Like everyone else in Washington, I have been waiting anxiously for months to try Top Chef contestant Mike Isabella's new restaurant Graffiato in the Penn Quarter. Graffiato officially opened its doors on Thursday, June 23rd and I was quick to book a reservation for a few days after the opening. Upon first arrival I knew I was going to love this place. The downstairs has a great bar area as well as tables for walk-in seating, and the upstairs contains the main dining room for those with reservations. The restaurant is casual with an amazing energy, the people are young and interesting, and the space is inviting and no-fuss making for a fun drinking and dining experience.
I am a huge fan of Prosecco and am known to order it out often, so I was incredibly eager to try the Prosecco on tap that I had been reading about at Graffiato. It was a huge disappointment to learn that they were out of Prosecco on my first visit, so I settled for wine instead. But, I can say that was the only real disappointment of the night. The menu is simple and offers small plates in multiple categories including vegetables, salads, wood oven, cheese, meats, pastas and pizzas. Graffiato recommends about 4 dishes per person unless ordering a pizza which then knocks the total amount of plates down to a few less. They also offer a Chef's Tasting for a very reasonable $45 a person that my friend Meg and I were tempted to try, but we figured for our first visit we'd go with the things on the menu that were jumping out at us and maybe on our second visit we'd leave it up to the trusted hands of Chef Mike Isabella.
My absolute favorite dish of the night was Isabella's famous gnocchi which he cooked on the finale of Top Chef All-Star's and is his grandmother's recipe from his childhood. The potato gnocchi came with a hearty yet lightly plated gravy made with pork shank and burrata. The dish was perfect, and the burrata was fluffy and light adding a cold element to this otherwise homestyle dish. We also loved the sweet corn agnolotti with chanterelles and pine nuts that was highly recommended by our waiter. It was so creamy and smooth and was great to try two pastas that were different in texture and flavor profiles. The countryman pizza was pretty fantastic with black truffles, fontina, and a duck egg. The staff carefully cracked the duck egg as they delivered the pizza and smeared the egg on each slice to make sure it was evenly distributed. Great touch. The crust had blisters from the pizza oven but was still incredibly soft and fluffy at the same time.
We also sprang for a few other small dishes- the king crab legs, the shrimp, and the marinated broccoli. I enjoyed the shrimp with a proscuitto bread sauce and sea beans but I wasn't thrilled with the broccoli which was served cold with a questionable green sauce that just didn't really do it for me. The king crab legs were good, but I would say that the pastas and pizzas are really the things to stick to at Graffiato. You cannot go wrong.
Graffiato has the best of everything with an already loyal customer base of Washington natives who are thrilled to see what Mike Isabella has brought to town, an extensive reach into the tourist market for those who have been fans of Top Chef, and of course the built-in neighborhood dwellers who are sure to make it a regular place on their list. I love the casual nature of the restaurant and the food really exceeded expectations delivering everything I had been hoping for and more. Graffiato will become a Washington staple in no time, and I'm going back soon for the Chef's Tasting Menu and hope that I can sample of the Prosecco at that time as well.