“Once in a lifetime opportunity to own an in-town estate offered for the first time in almost 40 years. Extraordinary custom residence with 3-story guest house, gourmet cook’s kitchen with three islands & every upgrade imaginable! Master suite beyond compare. Views from every room bring the outdoors in with terraces & decks overlooking a dramatic pool. Photos by Maxwell Mackenzie & Stu Estler”
Eating around Town is a new series written by a number of PoPville contributors. Today’s review of Al Dente was written by dcreba. dcreba is a big apple transplant and enthusiast of all things edible. she lives – and often eats – in Logan Circle.
The ever controversial Roberto Donna (Culinary tour de force! Embezzler! James Beard winner!) recently won accolades from Esquire magazine, lauding him as Chef of the Year in their listings of Best New Restaurants in 2012.
This Best New Restaurant is Al Dente. And prior to the Esquire review, I was unaware of its existence. A quick perusal of the literature tracks Donna’s circuitous history: Chef rises to glory with his Italian behemoth, Galileo, which undergoes three different inceptions – and locations – over 16 years. Chef falls from grace with reports of embezzlement and failure to pay his employees. Chef opens La Forchetta in a nondescript building in Wesley Heights, relegated to the kitchen and relieved of financial involvement, leaving this management to owner Hakan Ilhan. Restaurant changes name to avoid litigious goings on with a similarly named Adams Morgan restaurant, La Fourchette. This brings us to present day, where Donna is hoping to rewrite history – or at least change the course of things, moving forward – at the helm of Al Dente.
We visit Al Dente on a chilly Monday night. The restaurant is brightly lit and awash in Valentines decorations. My dining companion, with an excellent eye for design, did a calculated 360 sweep of the restaurant and pronounced its aesthetics distracting. “I’m not sure I can take the food seriously, when its decorated like this,” she said warily. As our meal unfolded before us over the next few hours, there were some clunkers, yes, but very pleasant surprises as well, and it became possible to lose sight of our surroundings and focus on the food at hand.
Thanks to a reader for sending word that the coming soon signs have gone up in the old old Balducci’s space at 3201 New Mexico Avenue, NW near American University. Their Website says they’ll be open in early 2013. We judged Wagshal’s deli at 4855 Massachusetts Ave NW here.