Michael’s on King – The New Kid on the Block….Sorta!
By the Gastronomes
Location, Location, Location! As King Street in Old Town continues to evolve, our friend Michael Strutton and his wife Kelsey recently relocated his Italian restaurant, Michael’s Little Italy from the 300 block of South Washington Street to 703 King Street (formerly Magnolia’s on King) and rebranded it Michael’s on King. Having a spot on King Street on a block with 8 other eateries is a great place to be. You can’t put a monetary value on having significant foot traffic when you are in the restaurant or retail business.
I first met Michael in 2017 when he opened his first restaurant on South Washington Street. He already had a successful business in Nashville but came to Old Town to be near his Mom. He also always wanted his own restaurant and now had the opportunity to take the plunge. Sometimes it is nice to understand the thinking of someone when planning how to turn their dreams into reality. The following paragraph is Michael’s thoughts taken from his website:
Passion for our Culture – My grandparents came to New York City from Sicily at a time when Fiorello 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-American 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; our identity is one that is at times as quaint as sharing a pizza around a 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 at the table for you.
This is what I call putting it all on the line, and he nailed it. The first thing you will notice upon entering Michael’s is the serenity. You feel right at home. Seated in the main dining room downstairs, we had a great view of King Street through the floor to ceiling front window. We almost felt like we were dining outside while seated in a very comfortable room with a fun fire feature on the back wall. The dining room consisted of tables with a few booths scattered about. We chose one of the red leather booths with a nice view of King Street.
There is a second dining area and a small bar on the second floor that is open Thursday through Sunday and is home to the Piano Bar Open Mic night on the 3rd Sunday of each month and Opera Night with Carlos Ibay is coming back in January. There is a beautiful fireplace in the main room and is the perfect place for larger parties as well as a cozy place to have a cocktail. It is a great little “secret” spot that feels off of the beaten path even if it is right in the middle of King Street.
The menu is small but a better word might be “concise”. Even though the menu consists of only eight antipasto choices, three pasta choices and six entrees, they have covered all the bases very nicely and have added a rack of barbequed ribs – both whole and half – accompanied by cole slaw and roasted potatoes. Am guessing this dish is paying homage to the former Magnolias. Sometimes too many choices create a bit of anxiety. To create a bit of diversity, Michael’s also offers specials each day.
We skipped the usual vodka gimlets and opted to go straight to the wine. We picked a nice bottle of 2019 Palazzina Sangiovese. It came to the table with fresh sliced baguette and olive oil. Michael’s has a nice wine list with vintages ranging from $32 to $225 by the bottle and $8 to $16 by the glass. Also on the drink menu are six House Cocktails and six beers at $6 – none of which are of the “craft” version.
For starters I ordered the Shrimp Scampi, perfectly grilled shrimp with lemon, butter and garlic. This was a nice portion and wonderful to savor. My partner stuck with her go to favorite melon wrapped in prosciutto. The melon was perfectly ripe and the 18-month old prosciutto wrapped around it is served with a drizzle of olive oil. She likes a touch of lemon juice added but was satisfied with it as it was served.
Veal Saltimbocca served over fettuccine was one of the specials the night we dined and I couldn’t pass that up. The pasta is made in house and very good. It is heavy and very flavorful…and there was a lot of it. The veal cutlets were wrapped in salty prosciutto, pan-fried and served with a very tasty marsala sauce. This is a pretty hearty plate and I ended up taking leftovers home. Once again, my partner went with her “go to” dish – lasagna. She rates Italian restaurants on the merits of this dish and wasn’t disappointed. This is a traditional version with beef, pork, ricotta and lasagna noodles layered and topped with their amazing marinara sauce. This is a nice sized portion and she ended up taking half of it home and savored it for lunch the next day.
Nine times out of ten we never have room for dessert but we decided to splurge on the limoncello infused cake topped with whipped cream. And wouldn’t you know, Fabio (our server) showed up at the table with the chocolate cake and ice cream they also offer on the tray as well. Whew! We struggled but we made a huge dent in both. While both of these cakes were very good, it would have been nice to have a piece of tiramisu or cannoli to choose from as well.
For those of you who enjoyed Michael’s Little Italy, you will be happy to know that they brought the entire kitchen staff over to the new location as well as almost all of the front of the house employees. They also kept some of the former Magnolia’s staff on board. Fabio was on the floor the night we were there and he is fantastic. Being Italian with that great accent made us feel like we were actually in Rome.
Michael’s On King
703 King Street
Old Town Alexandria