Coming from Roberto Donna and Hakan Ilhan: Alba Osteria

November 14, 2013

Alba Osteria, the next venture from restaurateur Hakan Ilhan and chef Roberto Donna, will be almost twice the size of their first creation, Al Dente near American University, and celebrate Donna’s native Piedmont in northwestern Italy. Scheduled to open before Christmas, the 226-seat dining room at 425 I St. NW will also reunite Donna with Amy Brandwein, his one-time executive chef at the late Galileo.


Roberto Donna at Roberto's 4. (Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

In deference to the partners’ anticipated young audience in Mount Vernon Triangle, Alba’s bar will be prominent in the design, which includes windows and paneling from a demolished Crayola factory in Ohio and a palette of black and white interrupted by orange. “Orange is so warm,” Ilhan says. Plus, “it makes you eat more,” he jokes. Good news for event planners: The 5,500-square-foot restaurant includes an area that can play host to three separate parties, plus a 63-seat patio.

A preview of the menu finds bagna cauda, vitello tonnato, green gnocchi with sausage ragu, fried meatballs (hold the tomato sauce), rabbit, beef tenderloin with red wine sauce and Neapolitan pizza from a wood-burning, 8,000-pound Ferrara oven from Naples. “No fish,” however, except for daily specials, Donna says. Serving sizes, he adds, will be “Italian portions,” which he translates as “bigger than tapas.” Brandwein will helm the kitchen as chef de cuisine.

There’s more, at least from Ilhan: Next year, he plans to diversify his portfolio with a French accent at Dulles International Airport. Bistro Atelier – restaurant No. 25 for the businessman – is replacing four retail outlets at the airport. A chef has yet to be hired for the project, which is set to take off May 1.

Alba Osteria, 425 I St. NW. Expected to open in late December. 

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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Margaret Ely · November 14, 2013