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I Matti
By Phyllis C. Richman
Washington Post Restaurant Critic
From The Washington Post Dining Guide, November 1996

| 2436 18th St. NW
(202) 462- 8844

Hours of Operation and Prices
Lunch: M-Sat noon-2:30
Dinner: Sun-Th 5:30-10, F-Sat 5:30-10:30
Entrees: $10-$17
Light Fare: M-Sat 2:30-3, $4-$9
Late Nite: F-Sat 10:30-11, $6-$10

Other Information
• All major credit cards
• Reservations recommended
• Dress: casual
• Valet (fee) parking dinner T-Sat
• Handicapped Accessible

It has taken me a long time to warm up to I Matti. I've gradually been drawn back to it for the uniqueness of its menu, and once there I've appreciated the casual, nicely worn look of the place, no longer as self-consciously chic as it once was. This is a moderately priced Italian restaurant that strives far more than most.

Like most Italian restaurants, I Matti has more dishes than one can hope to explore: antipasti, polentas with various cheeses or sausage, pizzas ranging from basic to cauliflower puree with smoked prosciutto and mozzarella, green salads with the likes of portobello mushrooms or beets and goat cheese, creative pastas and homey entrees. That's just the standing menu; the list of daily specials can run to two dozen.

I'd be glad to make a meal of soft polenta, maybe with buckwheat or raw egg yolk and cheese, but an appetizer or side dish will do. The pastas sound intriguing: ravioli with turkey and chestnuts, pumpkin tortelloni with salted ricotta. Wiry, chewy, handmade spaghetti is satisfying, with thick, meaty slices of portobello mushrooms and whole cloves of garlic.

Entrees have a twist - the shrimp cooked on a hot stone at the table with a garlic and orange sauce, the chicken stewed with rabbit sausage and chunks of mushroom as a kind of glamorous cacciatore. This is not cooking to pique one's aesthetic sense; it is sensible cooking of fine flavor and straightforward quality. It's the kind of food we imagine our Italian counterparts eating every day, and we envy them.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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