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Feb 12, 2014 07:06 AM

Alba Osteria

Alba is a Roberto Donna restaurant featuring Piedmont regional dishes. I don't think Donna owns any of the restaurant, or that he's the chef there, so I guess he came up with the menu and the recipes?

Anyhow, the menu is heavy on small plates at a decent price. For example, I ordered 6 small plates for $46 (before drinks, tax and tip). Had I finished everything, I would've been stuffed.

I ordered two cold dishes, a soup, and three hot dishes. I would've expected the cold dishes to come out first, then the soup, and then the three hot dishes, but I didn't specify the order and just ate whatever came out first.

The first two to come out were the fried beef & veal meatballs ($8) and tripe tomato herb soup ($8). The meatballs were tasty but had a hardened exterior, presumably from the frying. I normally don't order meatballs (easy enough to make at home), and won't order them again here either. The soup had very little diced tripe. It's mostly a nice tomato veggie soup.

Next to arrive were the veal tongue in green sauce ($8) and capunet ($6). I had no idea what a capunet was based on the description of duck confit and cabbage but it turned out to be my favorite dish. It's actually wrapped with a spring-roll like shell and then deep fried. The tongue was shaved thin. While tender, it was lacking in flavor other than the taste of tongue itself. Want a pile of shaved poached tongue, get this.

The fifth dish was a cold dish - herb poached rabbit and letuce ($8). I liked the dish other than there was a lot of olive oil drizzled over everything. The rabbit rillette was tasty.

The only dish I didn't like was the chicken liver and polenta ($8). This preparation did nothing to soften the intense flavor of the chicken liver. Maybe I'm just not a big fan of chicken liver. I barely touched this dish, partly because it was the last dish to arrive and I had pretty much ate everything that came beforehand other than the soup.

Overall, unique restaurant in DC with generally good execution.

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  1. Friends have tried the chef's table and echo your review. Have you tried Osteria Morini? Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna have similar takes on salumis and beef dishes. Although, I didn't care for their mortadella meatballs

    1 Reply
    1. re: monkeyrotica

      Been to Morini twice. I'm a big Michael White fan and I love his pastas so I didn't order the meatballs at Morini. In fact, I think I focused mostly on seafood at Morini.

    2. Seven Chowhounds got together for lunch at Alba Osteria yesterday. Lunch prominently features pasta dishes. We ordered all four starters (called stuzzichini on the menu) and five pasta dishes.

      White Asparagus
      Beet Salad

      Shortrib agnolotti
      Gnocchi with sausage ragu
      Tagliatelle agliata
      Hay-smoked mezzaluna (from the dinner menu)
      Chestnut trofie (from the dinner menu)

      The ratatouille, which I've had before, is the winner of the starters though they are all good. We only tasted a small portion of each, but I know the ratatouoille gets better and better the more you eat.

      The dinner pastas were exceptional; the hay-smoked mezzaluna were surprisingly large and puffy, and the dry cooking (they arrive in steamer baskets at the table) makes these standout. The trofie (small, dense worms) wwere made of chestnut which gave it a sweet flavor paired with the sauce of offal, and this was indeed a wonderful dish. But very, very rich. Definitely best shared.

      The gnocchi came in a zesty sauce that I could have poured straight into my mouth. The firm packets of agnolotti were served in a bowl with a fragrant, beefy broth. You'll want to ask for a spoon.

      The tagliatella agliata were smothered is a creamy walnut sauce, and the walnut flavor was minimal, so this was my least favorite.

      We did not try the pizzas. The dinner menu also features three or four main courses, but is mostly comprised of small plates which are not on the lunch menu.

      Overall an exceptional meal for creative, exciting, and wide-ranging pasta dishes which felt, not like carbo-loading before a race, but like eating a delightful variety of foods.

      1. I have to add I recently went here for brunch and would not recommend it at all. It was truly awful. The 'rosemary potatoes' (which are just French fries) came out cold, dishes came out bizarrely paced, and the meat balls were really tough and dry.

        I'm glad to hear that others have enjoyed dinner/lunch - but this is definitely NOT a brunch place.