Whether you’re looking for a pizza to transport you to Napoli or a bowl of cacio e pepe to twirl lovingly, we’ve got you covered. These are the best Italian restaurants in the Washington, D.C. MICHELIN Guide.
Chef/owner Nicholas Stefanelli's Puglian heritage comes through in the menu, which features four or five courses, along with a nightly tasting. The kitchen hits all the right notes balancing trendy and serious. Begin with a cigar box filled with focaccia so sinfully delicious, you’ll be tempted to scarf it all down—but don’t. You’ll want to save room for the spicy fish stew, a thing of beauty practically brimming with tripe and lobster, or house-made maccheroni with a thick and gamey goat ragù.
Although seafood is in its name, pasta is this kitchen's focus, from a delicate tangle of pappardelle mingled with a rich, porky Bolognese to braised suckling pig malfatti. Tiramisu for dessert might sound a bit cliché, but the version here is attractively composed and impressively light. Service straddles that fine line of professional and personal.
It's simple counter service here, yet those crusts are anything but—imagine a series of well-blistered and delightfully chewy pies, like the savory coppa and creamy Taleggio, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh thyme. The pizza is served whole, but you get to cut it yourself at the table. The light and crisp fritti makes a great start, just as the tiramisu is a fresh, delicious, wallet-friendly finish.
Stellina Pizzeria. Photo by Ray Lopez, courtesy of Stellina Pizzeria
You’ll want to wake up with the rooster to score a reservation at this rustic Italian gem as it’s incredibly popular. Pastas are spot on and include cacio e pepe “arancini,” crowd-favorite mezzi rigatoni or even the mafalde verde—a sweet-and-savory combo of braised duck ragù, Calabrian chili and pecorino romano. Entrées like grilled short rib or scallops with pickled chili aïoli are also exquisite.
A strong dose of tongue-in-cheek kitsch here makes it impossible not to adore it, yet, there's nothing funny about the food—the kitchen turns out serious dishes in an attempt to bridge the gap between American and Italian cuisine. Regardless of which side you pick, get a pasta and you won't go wrong. Spaghetti alle vongole is as unfussed with as it should be; and the fish of the day is a solid winner, with such classic pairings as carrots with hazelnuts and ricotta.
Tosca pulls off a bit of a magic trick, as you’d never suspect that this gem was hiding in plain sight. Shielded by an unassuming façade, it's more than easy to walk right by. Trevigiana, a salad tossing bright radicchio with crispy hen of the woods mushrooms, frico friulano and a piquant black truffle dressing, shows restraint and focus; while lobster risotto with its sweet tomato bisque and tender Maine lobster meat exudes a harmony of decadent flavors.
A dinner in the hands of Massimo Fabbri might begin with tender squash blossoms stuffed with truffled goat cheese and fried to perfection. Pasta is a must: try crown-shaped tortelli with robiola and black truffle, pooled in a porcini mushroom sauce; or splurge on the parmesan risotto, dusted with freshly shaved white truffles. Maple panna cotta with caramelized apples and oat streusel is a refreshing finale.
Begin with grilled oysters and garlic butter or meatballs atop polenta. Then indulge in the star of the show—house-made pasta, like tagliolini tossed with Maine uni, tomato sauce, and preserved lemon breadcrumbs. Unsurprisingly, natural wines are a serious focus and pair wonderfully with the shareable plates. A round of semifreddo with olive oil, grilled citrus, and coarse salt nicely finishes the show.
Classic and modern elements come together in the regional Italian food here, which is as likely to celebrate Roman inspiration as it is to represent Venetian flavors. Comfort is king in rigatoni alla carbonara with guanciale; while palate cleansers like yuzu granité make a smooth segue to Sicilian cassata—perhaps the most colorful dessert ever.
On the menu here, grilled octopus with cannellini bean salad and fried artichokes with bagna cauda make for a fantastic start. But the heart of this kitchen is the homemade pasta. Paccheri tossed with octopus and prawns; ravioli stuffed with braised short ribs; or eggy tagliatelle tangled with Italian sausage and cherry tomatoes offer warmth and comfort. Finish with the Nutella bomboloni.
The heart of this place, a sun-lit trattoria anchored by an open kitchen, is upstairs on the second floor. A lengthy list of salumis and formaggi tempts patrons, and pastas like cavatelli, agnolotti, and paccheri are all made in-house. Heartier plates include veal saltimbocca and bombetta pugliese, a succulent pork shoulder wrapped in prosciutto.
This focused, consistent and lovely trattoria serves the kind of food that everyone wants to return to again and again. The name (Italian for “pasta master”) sets a very high bar but lives up to its moniker with a notable variety of hearty and elegant preparations listed as “classical” and “seasonal.” Highlights have included soft, almost whipped polenta folded with showers of cacio e pepe and piled with fresh green peas and shaved pecorino.
The light and seasonal Italian cooking begins with a bang, as an assortment of fantastic antipasti is quickly ushered to the table: perhaps creamy burrata imported from Lazio or a hot croquette filled with melting cheese. Entrées might include a dorade with a cracker-crisp sear, served with nutty romesco sauce and green chickpeas. NB: Currently take-out only.
Chef Amy Brandwein’s menu is divvied into categories like antipasti, pasta and large plates, many prepared in the famed oven. Think wildly delicious seafood starters like Hawaiian tuna crudo; or gently fried soft-shell crab with shishito aïoli. Dinner staples include tangles of fettuccine in a savory white Bolognese; or a young, perfectly roasted Amish chicken.