AN ERA HAS ENDED in Washington restaurant history: owner Joseph Muran d'Assereto has retired from Cantina d'Italia, a mere 19 years after he opened that extraordinary Italian restaurant.
Washington had never seen such an excellent and authentic Italian restaurant before he started serving bagna cauda and osso buco in its hokey-looking trellised basement. Cantina has always been eccentric (the penmanship on the huge unreadable menu never changed over the years), and at its best was the best Italian restaurant in town. And in fact one of our best restaurants, period. Over the past few years it has had its ups and downs, as has d'Assereto's health. But in its prime it had no superior. And it taught Washingtonians, who in the mid-'60s had not seen much beyond spaghetti and meatballs, what one could expect from Italian cooking.
As long as I'm in the bad-news mode, there's more: Cafe Med, a moderately known, modestly priced Georgetown restaurant which produced some thrillingly good food, has closed -- for a few months perhaps, or maybe forever, say the owners. They're busy with their new restaurant, Cities. I'll continue to miss their old one.
BUG ON --
Enough bad news, let me tell you about the cockroach. At a restaurant that, being blameless, shall remain nameless, I spotted a cockroach; the owner refused to let me pay for my meal. As it turned out, his exterminator pays for the meal if a cockroach is found in his restaurant; sends a letter of apology to the diners; and invites them back for a free (and presumably cockroach-free) dinner at its expense. "Bugs" Burger Bug Killers, Inc., this upstanding Miami-based exterminating company is called.
COFFEECOFFEECOFFEECOFFEE BREAK --
I don't need much of an excuse to go to Jodo's (1710 Connecticut Ave. NW). It's not only a whimsical and friendly little sandwich shop but it also serves breakfast all day (my favorite's the Country Platter of eggs, onions, green peppers, ham, bacon and sausage for $3). It has a sundae bar and a coffee bar, and entertains customers with walls covered with jolly graffiti ("We cook food the old-fashioned way: we burn it"). If my office were a little closer I'd have even more of an excuse; now Jodo's sells a $1 all-day coffee pass that gets you as many refills as you like, all day.