HOME > Chowhound > Washington DC & Baltimore >


D.C. Italian

I'll be in DC for several days in November and am starting to come up with a restaurant list. Komi is going to be my 50th Birthday dinner place, but one thing I know for sure is that my DH will want to eat Italian while we're there. And he really loves the most authentic Italian possible, right down to Italian-speaking waiters. So where should we go? We'll be staying in Dupont Circle, without a car, so hopefully it will be either walkable, Metro friendly or a reasonable cab fare away.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. My sister spoke Italian with the front person at Al Crostino on U street, but I don't know how "authentic" it is. DC's not known for Italian. That said, Dino at Cleveland Park, two metro stops fro Dupont Circle, offers tasty fare using high quality ingredients. I've heard waiters speaking Italian at Sette Osteria in Dupont, and I like it, but it's not "great."

    3 Replies
    1. re: dcandohio

      DC has great Italian, and Dino is NOT it. Try Obelisk, Tosca, Spezie, Al Tiramisu, Teatro Goldoni, and Etrusco. All of which are much more satisfying than Dino in terms of food, decor and service.

      1. re: dcandohio

        At Crostino or it's sister restaurant Al Tiramisu is pretty authentic since the owners and some waiters are Italian. The food is quite good but I haven't been in awhile. You should be aware though that the specials are usually double the price of the other entrees so you should make sure to ask the price before ordering anything if cost is an issue.

        Also if you are looking for something romantic, Al Tiramisu fits the bill.

        1. re: Elyssa

          Al Tiramisu would be my pick as my favorite DC Italian. I had a grilled fish there that was very good, I am married to a 2nd generation Italian and it is her pick as well.

      2. If you're seafood fans, D'Acqua has great, authentic Italian seafood. Get the scallops wrapped in pancetta as an appetizer - yum!

        1. Filomena in Georgetown is pretty authentic and although the metro does go to Gtown, the cab fare should be relatively reasonable.

          2 Replies
          1. re: JAC13

            I think what JAC13 was trying to say is the metro does NOT go to Georgetown. But you can take a cab, the blue bus (for about $1.50) which picks up in Dupont or the Circulator Bus which picks up in various locations.

            1. re: Elyssa

              Yep, thanks for catching that Elyssa!!

          2. Go to Al Tiramisu for authentic Italian it is right off Dupont Circle on P Street. It is the parent of Al Crostino and is a little more traditional environs. Delicious pasta, fresh seafood, and Italian owner/staff. Be sure to ask the price of the MANY specials as the prices tend to be much higher than the menu.

            Altiramisu Italian Restaurant
            2014 P Street, Washington, DC 20036

            1 Reply
            1. re: dzherbst

              ^^I agree. Al Tiramisu is wonderful. The decor is so-so, but the food makes up for it.

            2. Tosca in downtown DC (1112 F St. NW), just a block or so from the Metro Center Metro station may be the best authentic, upscale Italian in DC. Spezie, at 1736 L Street NW, just a few blocks from the Dupont Circle area, has a somewhat similar menu, but slightly cheaper (the same person designed their menus) and less elegant.

              1 Reply
              1. I love Dino, it's rustic Italian menu, amazing meats and cheeses, and it's got to be one of the best Italian wine destinations in the country. Less than a block from the Cleveland Park metro. However, the service is more casual, neighborhood-like; no stuffy Italian waiters.

                7 Replies
                1. re: DanielK

                  I don't know about Dino... I live about a block away and I really think it suffers from mediocrity. Yes, the meat, cheeses and wines are all good -- but couldn't you just get that all at Whole Foods or Dean and Deluca for half the price? I have recently been very disappointed with the larger dishes. I think Dino started out strong, but when their chef got poached to Sabores it went downhill.

                  I do really like the food at Al Tiramisu, though it is quite pricey. But very reliable. I strongly suggest making a reservation.

                  1. re: Cookingthebooks

                    If you can get the wine at Whole Paycheck or Dean and Deluca, I'll eat my hat. Dino has one of the best winelists in the city, and the prices are excellent.

                    1. re: dinwiddie

                      Maybe not the wine at WF or D&D -- but perhaps Calvert Woodley Wines and Spirits?

                      I enjoy wine, but I would not go to a restaurant solely because of the wine list -- particularly if the past three meals I'd had there were very disappointing.

                      1. re: Cookingthebooks

                        Even calvert Woodley doesn't have as good a selection of Italian wines as Dino. And if you go on Wine madness nights (Sun-Wed.) the discount on wines that are over $50 on the list often brings them lower than what you can get them for retail (if you could find them)

                        I've never been disappointed at Dino. Sure some dishes are stronger than others, but I normally limit my meal to several appetizers and a pasta and a bottle of wine. Besides, I enjoy talking with Dean about wines and opera and Italy.

                        1. re: dinwiddie

                          Well, maybe I'll try it again... but I don't know my pavlovian response is telling me no.

                          What do you order there? Aside from the charcuterie, what are your favorite dishes?

                          1. re: Cookingthebooks

                            I feel the same way about Dino. I like to go for cured meats cheese and wine, but I don´t really care for the rest of the food I´ve had. Maybe I´ve had bad luck, but no hard feelings. If everyone liked it, it would be impossible to get a table. On the other hand, my favorite italian in the city is Tosca.

                            1. re: Cookingthebooks

                              I like getting a cheese plate. I also like the Polenta ai Tre Formaggi con Funghi o Maiale (Soft 3 Cheese Polenta), Pappardelle ai Cinghiale (wild boar and pasta) Gramigna con Agnello (pasta and lamb) and in the winter, the pasta with mushrooms. If it is available I often get a side of Puntarella (spring bitter greens with anchovy dressing) and the crustini.

                              But the main reason I go is to drink the wine. Wonderful selection and great prices.

                  2. my favorite italian in dc — notti bianche in foggy bottom, cafe odeon in dupont. check out the zagat 2008 italian restaurants issue — it's pretty much right on the money on the good stuff around here, even though th ere's not a whole lot of it. and although you won't have a car, you seriously should consider taking the train to baltimore and visiting little italy if you really want some good italian...it's about an hour train ride from d.c.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: littlew1ng

                      I've walked by Cafe Odeon hundreds of times - tell me what's good there and why you like it - it always seems pleasant but very few people ever talk about it. Thanks in advance.

                      1. re: littlew1ng

                        I would argue that there's very little good Italian food left in Baltimore's Little Italy.

                        And since Olive Garden comes up as the top-rated Italian restaurant in Zagat's, I'd take their ratings with a grain of salt as well.

                      2. second for al crostino. Coppi i(on U st) is also quite good.

                        finally, pasta mia for outrageous lines, horrible service, but fantastic gnochi