Wines by the glass and pizza by the cone
By Tom Sietsema
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Giuseppe "Joe" Ricciardi owns two places to eat and drink in Fairfax City. One is a restaurant called Dolce Vita, which the native Italian opened in 1995. The other is Dolce Veloce Cicchetti Wine Bar, which began serving Italian small plates, or cicchetti, in November - right next door.
The closeness doesn't make them competitors, says Ricciardi. "They complement rather than cannibalize" each other, he says, pointing to their different menus and functions. The new place, with its undressed tables and focus on grapes, stocks more than 300 wines, about 40 by the glass. The bar is a convenient space to park should you find a wait at the restaurant, the owner helpfully points out.
The cicchetti I try have Italian roots and American builds. They're husky. The bread salad known as panzanella is constructed with a bushel of rough-cut bell peppers and giant croutons, for instance. Crisp Sicilian rice balls are draped with a pleasantly tangy tomato sauce. Lemony grilled cuttlefish displayed on mellow sliced potatoes makes a nice marriage, too. Flank steak marinated in balsamic vinegar with fresh raspberries and served on a skewer proves tender and tasty; a shame the accompanying sauteed onions overdosed on sugar. (Nothing a glass of Barbera d'Alba for $7 can't help wash back.) The possibilities go on and on, running to panini, fried zucchini, crab cakes and more.
The sibling businesses have their own kitchens but one top chef: the owner, who splits his time between them.
The most photogenic of the snacks may be the wine bar's pizza cones, which come in four flavors (make mine mushroom-spinach) and look like an edible bouquet swaddled in faux newspaper. Miss Manners wasn't around to tell us how to eat the novelty: Like an ice cream cone? Removed from their wrap, then sliced?
Either plan of attack is acceptable, says Ricciardi, who uses the ice cream cone approach.