Michael’s Little Italy – One Part Fine Dining, One Part Pizzeria!

By the Gastronomes

Michael’s Little Italy – One Part Fine Dining, One Part Pizzeria!

Three years ago Michael Strutton left Nashville to come to Alexandria to be near his mother. He had formed a band and was playing at Murphy’s Grand Irish Pub and would stop in at Trattoria da Franco after some performances. He would talk to Franco about restaurants and his desire to own one someday. At the time, Franco had been at this 305 South Washington Street location for over 30 years. Eventually an agreement was reached and Michael took over the restaurant renaming it La Trattoria Old Town. The past few months he has finally achieved his goal after totaling remodeling the restaurant and to rename it Michael’s Little Italy Ristorante & Pizzeria.

This establishment is a combination with two concepts side by side –fine dining and a pizzeria. Their tagline is “Serving Southern Italian Cuisine and New York-style Pizza”. The bar and fine dining area are on the right as you walk in. This is an intimate dining room with a cozy fireplace and fully stocked bar. This room is bathed in a deep red wine color and dimly lit with lots of fun movie/music inspired artwork on the walls. The back bar is assembled from wooden wine cases and done in a nice country fashion. It is very comfortable and inviting. The room is also used for some small musical acts including Flamenco Night and other events like music trivia which Michael tells us will begin in February on Thursday nights. The bar has a large flat screen TV which is not turned on unless requested and is used when appropriate for special sporting events, etc.

On the other side of the first floor is the pizzeria featuring New York-style pizza. The pizzeria is a more casual style and great for families. The décor is fun with checkered table cloths and wall hangings. There is a stand-alone gas fireplace that adds to the ambiance as well. This is where you can be a bit more laid back. The pizzas are all 18 inch (with the exception of the margherita which is a 12 incher) pies and are served by the slice as well as whole. Toppings include cheese, meat and veggie pizzas and a New Haven clam pie. Michael was in the kitchen the night we dined and was gracious enough to give us a slice of the cheese pizza to sample while we were having a cocktail. It was very tasty. Definitely something we will order soon. This casual bistro style pizzeria also serves Meat and Eggplant Lasagna, Spaghetti and Meatballs and Chicken and Veal Parma. They also offer beer and wine as well as drinks from the bar. All items can be ordered to go including wine. Perfect for a night on the couch.

The second floor features an overflow dining room/special event space and the cigar bar/lounge. The dining room is cozy and comfortable. This room also serves as the musical venue for Sunday nights including the popular “Opera Night” the last Sunday of the month. Bob Smith, former White House Pianist, plays and locals take to the microphone to sing and entertain you a couple of times a month. The talent is pretty amazing from opera quality to just good. Although I have sung with Bob playing in the past, I will not put myself in either group, but I can get by.

The cigar room was a Strutton idea a few years back and has proven very successful. There are a group of regulars that light up here as well as new folks. It is open to the public and does not require membership. It is, however, open after 10:00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays only.

We chose to dine on the fine dining side of Michael’s on this visit where they presented their winter menu. It is a nice concise menu that isn’t overwhelming. You will find a Chef’s Soup Selection, Insalata Caprese and Caesar, Antipasto, Insalata Burrata, Calamari Fritti and Cozze al Vino Bianco. We split the Insalata Caesar and it was perfect. Cold, crisp Romaine lettuce and crunchy croutons with a delightful dressing.

They offer a nice selection of homemade pastas and entrees. I won’t run through them here but would recommend you check out their web site. I have had the Spinach Capellini alla Vongole (little neck clams in a white wine garlic) and have enjoyed it, however on this trip I ordered the Veal Saltimboccco alla Romano. I am a big fan of veal and this did not disappoint. Three hearty slices of veal with paper thin prosciutto on top of creamy pasta made for a very filling meal. I brought one of the veal medallions and pasta home for another meal. My partner ordered one of her favorite pasta’s – pappardelle – with bolognese sauce. She commented on what a difference it makes when the pasta is made in house. She had to take a portion of her dish home as well since she was set on having some dessert. And…it was definitely the right move to make. We shared their house-made Semifreddo. This is the first time we have actually had this, in fact, neither of us had ever heard of it before this experience. Semifreddo is a cross between whipped cream and ice cream. It is more like a frozen mousse in texture. Michael’s version is made with pieces of almond brittle and caramel sauce. It is over the moon good.

Michael’s also has a nice wine list and the prerequisite craft beer selection as well as a fully stocked bar. Located only one block from the Little Theater in Old Town, this place sees many early diners before the show. Seating is fairly limited with only 16 seats on the floor and 8 or so seats at the bar so reservations are a good idea any day of the week.

Michael’s Little Italy

305 South Washington St

Old Town, Alexandria

703-548-9338

Michaelslittleitaly.com

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