Tag Archives: restaurant reviews

restaurant review: floriana

Veteran readers of A Pear to Remember know I am not a born foodie, but learning as I cook and write along. Imagine how completely shocked  surprised and honored I was to receive an invitation to dine and review Floriana, a longstanding Italian restaurant in DuPont Circle. And they let me bring my Andrew.

Waiting for us at the top of the stairs: Dino Tapper, a third generation restaurant owner, who bought this 1890-built rowhouse from his mother two years ago. Growing up, Dino was the baby bundled in vegetable crates while his mother cooked—a tidbit he shared while greeting outdoor diners. He personally designs renovations for the house, bringing the kitchen downstairs to its original foundation, tearing away false walls to reveal the building’s rustic integrity.

The same might be said for Floriana’s food, rooted in classical traditions. The main floor dining room, a regal red, is impressive and welcoming, apt for the come-as-you-are setting at Floriana. Clean-cut waiters in dark jeans and black shirts bustle past Dino in his sneakers and taxi-yellow fleece, who fills water glasses and shares bread with his guests. Lively jazz overhead animates a room of businessmen and denim-ed duos alike. Our waiter is courteous, knowledgeable; an instant friend.

 

We began with extraordinary glasses of wine, poured before us from mini carafes resembling laboratory flasks. The 2010 Altos las Hormigas Malbec ($8) for Andrew, a pretty 2009 CMS Hedges ($9) for me. Sitting beneath a chilly air vent made me pass on the array of appealing salad options for the day’s butternut squash soup starter ($8). For Andrew, the tender, fried calamari with peppadews and enticing Sriracha aioli ($10).

My soup, though intriguing in description, was not as alluring as the house’s rustic bread with sweet parsley pesto (to which we returned nearly through dessert). The soup special was presented as walnuts, squash cubes, and single sage leaf in a deep bowl over which our waiter poured the hot puree.

The prospect of squash soup following the final weekend of peaches excited me about autumn produce ahead, though the soup’s simplicity made me wish I had opted for Floriana’s intricate salads.

My generous serving of roasted garlic and rosemary gnocchi ($18) was nestled in just the right amount of tomato and wild mushroom stew. Though I would have much preferred the gnocchi in Floriana’s arugula pesto—a considerable menu debate—each bite of the potato pillows was surprisingly creamy. Floriana makes their pasta in-house, and the gnocchi was the second best I have tasted yet—perhaps better complemented by their pesto.

Andrew’s veal chop ($29) is a challenge to describe in words, as his incessant moans pose problems in the spelling department. The veal chop, served atop roasted Brussels sprouts and fresh apple butter, brought about fits of giggles from the husband I formally believed to be a quiet eater.

The “best cut of meat” he had “ever eaten in his life”, delightfully salty and sweet, was accompanied by blue cheese stuffed dates wrapped in smoked bacon—and proved equally as pleasing. He began naming all the loved ones in his life, minus his vegetarian wife, who he  wished could share this meat-filled moment. Vegetarians like myself have no trouble finding ample, varied options at Floriana, though I might beg the chef to consider offering his roasted brussel sprouts as a regular side dish. Don’t forget the apple butter, Chef.

Among the four dessert options, Andrew chose the housemade cheesecake with strawberries, as I dared for the Nutella-almond ravioli. I am not a cheesecake eater when there is any possibility of chocolate or cake to be had, but I would venture back to Floriana for this cheesecake alone; its texture and flavor impeccable. My Nutella experimentation, with bananas, chocolate sauce and vanilla gelato was thick, fried pastry with little filling. The crunchy pool of cinnamon-sugar and banana quarters made me think this might be a fun late-night diner dessert, but a misfit for the Floriana’s elegance.

Guests visiting this home should be aware of steep winding steps to the second floor bathroom. There are a number of lovely qualities about Floriana: the historical house, warm staff, and sophistication without pretention. In addition, varied, moderately-priced food and wine selections all of high caliber. For a menu so concise, it’s unfortunate to leave with the lingering feeling I did not make the best selections. Next time, I would return to sit outdoors with friends and sangria. Yet it is clear there are many delights to be found in a restaurant that achieves authentic character through and through.

Floriana Restaurant    1602 17 St. NW, Washington DC, 20009    202.667.5937     http://florianarestaurant.com/

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under dinners, here to share

eating out

On the eve of my first restaurant review, I find myself stumped over friend Sonny’s recent question: Where is the best restaurant you’ve ever dined? I began naming spots several states or countries away, to which Sonny responded, “That doesn’t count.”

Locally, I don’t if any neighborhood eateries have yet made such an impression. Only one close enough for frequent visits, here are Lindsey’s top favorite, unforgettable dining experiences in these mere 25 years of life (let’s see if Floriana will add Italian to my list):

1. The Pearl

the outer banks, north carolina—French

Like going to a movie, I enjoy myself most when I haven’t a clue what to expect. “Meeting Andrew’s co-workers for dinner” while on vacation turned into the most remarkable culinary evening. Ever.

I’m not alone in my female obsession with French music; quelle belle surprise when we walk through the retro lobby of Sea Ranch Hotel to discover this oasis of candles and sand set to Edith Piaf.

From Lesley’s lobster to my tarte aux tomates–finally, the French have not forsaken the vegetarian!

Of course, my souffle was well worth the wait through dinner.

2. Jiko: The Cooking Place

the animal kingdom lodge, orlando, florida—African fusion

Jiko is a fusion of traditional African, Indian and Mediterranean dishes. Enough said.

Another pricey pick, yes, but like The Pearl, the steep cost includes a gorgeous setting, authentic cuisine, and an unforgettable night. A honeymoon, after all, requires splurging. I only have this photo from the entire trip, so you must simply check out the room (with an animated African sunset) and menu for yourself.

3. Agave

lewes, delaware—traditional Mexican

There is always a wait and it is always worth it. Fresh, divine Mexican cuisine served alongside the most scrumptious beverages to enhance any night out.

I could go on about Agave, as could any friend with whom we’ve shared a meal here. We have an entire of list of friends we cannot wait to bring upon our return. That’s when you know.

4. a random Montreal bistro

montreal—French

This is not the restaurant’s name. And it’s simply unfair I have no name for you, but this initial lunch spot we discovered upon a stroll through our favorite city was delightful. The truth is, we ate only exquisette food in Montreal, and this topped it for me. Clearly a popular lunch spot for the non-tourists with chic brick interior, waiters who politely tolerated my French, and a simple, flavor-packed lunch. I enjoyed The Daily Special. C’est magnifique.

5. Aditi Indian Dining Kingstowne

alexandria, virginia—Indian

I love Indian food, completed a cooking class on the cuisine, and am grateful for a spouse with identical weekly cravings. Aditi in Kingstowne (we have also been to the less attractive Georgetown location) is the only, only Indian restaurant with consistently stellar traditional dishes. Andrew and I have ventured to Indian restaurants in all our travels, including Montreal and a renowned restaurant in DC.  Still, Nawab (in Newport News, Virginia) is the only comparable experience in quality and consistency.

notable mentions:

Chez Francois great falls, virginia—French, East Bay Meeting House charleston, south carolina—American, Que Pasa bethany, delaware—Mexican, Half Full lewes, delaware—Italian/American, Luigis Restaurant newport news, virginia—Italian, Cedar Cafe springfield, virginia—Lebanese

 

Your turn, all time favorite spot?

5 Comments

Filed under dinners, here to share