Diversity is a goal in more than personnel offices and residential neighborhoods. It's a useful objective for restaurants nowadays, too, as Cafe Milano shows. The place is best known as a noisy, fashion-themed late-night hangout for the young, the rich and the beautiful who nibble, at most, on a few leaves of arugula. In the bright light of day, though, it works equally well for quiet business lunches or sociable Georgetown salad-and-mineral-water get-togethers. Early dinners draw a sedate crowd seeking serious Italian cooking. The remarkable thing is that one menu fits all.
That's because the food is so Italian, so straightforward a showcase for excellent ingredients and the magic of simplicity. It's as light as you wish, sparkling with flavor and as colorful and lovely as the designer neckties that decorate the walls. If all you want is a salad or a plate of paper-thin raw meat or fish, you'll find the quality high and the preparation flawless. Pizzas and pastas reach beyond cliches yet remain pure. A toss of shrimp, asparagus and diced raw tomato with just a little olive oil dresses wiry golden tagliolini. The agnolotti dough might be disappointingly heavy, but its spinach filling is light, its pureed squash sauce more so. And if you're primed for a meal of substance, there are grand starters, my favorite a grill-crisped squid with potatoes, onions and olives. Entrees include a wide choice of fish, veal and, richest of all, grilled liver garnished by an onion stuffed with creamy risotto.
Cafe Milano shows that fashion can be long-lived and serve all ages. It never neglects substance for style.