note with a selection of desserts, including Carluccio's House-Made Tiramisu ($7.50); Meringa con Panna al Frutto Della Passione, crushed meringue with a passion-fruit cream, fresh strawberries and a raspberry coulis ($8.50); and Formaggi, a selection of three Italian cheeses served with truffle honey, walnuts and Italian flat bread ($12). Carluccio's cheeses are imported from all over Italy, including regional specialties and hand-made favorites.

Antipasti Board
As the lights dim and the evening progresses, the lunch to dinner scene seamlessly transitions with softly lit candles throughout the venue. Guests can belly up to the bar for an after work drink with friends to enjoy a wide array of Italian cocktails, spirits, bar snacks and sharing plates. All social occasions in Italy start with antipasti and Carluccio’s antipasti sharing boards are stacked with the best from the deli. Selections include the Deluxe which features chargrilled zucchini and eggplant, roasted peppers with pesto, pancetta wrapped prawns, house-made pâté, bruschettine, buffalo mozzarella, marinated olives, anchovies, Napoli Ventricina salami and toasted Italian bread ($22), and the Verdure, a vegetarian selection of roasted peppers, buffalo mozzarella, semidried tomatoes, caponata, chargrilled vegetables, olives and green bean salad with house-baked focaccia bread ($15). Cocktails include Italian classics such as a Peach Bellini made with peach puree and Prosecco ($8); Aperol Spritz, Aperol topped with Prosecco and soda ($10); and a classic Negroni with Campari, vermouth and gin served over ice. The bar also features three craft Italian beers that rotate seasonally as well as a selection of Italian red and white wines.

The market features 80 imported Italian products.
An extension of the restaurant, the Italian Market features 80 imported products sourced direct from small artisan producers all over Italy. Open Monday through Friday 6 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.; Saturday 7 a.m. - 11:30 p.m.; Sunday 7 a.m. - 10:00 p.m, one can find lemon oils to chilli pesto, squid ink pastas to dried porcini mushrooms, honey cantucci to cappuccino truffles, as well as shelves of Italian wines.  A few special items include Carluccio's limited time Christmas Panettone, made from a 100 year old yeast, which is nurtured in its own room by a producer in Italy from the previous season, and the Amaretti, which is rolled and wrapped by hand by a mother and daughter in the hills of Asti exclusively for Carluccio's. The market also features fresh pastries, coffee, cheeses, olives, grab-n-go sandwiches and is a great pit stop to pick up the perfect duo of pasta and sauce to prepare for a special meal.

Carluccio's is a welcomed addition to the U.S. and features the new trend of market/restaurant combinations.  I am intrigued to try the full menu, especially the pasta offerings.  Next time you are in Old Town Alexandria, stop in to Carluccio's for simple Italian nibbles and drinks, or pick up an espresso and some treats at the market to take home.

UPDATE: We recently returned to sample the new Brunch items.  We started with a lovely spread of freshly baked breads, jams and spreads, and fruit salad with yogurt along with mimosas.

Next, we had an option for a hot egg dish.  I chose the Colazione, a traditional breakfast of scrambled eggs with mushrooms served on a lice of rustic bread, with a side of thick bacon and a grilled tomato.  I love mushrooms and these added an extra savory element to the dish.

Keith enjoyed the Eggs Benedict, featuring a thick slice of Italian ham and the famous rustic bread.  The eggs were perfectly cooked with a creamy hollaindaise sauce.

Italian cookies were served at the end to accompany your last cup of cappuccino or espresso.  Check out Carluccio's for an Italian Brunch offered daily.

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