I’ve had high hopes for Graffiato as the hype built up around DC. Mike Isabella, a former Top Chef contestant and executive chef at Zaytinya, has created a concept unique to this city, and, for that, I thank him. The concept is Italian-style small plates. It sounds like an oxymoron, because most Italian servings are not small, but it works. I’ve gone twice in the last 2 weeks.
The space is relatively small and loud, which makes it attractive to some, but a bit too much to handle for others. It does rock a NYC-type vibe (keep ’em coming) with its unfinished loft-style décor. I noticed the soundtrack right off the bat, too. It’s a better mix than the played-out, downtempo trance you hear at most lounge spots these days. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” followed by “Pumped Up Kicks” were the first two songs that came on as I sat down at the bar. Nice. The Nats were playing on a decent-sized TV at the bar, too. Score.
The bar is big, but there isn’t much standing room to try and wait out for a spot. If I was laying out the space, I would lose the 5-6 tables on the bottom floor and replace them with a few high-top, standing-only tables. That would free up a lot more space for people to hang out at the bar and order some food. Keep the diners upstairs and the social scene downstairs.
The drink menu is pretty unique, too. Graffiato is the only bar in the world that serves prosecco from a tap. I could care less, because I’m not a big champagne drinker, but I guess it’s pretty cool to be the only bar in the world to do that. I’m a bourbon drinker, so I went with the Staring at the Sun (Basil Hayden’s Bourbon, apricot nectar, ginger and basil), which was really good. The wine list is pretty extensive, too.
There are some really good dishes and a few “ok” dishes. I recommend ordering the bread right off the bat. It’s not complimentary ($5), which is a dagger, but it comes with an olive-oil jam and ricotta-lemon-butter spread. Both are pretty interesting and very good.
Next up, order the chicken thighs with pepperoni sauce and keep some of that bread to mop it up. Oh yeah – and the chicken is pretty good, too. For the vegetable dish, I would go with the blistered sweet peppers. It’s a decent-sized portion and has a lot of flavor. The mushrooms aren’t bad, but there isn’t much flavor there as compared to the mushrooms from Zaytinya, which are the best in the city.
As for the pasta, I’ve tried the spaghetti and the gnocchi. I’m a fan of simple pastas, and it’s very hard to find one in a restaurant that is better than “Pasta-a-la-Minicucci.” I would order the gnocchi again, but I’ll stick to making spaghetti with olive oil and tomatoes myself. I’ve also sampled the shrimp and meatballs. Both were ok but nothing to write home about. The pizzas are done very well, too. I’ve only had the classic, but I plan on trying them all. Crunchy crust, great sauce and cooked very well.
All in all, Graffiato exceeded my expectations. There aren’t very many good Italian spots (D*MNGOODTIMES does recommend Fiola) in this city, so it was refreshing to see this one turn out well. The quality of the food was really good considering it’s only been open for two weeks. I assume that, over the next few months, the folks at Graffiato will smooth out the dishes and focus the menu on what they do really well.
|Address:||707 6th St., NW (Bet. G and H Sts.) Washington, DC 20001|
|Specials:||No happy hour yet. Keep checking back|
|Go for:||Good bar scene; pizza; chicken thighs with pepperoni sauce; gnocchi; specialty drinks|