There are so many restaurants opening on 14th Street, but the one I have been anxiously waiting for is Ghibellina, the Italian gastropub brought to us by Ari Gejdenson and the team from Acqua Al 2 in Eastern Market. This restaurant was special to me before it even opened because I happened to live on Via Ghibellina (123 to be exact) in Florence, Italy in 2004. It's a bustling street just a stone's throw from the Duomo, Santa Croce, and the Bargello in the heart of downtown Florence. Ari and his business partner Ralph Lee also lived on Via Ghibellina which is how the name of the restaurant was born. This weekend they provided a soft-opening just for friends and family in order to test out the menu and the service. I was thrilled to be able to join them for the pilot program before they open their doors to the public this coming week on May 7th.
The exterior and interior of Ghibellina are nothing short of impressive. The team worked to restore the original facade of the location at 1610 14th Street NW, and the inside is comfortable, inviting, and feels like a local neighborhood trattoria. The exposed brick, the open window into the kitchen, and the great bar space at the front of the restaurant all have the makings for a regular local haunt.
Now for the main focus, it's time to get into the details of the food. The menu is mainly small plates, and they recommend about 2-3 per person in order to satisfy your grumbling tummy. There are also some larger entrees should you choose to go that route, as well as meat and cheese plates, soups, salads, and more. For four people, we ordered 11 dishes total (before dessert), and we thought this was the perfect amount. Food highlights and descriptions below:
- Insalata Ghibellina: This salad was well dressed and delicious. Made with arugula, avocado, confit tomatoes, emmanthaler, pine nuts, and pesto, the ingredients were interesting and it immediately caught my eye. It's a very small dish, but a great choice if you are looking to add some green to the table.
- Tortelli Di Patate Al Ragu: This was like a traditional ravioli with a hearty beef ragu sauce. The sauce was great, and I even used my leftover pizza crust to dunk in it.
- Pici Carrettiera: This is the most simple and classic dish on the menu made with a fat spaghetti, tomatoes, garlic, basil, and parsley. Simple yet divine. This was a standout.
- Stracotto: This small plate was packed with comforting flavor-- the post roast of beef with white wine and tomato was tender and pulled apart easily with the fork. I loved this dish.
- Carciofi Al Forno: These wood-roasted artichokes were crispy and browned tossed with mint, lemon, croutons, and onions. Such a light and refreshing vegetable dish. I highly recommend adding this to your ordering rotation.
- Salsicce E Cippola Pizza: Made with sausage, provolone, wood-roasted onions, oregano, peperoncino, and grana. The pizza had such a great mix of flavors including the sweet onions and the salty cheese. It was hard to resist finishing the entire thing.
To top off a great meal, we ordered dessert and really narrowed in on the olive oil cake with crumbled pistachio on top. It was moist and subtle in flavor, but just right.
Overall, our group was incredibly pleased with the dinner we had at Ghibellina, and I felt like it was a very nice homage to Florence. The one dish on the menu that caught my eye immediately was the Ribollita. A classic Tuscan soup made of beans, vegetables, and bread. While I did not order it given the warm weather, I can't wait to go back and try this specialty. Hard to find in the United States, and you know the team is serious about serving authentic cuisine when they have it on the menu. Thrilled to live just a few steps away from Ghibellina, and it makes me long for the incredible time I spent in Italy.