Whether you want pizza, pasta, antipasti, or veal, Washington D.C.’s restaurant scene won’t disappoint. The city is packed with great Italian joints, all ready and willing to transport you to the Italian countryside with their menus. Some are traditional, others are contemporary, but regardless of your taste, your budget, or your appetite, you can’t fail to find something to take your fancy. Don’t believe us? Then check out our round-up of the 20 best Italian restaurants in DC today.
Where: 650 K St NW, Washington D.C.
In at number 20 is RPM, a sleekly stylish joint with a casual vibe and an innovative approach to dining. The vast menu has it all: whether you want pizza, pasta, salad, or steak, you won’t be left hanging (although if you want our advice, the Pomodoro and carbonara are worth fighting over). Whatever you do, don’t miss rounding things off with Bill’s Chocolate Budino – a decadent, chocolatey slice of heaven that will finish your meal perfectly.
Where: 2505 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington D.C.
Hip little Casolare comes in next. With a cozy, intimate vibe and a gorgeous interior filled with original art, sumptuously soft suede chairs, and scrubbed wooden tables, it’s a fabulous place for dinner and drinks with friends. The food is Southern Italy at its best, with one of the chief highlights coming courtesy of Mama Zecca’s eggplant, a scrumptious combination of pressed, fried eggplant, gooey cheese, and tangy tomato sauce.
Where: 1344 4th St Ne, Washington D.C.
Chef Nick Stefanelli has created something truly remarkable at Masseria. With a menu built around the Italian cuisine that shaped his childhood, there’s something deeply satisfying and sensuous about the food here. Marrying innovative preparations and elegant presentations with big, hearty flavors and tried and tested classics, there’s a nod to both the future and the past in every dish. It’s not the cheapest option around (4 courses start at $98 per person, and 5 courses at $115 per person. You can also choose the 6-course tasting menu at $143 per person) but for special occasions, it’s worth the blowout.
17. G by Mike Isabella
Where: 2201 14th Street NW, Washington D.C.
By day, G by Mike Isabella is a purveyor of, admittedly awesome, sandwiches. At the stroke of 6 pm, the restaurant transforms into a little slice of Italian heaven, serving up a gorgeous range of classic pasta dishes, superb seafood, and oven-fired pizzas. Pop by on a Sunday to enjoy Isabella's take on his family’s traditional end-of-the-week feasts, featuring crispy calamari, creamy Caesar salad, and hearty meatballs with gravy – if you leave without needing to loosen your belt by at least one notch, you clearly haven’t been trying hard enough.
16. Casa Luca
Where: 1099 New York Ave NW, #1, Washington D.C.
The refined menu at Casa Luca is guaranteed to please even the most discerning palette. Silky pasta topped with a generous shaving of truffle, seared foie grass melting over perfectly pink duck breasts, and succulent lobster… as you’d expect, this type of luxury doesn’t come cheap, but pop by during happy hour (daily from 4-7 pm) or for a "Presto!" lunch (11:30 am-1:30 pm during weekdays), and you’ll just about manage to escape with your wallet intact.
Where: 1100 New York Avenue, NW, Washington D.C.
Featuring a menu of seasonal, regional ingredients, a chic décor, superb service, and an unsurpassable wine list, the delightful Modena is the perfect choice for date night. Chief standouts from the very contemporary menu include Crescia, a lard enhanced dough grilled and served with a variety of toppings on 1,500-year-old Himalayan red rock salt, and the Chitarra Pasta with Calabrian chili, sea urchin and jumbo lump crab. The complementary Amaretti cookies served at the end of each meal round things off beautifully.
14. Alta Strada
Where: 2911 District Avenue, Suite 150, Washington D.C.
Alta Strada is doing a fine trade in the kind of dishes you’d expect from Nonna’s kitchen. Traditional, comforting, and hearty, one bite will be all you need to transport you straight to the Italian countryside. Combine the simple, classic approach to food with a warm welcome, exemplary hospitality, and reasonable prices, and it’s not hard to see why Alta Strada is such a local favorite.
Where: 2029 P St NW, Washington D.C.
The menu at Obelisk may be simple but’s it’s positively oozing with quality. A Washington DC institution for over 30 years, the menu draws inspiration from all corners of Italy, with each dish underpinned by a deep commitment to using only the freshest and most seasonal ingredients. The menu changes frequently, depending on both the season and the chef’s fancy, but if you happen to see any reference to Squab agnolotti with chanterelle mushrooms, grab it with both hands and an open mouth.
12. Filomena Ristorante
Where: 1063 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington D.C.
Yep, it’s a bit of a tourist trap, but yep, it’s worth the visit anyway. For comforting food that’ll transport you straight back to your childhood (providing you grew up on the Med, of course), an unpretentious, homely vibe, and some of the best fried calamari around, Filomena Ristorante is hard to beat. The décor might take a bit of getting used to (think over-the-top extravagance and you’re halfway there) but once you do, expect to be booking your next visit before you even get through your first round of Antipasti.
11. Lupo Verde
Where: 1401 T St. NW, Washington D.C.
Like Antipasti? Then you’re going to love Lupo Verde. It’s cheese and salumi selection is out-of-this-world, while the slow-braised pork cheeks with Brussels sprouts will make a convert of even the most hardcore sprout hater. The rest of the menu won’t disappoint either, nor will the warm hospitality and great selection of wines.
