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Nov 29, 2011 06:50 AM

Authentic Italian in the DMV

Hey group-- My mother is straight off the boat Italian and spends almost every summer back in Italy. She always complains that the food in the U.S. (specifically Italian) is subpar. Her birthday is coming up and I would love to take her for a authentic Italian (preferably Northern) meal. Does anyone have any restaurant recommendations?

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    1. We can supply DC's list of the closest-to-authentic-Italian restaurants in the DMV. I don't quite understand why you think the DMV, with no sizable Italian population, will have food that's any more authentic than the food she has experienced elsewhere and already has called "subpar."

      I don't have your Mom's Italian bona fides, but mine aren't too shabby. My husband and I travel to Italy almost yearly and we haven't found any restaurant here that is truly authentic. The way we cope after a trip is to not eat Italian food locally for at least six months, and, then, when our craving is too great, we'll head to Fiola or Bibiana. Fiola serves a lasagna Marche-style that is quite authentic, but most of the menu is modern Italian cuisine. Bibiana's authentic star is polpette on polenta, but, again, the rest of the menu is modern Italian food.

      (I'm not a fan of The Obelisk. I usually love the antipasti course but every secundi I've ever ordered is either boring or badly prepared.)

      If the goal remains authentic Italian in the DMV, my best advice would be to phone Bibiana or Fiola in advance and speak to the chef or manager. (At Fiola, that's the chef's wife.) Explain your goal and get their help creating a custom meal for your mom's dinner. Please be sure to include the specific region of Italy that is either Mom's home region or the region where she visits annually. There is wide variety among the cuisines in the northern Italian regions.

      I would not go in and expect authentic just ordering off the menu even at Fiola and Bibiana. You'll get delicious, but you won't get the traditional that Mom is used to. For that to possibly happen, the chef will need her region and even home town. Food in Italy is very, very local.

      Will she eat other cuisines? If so, consider 2941, Marcel, Black Salt.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Indy 67

        I like that approach - why knock yourself out (and setting up disappointment) finding 'X' when what that particular city does best is 'Y' or 'Z'? save the Italian for Italy if the returns are that often. or as suggested at least call ahead and talk to the owners, that would make it a much more special night at the very least.

        1. re: Indy 67

          If OP decides on 2941, I hope her mom's bday is before the end of the year. Come January, they are changing the concept, and it doesn't sound too promising:

          1. re: Guy Incognito

            I'm not so negative. This new concept seems to be the equivalent to what Michel Richard did when he opened Michel or Favio Trabocchi's decision to open Fiola instead of Maestro II. I've had really lovely eating at both these places.

            I'll miss having a upper-tier restaurant locally. Over the years, my husband and I have been fortunate enough to make spur-of-the-moment plans to eat at 2941 that night celebrating some major surprise. As a result, this restaurant is associated with really lovely developments in our lives. Still, for planned anniversary or birthday dinners, we would typically head downtown. I suspect 2941 will get more business from us in its less-expensive incarnation.

        2. I personally think the best Italian restaurant in the area is Bibianna. Not sure if it will be "authentic" enough for a native Italian...but that's going to be pretty hard to find in this area.

          I also think Dino is pretty good for rustic Italian. But it strikes me more as Tuscan cuisine.

          1. I think Tosca is very good (I think they call themselves contemporary Northern Italian), although I agree this search may be as fruitless as the people who come from NY looking for pizza, or from California looking for tacos.

            1. Dino's in Cleveland Park, DC is about as authentic as Italian food gets. It's not as fancy as Fiola, but for solid pasta (ie. wild boar ragu) I don't think you can beat it for value and authenticity. Dean Gold is an amazing host, and has a fantastic and reasonably priced selection of Italian wines. They also have private party rooms available.