Graffiato: The Chef’s Tasting

Ever since we moved to the DC area last summer, Mike Isabella’s Graffiato has been on our list of “must-visit” restaurants. It took us until February to finally make it to the restaurant to celebrate a birthday. And, of course, celebrating a birthday calls for a hold-nothing-back kind of meal.

Since it was our first time at Graffiato, we wanted the full experience. And, to be honest, we just couldn’t decide what we wanted. Everything on the menu sounded fantastic. Our server directed us towards the chef’s tasting. He assured us that we wouldn’t go away hungry – and he was right. He even helped us through the meal by suggesting we only eat a few pieces of pizza in order to save our appetite for the other dishes that followed – which was the perfect strategy.

Throughout the meal, we were served close to twelve different dishes, including two desserts. Here are a few of the highlights from the menu

Best Vegetate – There wasn’t much of a contest in this area; the clear winner were the brussels sprouts. They were paired with pancetta and maple yogurt. It was the mixture of the bitter sprouts with the sweet maple yogurt that made us completely finish the dish, wishing there were more.

Most Surprising – While it wasn’t the best caesar salad we’ve ever had, it was the addition of the cream cheese croutons that really propelled the dish into something new. It was like our minds were blown by the idea of warm, tangy cheese on a cold salad. Genius.

Best Dish – It was hard to come up with just one dish that stood out amongst the rest. In the end, the one we would get again was the ricotta cavatelli. We are suckers for a good, homemade pasta. And, the addition of short ribs and preserved lemon created a dish with complex flavors that was rich and filled the comfort food void.

Best Sweet Treat – When it comes to sweet, we come from different camps. One of us likes lemon and the other enjoys chocolate. Therefore, it was clear that we couldn’t decide between the chocolate budino or the cheesecake. Both were excellent and finished the meal just right. The budino was rich and had elements of great texture and contrasting flavors with pine nuts and cherries. On the other hand, the cheesecake was not too sweet and had the perfect amount of lemon flavor.

Most Disappointing – Overall, we were really pleased with our experience at Graffiato, however, the hanger steak was the most disappointing. Together, the elements, which included salsify, pancetta and wild mushrooms, worked, but the steak itself was under-seasoned. With a little more salt, the dish could’ve made it to the top of our list.

In the end, the chef’s tasting was a good way to go. It was a good value and we left the restaurant content and with full stomachs.

We will be returning to Graffiato to experience more of Mike Isabella’s Italian comfort food. Although, it still might be hard to choose what to get next.

Photo Credits: Jaclyn & Dan Jecha

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