It’s like mezze with an Italian accent
By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Mulling his latest project, Dimitri Moshovitis always knew it wouldn’t be Greek. Although the chef says he loves his Cava outposts in Rockville, Capitol Hill and Clarendon, “I want to give it a break.”
Introduced to Potomac in May, the 100-seat Sugo Cicchetti represents his split from the theme, an idea that not only appeals to the restaurateur’s passion for pasta and red sauce but brings up history: “Cava in the beginning was an Italian concept” that Moshovitis and his partners switched at the last minute, he says of the 2006 original in Maryland. Sugo Cicchetti also counts investment from the owners of the local Mama Lucia mini-chain, one of whom is the uncle of Cava co-owner Ted Xenohristos.
The style of eating will be familiar to grazers who frequent Cava. The newcomer’s small plates “come out as they’re ready and are meant to be shared -- but you don’t have to!” says our earnest young waiter at Sugo Cicchetti, its name a reference to sauce and snacks.
A salad of fennel and oranges is breezy with mint and sparkling with champagne vinegar. Fried cauliflower is dappled with tomato and creamy tufts of goat cheese. Moshovitis also sends out fluffy beef-and-veal meatballs to top spaghetti that might spend a few minutes too long in hot water. Sauteed shrimp get a nice blast of garlic, and shaved pork and provolone are packaged between slices of crisp grilled bread. From the gas-fired brick oven come pizzas sporting puffed lips and pleasing char. The Sicilian is decked out with black olives, white anchovies and broccoli rabe: punch!
Overlooking a garden plaza in Park Potomac, the dining room has plenty of selling points as well. Red leather booths and cheese shakers on the tables say old-school Italian; white globes suspended from on high lend their glow at night. Meanwhile, the pizza station doubles as a display for the chef’s pasta. “I love making it,” says Moshovitis. “We buy nothing dry.”