Damn you, Isabella. Damn you. I hate to say it, but nice job with Graffiato (6th & G NW).
Why do I hate to say it? I’m conflicted. Like others, I thought you were too arrogant during your first season on Top Chef. Then, you made me a fan when you returned to compete in Top Chef All-Stars. It was clear to me that you had come back a much more focused and humbled chef than your previous Top Chef-self. In other words, you kicked some Top Chef ass. I followed pre-opening reports about your restaurant and asked myself: Would Graffiato be worth the hype? Then, I got frustrated because I couldn’t get a reservation and I just resigned myself to answering “no” to that question.
Right. So, where was I? Ah, yes. Damn you, Isabella. Damn you. I’m no longer conflicted. I can openly and confidently say: great job on the food and the ambiance. I will be back.
Graffiato, which means “scratched” in Italian, has a casual, relaxed feel. A while back, I remember reading an interview (or seeing one) of Isabella where he described his concept for the restaurant. He mentioned that he wanted to re-create the type of family-style meals he grew up with. It was that ability to sample as little or as much of several dishes — veggies here, some pasta there, a little cheese, a taste of charcuterie, some seafood and braised pork perhaps — that was the inspiration behind Graffiato. It explains why Isabella was drawn to and flourished at Zaytinya, his former home. It also explains the pizza bar and the open kitchen on the second floor, which makes the diner feel included and part of the Graffiato family. No walls, no pretense.
Three friends and I ended up checking out Graffiato’s tasting menu a few weeks back. It was a great way for us to sample a few plates from each of the sections on the menu: vegetate, cheese, cured meats, pizza, pasta, and small plates from the wood oven (e.g. octopus and chicken thighs cooked in the now well-known pepperoni sauce the Top Chef judges raved about). Oh, and dessert! The tasting menu, not surprisingly, is family-style. There are three “courses,” each featuring several dishes drawn from different sections of the menu. But I don’t think it’s necessary to do the tasting menu in order to enjoy Graffiato. If you don’t have a few hours to kill or the bills to spend, I’ve done all the work for you. Below, I describe my favorites so that you can be well-informed when you create your own family-style meal. You can thank me later. (Wine is always a good way to say thank you — especially the sparkling kind. I’m just sayin’ . . .)
|Sweet corn agnolotti|
|Peach ice cream and nutella cookies|
I liked something else at Graffiato that isn’t on the menu — the service. Our waiter was professional, had a sense of humor, and never once rushed us. For some reason, when he spoke I was mesmerized and interested in everything he had to say. It was hard for me to look away or sometimes even hear the actual words that came out of his mouth . . . . But I digress. That’s a different blog.
The dishes were well-paced and the waiter always came by to explain each of the dishes as they arrived. In addition, Isabella seems to love mingling with his guests. He seemed very gracious, posed for pictures and asked diners for their feedback on various dishes. In fact, we came to learn that he likes to do this often because he genuinely wants to know which dishes are working and which are not. I like that. It’s smart and I don’t see enough chefs do it.
That’s all for now. Until next time . . . .