Old Town Crier

La Trattoria Old Town – Le Dolce Vita on Washington Street

By the Gastronomes

La Trattoria Old Town – Le Dolce Vita on Washington Street

This month we decided to give the new La Trattoria Old Town a try. As most of you know, the restaurant is not new, but the ownership, management and style is certainly new. Let me start off by sharing one of the new principals, Michael Strutton’s thoughts with you:

…PASSION FOR OUR CULTURE…

My grandparents came to New York City from Sicily at a time when Fiorella La Guardia held mayoral office, Lucky Luciano was beginning a prison term, and the world was just starting to hear the music of Frank Sinatra. While many Italians were reaching great heights, the average Southern Italian immigrants lived modestly, kept to their own neighborhoods and raised families built upon whichever traditions from the old country could be maintained in the U.S. Most family settings revolved around food…and while not all of the same ingredients were available to them, my family and so many others proudly built a new culture: The Italian-America culture. Somewhere in between European and American personalities we found this new definition of who we are…a charm that erupts in every Dean Martin song and on every makeshift bocce ball court on the east coast. An identity that is at times as quaint as sharing a pizza around a vinyl kitchen table, and other times, as grandiose as “Connie’s Wedding.” But now, almost three generations later, we still cling to what makes us Italian-American. My hope is that I’ve created a menu, a setting, and a mood that allows you to experience this culture, even if just for one night. If you want to savor a plate of freshly-made pasta, a glass of fine wine and a few moments of “The Sweet Life”, then we have a place for you at the table. Michael

Let me add to this thought with one of my own, he has lived up to his message. The first thing he did was change the culture of the restaurant. Customers now came first. He cleaned up the patio, painted the exterior and installed new outdoor furniture to create an inviting al fresco gathering spot. Next he totally revamped the interior and most importantly, the bar area…not in a garish way but with the simplicity of crates to form a back bar and installed a large TV that is only on for important sporting events or news events. The entire bar/lounge area was cleaned, painted and decorated with caricatures of stars of the entertainment field. Likewise, the adjoining dining room was completely redone in dark red tones. At the time of this writing, they were in the last throes of remodeling the second floor in order to expand dining space as well as the addition of a second bar area.

The menu at La Trattoria is extensive but not over the top. The Antipasti (appetizer) selections are typical Italian as are the Zuppe e Insalata (soup and salad) choices. No need to go into detail with menu items since they are readily available online. They are very proud of their Specialties of the House consisting of lasagna, eggplant parmigiana and house made cavatelli with veal ragu.  A selection of 12 pasta dishes and Manzo, Vitello, Pollo and Pesce (beef, veal, chicken and fish) offerings that should please any palate. PIzze and Calzone (pizza and folded pizza – we couldn’t think of a better translation) followed by Dolce (sweets) round out the menu.

The wine selection at LaTrattoria is simple and to the point. There is something that should please the wine snob and well as people like us who look for a good deal on a nice Pinot Grigio. There is full bar service as well and entertainment on selected evenings (check out the website).

With all that to choose from, I ordered the Stracciatella Rustic from the Zuppa menu. This is a homemade soup of chicken broth spinach, egg and cheese. The broth, spinach and cheese was delicious but I got half way through the egg and had to back away. Nothing wrong with the egg drop, just my somewhat “misunderstanding” of boiled egg. I never could eat a hard-boiled egg as a kid. My partner opted for the Prosciutto e Melon (fresh cantaloupe wrapped in prosciutto ham) from the Antipasti menu. The only thing that can go wrong with this choice is if the melon isn’t good – no worries on the night we were there, it was perfect.

Being the veal fan that I am, I selected the Saltimbucca Alla Romano. This dish of tender veal sautéed in Marsala wine and crowned with imported prosciutto ham was perfectly done. A dish that is easy to become overly salty if not properly prepared was right on the mark. The Marsala sauce was creamy and buttery that also blended well with the fresh pasta. The Lasagna from the House Specialty menu was the other choice at the table. She has had this dish here more than once and it has lived up to her very picky expectations each time. Also a favorite among pasta selections are the stuffed shells and the ravioli. Keep in mind that the portions are very ample and you will most likely walk out with some left overs.

We ended our repast by sharing one of our favorites from the Dolce menu, Spumoni. This is a fun dessert of cherry, chocolate and pistachio ice cream in a hard chocolate mold. We were a little surprised to find that they have cut the “mold” in half instead of serving the whole thing but it served the purpose and made for a nice presentation.

If you haven’t already stopped in, put La Trattoria on your list of places to check out as you plan your dining adventures. Be sure to say that the Old Town Crier sent you!

LaTrattoria

305 South Washington Street

Old Town Alexandria

703-548-9338

LaTrattoriaOldTown.com