Jersey Shore

Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about Snooki. Jersey Shore, on this occasion, refers to a pizza you can find at Mike Isabella’s (of Top Chef fame) first DC restaurant, Graffiato. Good old Mike has actually just published his first cookbook, Crazy Good Italian, so it seemed timely to do a roundup of my dining experiences at Graffiato. And when I say dining experiences, I mean 6 or 7 trips (thank goodness I work only 2 blocks away!) of awesomeness.

Although the menu varies with the seasons, as all good menus should, I’m doing my best to tick off some of his classic dishes each time I visit. Being a small plate kind of a joint, Graffiato enables you to try at least 4 or 5 dishes per meal, so the variety (and my list) is quite respectable. So far, I’ve sampled:

  • Broccolini | spicy pepper relish, walnut, feta
  • Baby Beets | house ricotta, orange
  • Roasted Cauliflower | pecorino, mint
  • Marinated Olives | citrus, chili, herbs
  • Greens | pickles, radish, mint, ricotta, salata
  • Gnocchi | butternut squash
  • Hand Cut Spaghetti | olive oil poached cherry tomatoes, thai basil
  • Citrus Cured Striped Bass | peppers, fennel, saffron
  • Classic Pizza | melted cherry tomatoes, sicilian oregano, garlic
  • Papa Smurf Pizza | speck, gorgonzola, caramelized onions and potato
  • Jersey Shore Pizza | fried calamari, tomato, provolone, cherry pepper aioli
  • Flatbread with Pepperoni sauce (recipe is rumored to be in the new cookbook!)
  • Brussels Sprouts | maple, egg,  pancetta

I will admit that I keep checking the online menu to see if it’s brussels sprouts time again. Longing might be the right word for how I feel about those brussels sprouts. On my most recent visit, I couldn’t stop taking pictures of the gloriously lovely roasted cauliflower dish, which was, by far, the winning dish of the lot. Also gracing our table was the broccolini (served cold with a great crunch to balance the creaminess of the feta and relish), an herbed pasta dish with crab that deceptively appears to be gnocchi, and, of course, the inimitable Jersey Shore pizza topped with calamari. The aioli has a kick that’s just right, bleeding into the chewy, slightly charred crust.

Once you find a place that’s great about accommodating your particular dietary restrictions, chances are you’ll keep on coming back. Just so for Graffiato. On my first visit, I learned that the restaurant GM actually has a peanut allergy, so they rarely have peanuts on the menu (you’ll find some in the desserts occasionally), and they’re exceedingly understanding and careful about cross contamination in the kitchen. On my latest visit, after looking over the special $20 lunch menu (awesome deal!), we asked for a recommendation on a pasta dish, and the first words out of our server’s mouth was, “Oh, the corn agnolotti…” Unfortunately  I had to stop him right there and explain my corn intolerance, to which he gave me a sympathetic smile and suggested the crab pasta instead. People seem to melt at the very mention of the acclaimed corn agnolotti; a particularly eloquent Yelp Reviewer described the dish as “amazingly light handmade(?) pasta wrapped around a homemade sweet corn mash that hit me with a wave of fields, summer, and memories of eating corn on the cob all at once.” What imagery! If you don’t happen to be corn-intolerant, order it while it’s still on the menu!

Ultimately, I keep going back to Graffiato for their incredible food, very attentive service, and the knowledge that the peanut-allergic GM is keeping his staff accountable and the kitchen safe for me.

Graffiato | 707 6th St NW Washington, DC 20001 (202) 289-3600


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