Nothing satisfies the senses quite like low lighting, luscious red wine, creamy tiramisu and delicious, steaming pasta smothered in savory sauces and fragrant cheeses. Find all of this and more at the best Italian restaurants in D.C.
Hours: Mon to Fri – 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Mon to Thurs – 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Fri to Sat – 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Known for its divine handmade pastas, Tosca is an elegant, white-tablecloth venue near Metro Center, where professionals and romantics sit side by side. The Cappellacci comes oozing with creamy ricotta cheese, and is also stuffed with Swiss Chard. Soft, tangy Ribiola cheese and dense black truffles fill the Tortelli. Covered in a rich sauce of porcini mushroom sauce and leeks, it will leave you completely satisfied. Appetizers range from $9 to $20, while main courses start at $21 and go up to $44. Tosca also has found the perfect way to end your meal: with a complimentary serving of a mini, homemade dessert such as soft chocolate chip cookies or authentic, crunchy almond biscotti. Pasta lovers, you have found your home.
Lunch Hours: Mon to Thurs–11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Fri–11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Dinner Hours: Mon to Thurs–5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Fri–5 p.m. to 11 p.m., Sun–5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Sonoma presents a unique presentation of Italian food by using all local, seasonal American ingredients to create a delicious menu featuring Italian staples like pizza and pasta. Sample pastas like spaghetti with earthy mushrooms, crispy sage and Swiss chard. A lemon and cheese risotto is creamy and fresh, and pizza covered with pesto, goat cheese and shallots is bursting with flavor. For those looking for something lighter, try a small plate of roasted beets or a fresh arugula salad. Prices at Sonoma vary: appetizers are around $10, as are the pizzas, but pastas can be as high as $22. American and Italian wines are both featured, once again highlighting the marriage of American and Italian cultures as the restaurant seeks to do.
Hours: Mon–4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tues to Sat–11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sun–5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
A small, cozy restaurant that only hosts a handful of tables, Pacci’s staff and atmosphere is as warm and authentic as the food. With a small menu, the prices at Pacci’s are refreshingly low: pasta dishes are all under $15 and some are as low as $9. Simplicity is the key at Pacci’s; the Spaghetti al Pomodoro is the perfect example. The tomato sauce is sweet and savory, silky and chunky, the perfect dipping sauce for bread and coating for pasta. Desserts are also classic Italian and not to be missed. Creamy Tiramisu is a great choice, although regulars swear by the tart Limoncello Shortcake. Chocolate lovers can try the Profiteroles, which are oozing with chocolate mousse.
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Hours: Mon to Fri –11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Mon to Thurs – 5:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Fri – 5:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.; Sat – 5:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
One of D.C.’s newest Italian restaurants is also one of its best. Well-known D.C. Chef Fabio Trabocci has created an exciting, contemporary and regional Italian menu from which diners may choose four items from any section for $80 or five courses for $95. Selections include black truffle crostino, Tuscan soup, salad with arugula, red peppers, buttery La Tur cheese, and fried bread, and, of course, pasta. If you don’t want to cough up the big bucks for dinner, try the lunch menu, which includes the famous cacio and pepe made with spaghetti, cacio (a semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese) and peppercorn, as well as fettuccine with a spicy basil and tomato sauce. The lunch menu includes special offers such as $15 for an entrée and beverage, $19 for a low-calorie three-course menu, and $32 for a heavier three-course menu.
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Hours: Tues to Sun – 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Sun to Thurs – 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.; Fri to Sat – 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.
The Acqua al 2 in D.C. was modeled after its sister restaurant in Florence, Italy. Acqua al 2 lives up to its heritage by bringing the delicious, simple cuisine of Tuscany to D.C. with great success. Appetizers include unique items such as strozzapreti al radicchio rosso, spinach and ricotta cheese balls hand-rolled and baked in thick tomato sauce, radicchio and parmesan; as well as classics like caprese salad and tuscan soup. For the entrée, patrons can select from a variety of risottos, including gorgonzola, mushroom or artichoke risotto. Highlights from the pasta options include the fussilli made with a long fussili pasta doused in a tomato, bell pepper and cream sauce, and topini al radicchio rosso, a light gnocchi tossed with radicchio, parmesan and silky mascarpone cheese. Dishes are also reasonably priced with appetizers and pastas all less than $15. One especially interesting aspect of the menu is its specialty section. Try three house salads for $11 or a tasting of five vegetarian pastas for $15. The section also offers a sampling of four house-made desserts for $12 or four cheeses for $14.
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Priya Konings is a freelance writer and restaurant critic in Washington D.C. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.