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Visiting from SoCal. Italian for her, BBQ for me. Suggestions??

Tcat619 Nov 1, 2013 05:36 AM

My wife and I are visiting from San Diego. Lookin for the best restaurants in or around the DC area. She is big on Italian food and I want to find a real tasty BBQ spot. All suggestions are welcome. Thanks for the help!

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    Elyssa Nov 1, 2013 07:24 AM

    Honestly I don't think the BBQ in DC is all that impressive (I lived there for 10 years and just moved to Detroit and the BBQ here is far superior). That said a fun place for BBQ is Hill Country in Penn Quarter.

    As for Italian---it really depends on what you are looking for. For a chic, higher end Italian experience I really love Bibianna. Their meatball on polenta appetizer is excellent, as is crab spaghetti.

    For a more hip, vibrant atmosphere I would go Graffiato. It's Italian-American small plates by Mike Isabella (of Top Chef fame). The pepperoni sauce is probably one of the best things you can eat in DC. They have lovely housemade pastas, pizzas and small plates (including veggie and fish options). The tasting menu is also a really fun experience.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Elyssa
      Tcat619 Nov 1, 2013 07:31 AM

      That's perfect. As long as she gets her Italian! We will try Graffiato for sure. Thanks the help

    2. s
      Steve Nov 1, 2013 07:52 AM

      I noticed you didn't report back on your trip to NYC. Being grateful for people's help is fine, but some feedback is good too.

      Go to Rocklands (DC and Arlington) for the chopped pork sandwich, texas corn pudding, and the greens. Do not get the ribs. Other options are the grilled fish, smoked pork loin (this will be listed as sliced pork), and the bbq egg rolls. I wouldn't trust any ribs around here.

      The other option for BBQ is Hill Country - but only for the moist (fatty) brisket. this is the DC outpost of a NYC restaurant.

      Bibiana (sleek, spacious) or Siroc (small, intimate, but crowded) are both very good choices for carefully prepared Italian, a bit pricey. Check out their menus online. Fiola is even more expensive with masterful risotto, but I am ambivalent about their other choices.

      10 Replies
      1. re: Steve
        The Big Crunch Nov 1, 2013 10:25 AM

        I agree with others. BBQ in DC just isn't all that special. Rocklands pulled pork sandwich is good, but the rest of the menu can be hit or miss. Hill Country has okay wet brisket, but the last time I was there it was waaaay too salty, and most everything else there is forgettable and pricey. Kangaroo Boxing Club is a sort've hipster neighborhood dive in the recently hipster-gentrified neighborhood of Columbia Heights, and though they smoke off premise, I think they have pretty damn good pulled pork. The honest-to-god best BBQ I've had in the region is up in Frederick at the Black Hog. Despite having a lot of places that bill themselves as BBQ joints, the quality of BBQ in DC is almost always mediocre at best: dry brisket and ribs, and flavorless roast pork are very, very common.

        My GF and I were really underwhelmed by Garffiato. Yes, the thigh (it's just one thigh, chopped in pieces) in pepperoni sauce is mouth wateringly good, but everything else we tried was more high-concept and nice description than actual good dish. The pizza was fine, but nothing special, and the noise level at that restaurant is off the charts. Also, small plates places tend to piss me off. I'd rather spend the same amount on a well-executed entree and split an app than plow through a stream of underwhelming appetizers that are supposed to constitute dinner. Now...that said...we really did enjoy Kapnos, which is Isabella's new Greek-themed place. The small plates concept still irks me to no end, but I though the food was much better than Graffiato.

        I'd also advocate for Bibianna which is honestly cheaper than a night at Graffiato, and IMO much better. I also second the crab spaghetti.

        1. re: The Big Crunch
          Elyssa Nov 1, 2013 12:17 PM

          You can also get the pepperoni sauce as just a sauce with flatbread. I think Graffiato is one of the more fun, delicious restaurants in the city. I've taken meat eaters, vegetarians, people who keep kosher, and my incredibly well-versed foodie parents to Graffiato and everyone loved it.

          If small plates restaurants "piss you off" than you shouldn't probably go to Graffiato since it's clearly a small plates restaurant.

          1. re: Elyssa
            The Big Crunch Nov 1, 2013 12:34 PM

            Well, I won't go back to Graffiato, though I do thank them for introducing me to pepperoni sauce, which is actually quite easy to make just as well at home. True, I hate the idea of small plates places, but at the same time, the bulk of the new places that open are small plates places, so trying new restaurants means putting up with the concept, but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

            1. re: The Big Crunch
              macsak Nov 1, 2013 04:22 PM

              how do you make pepperoni sauce?

              1. re: macsak
                Elyssa Nov 2, 2013 11:14 AM


                1. re: Elyssa
                  macsak Nov 3, 2013 10:41 AM

                  mahalo (thanks)


          2. re: The Big Crunch
            hamster Nov 3, 2013 06:23 PM

            I was also not impressed by my one visit to Grafiatto..,maybe a year ago now. The pepperoni sauce was good, but we were not impressed by the other dishes and thought the prices were awfully high for such hit-or-miss quality. I remember the octopus was undercooked, and one of our cocktails was kind of gross - as in, we sent it back, and they didn't offer to comp it or replace it or anything.

            I went to Kapnos recently and was much happier with the quality there.

          3. re: Steve
            Tcat619 Nov 2, 2013 09:09 AM

            Hello All,
            Thanks for all of the advice. My wife and I went to Graffioto last night. We wanted something that wasn't too fancy. We ordered the gnocchi with a Caesar salad to start. Both were tasty, especially the cream cheese croutons. We read some reviews on the "must haves" and ordered the Jersey Shore pizza, not a good idea. The calamari and pizza waaaay too much for us. I ended up taking the calamari off and the pizza by itself was delicious. That being said we like to try new things and don't regret ordering it... and saw a lot of other people trying the same pizza as well.
            We would go back for the food, but mostly the great music and young atmosphere.

            1. re: Tcat619
              Steve Nov 2, 2013 01:37 PM

              Thanks for posting back! Recs from Yelp, etc can't really be trusted, BTW.

              Glad you had a good time... though young atmosphere is pretty easy to come by these days.

              1. re: Steve
                Tcat619 Nov 2, 2013 02:09 PM

                I agree about the yelp reviews, we disagree often Other than this site that is all we know.
                As far as youngest crowd, that was from the recs in this discussion. I stilly think we are gonna try Bibiana and some BBQ in our tourist adventures in Balt and Arlington.

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