Where: 1610 14th St NW, Washington D.C.
If you’re in the mood for pizza, head to Ghibellina. Set in a chic little spot on 14th street, this excellent pizzeria has taken the basic concepts of cheese, dough, and sauce and elevated it to something truly magical. With toppings that draw inspiration from the Italian countryside (think Grana Padano, Nostralina olives and Pecorino Romano), and an unfailingly crisp, crunchy base, the pies deliver an authentic taste of Italy that won’t disappoint.
9. Pizzeria Paradiso
Where: 2003 P Street, NW, Washington D.C.
When it opened in 1991, Pizzeria Paradiso was greeted with open arms by DC residents and sterling praise from critics. Nearly 30 years later, and not a lot’s changed. With the food, ambiance, and service of a modern Milanese pizzeria, its little wonder people are queuing round the block to get a seat. Once in, grab a pew and enjoy the cheerful atmosphere as you chow down on some truly superb pizza. The warm paninis are worth a shot as well.
Where: 974 Palmer Alley NW, Washington D.C.
For fine dining with a dollop of authentic Italian warmth, you’ll not be disappointed with Centrolina. The menu is exquisite, with delicacies such as sashimi of snapper with jalapeno, lemon and crispy sunchoke competing for attention with dry-aged Shenandoah rib eye with roasted cauliflower, baby carrots, and homemade salsa verde. It’s not cheap, and you may want to pop on a tie before you arrive, but for special occasions and big blowouts, it’s definitely worth the effort.
7. 2 Amys
Where: 3715 Macomb St, Washington D.C.
Before you start planning your visit to 2 Amys, be prepared for a wait. A long one. Since it hit the Washington DC restaurant scene in 2001, it’s become one of the most popular pizzerias’ around, with diners regularly waiting for over an hour for a seat. But there’s a reason they wait… namely, the incredibly tasty, incredibly authentic Neapolitan pies. Light crispy crusts, fresh, flavorsome toppings, and the perfect amount of sauce to crust, these are pizzas you’d happily wait a week for. Fast-paced, busting, and with more than reasonable prices, 2 Amys is heaven for all good pizza lovers.
6. Osteria Morini
Where: 301 Water Street SE, Washington D.C.
For an unpretentious, rustic take on classic Italian cuisine, you won’t get much better than Osteria Morini. The casual, informal ambiance is the perfect complement to a menu rich in old-world, hearty dishes from the Emilia-Romagna region of Northern Italy. Prices are eminently reasonable (the two-course prix fixe lunch comes in at just $28, while the three-course is a very reasonable $32) and the food is the kind of soulful, generous, big-hearted affair that can’t help but please.
Where: 1541 14th Street, NW, Washington D.C.
The small and intimate Etto is the brainchild of David Rosner, Tad Curtz, Amy Morgan and Peter Pastan. Since opening in 2013, it’s grown into a local institution, famed for its great range of pizzas, salads, seafood dishes and salumi. The menu changes daily, but regardless of what’s on the blackboard, you can be assured of superb food, made from scratch and served with care. The atmosphere and interior are the perfect complements to your meal, with a warmth and style designed to put you truly at ease.
4. Acqua Al 2
Where: 212 7th Street, SE, Washington D.C.
For a taste of truly authentic Tuscan cuisine, skip the rest and head straight to the best. With its menu of traditional pasta and beef dishes, exemplary wine list, and cozy ambiance, Acqua Al 2 will transport you straight to the warm Italian countryside. The menu is extensive enough to please pretty much every taste, but for a meal to remember, try the Filetto al Mirtillo, a stunning dish of hand-carved filet mignon cooked in a perfectly seasoned blueberry reduction. Round it off with a creamy panna cotta and a glass of house red for a meal fit for a king.
3. Fiola Mare
Where: 3050 K St NW, Suite 101, Washington D.C.
“Fresh, Pristine and Elegant” reads the banner across Fiola Mare’s menu, which pretty much sums up everything you can expect of this superb Italian. The prices aren’t for the faint-hearted, but if you’re willing to push the boat out for a special occasion, you’ll find few better places to do it. The décor and setting are just as gorgeous as the menu (expect plenty of glistening chandeliers, the finest linens, and a picture-perfect view over the waterfront), while the service, attention to detail, and fantastic selection of wines and cocktails leave nothing to be desired.
2. The Red Hen
Where: 1822 First St NW, Washington D.C.
Walk into The Red Hen and the first thought to come to mind is cozy. With an open kitchen featuring an Argentine-style grill, a huge wood-burning stove, and lots of weathered wood, it's designed to make you feel instantly at ease. The friendly, attentive service continues the theme, while the menu is a smorgasbord of soulful Italian favorites, expertly crafted, affordably priced, and served with some of the best sourdough bread you’ll ever taste.
Where: 601 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington D.C.
Finally, we come to Fiola. If its sister restaurant, Fiola Mare, is good, Fiola is even better. For the most exquisite, luxurious Italian fare you’ll taste in the capital, this is the place to go. Along with an expertly designed, sumptuous dinner menu (we’re talking Pan Seared Foie Gras, Lobster Ravioli, Caviar Patate, and Veal Rossini), diners can expect a superb range of cocktails and some over-the-top scrumptious deserts (if you don’t believe us, one taste of the Baba Al Rum should convince you). No, it’s not in any way, shape, or form the cheapest option in D.C., but will you regret the expense? Unlikely.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson