Over the past 12 months, a big fear of mine came true: I put on a few pounds. I blame this job and its frequent temptations (sometimes requirements) to go out to eat. However, this year I also completed my fourth marathon — motivated in part by the realization of how often I’ve been eating out. So I can’t complain.
By and large, everything I ate was good; most food was great. Only once did I strongly dislike what was in front of me (bland soup and even blander salad at Silver Spring’s Piratz Tavern, before its botched “Bar Rescue” makeover in February). But I’d rather dwell on the high points, my favorite dishes of the past year. Here are three of the best (and foods I haven’t already written about) — all Italian. What can I say? It’s my favorite cuisine.
Vinoteca’s housemade linguine ($12): The simple name of Vinoteca’s (1940 11th St. NW; 202-332-9463) small plate from its fall menu belies its inventiveness. The al dente noodles come topped with uncommon ingredients such as earthy, salty bottarga (aged, pressed fish roe). An egg cooked at 63 degrees Celsius — served in that strange not-a-liquid-yet-not-a-solid state — provides a creamy, decadent “sauce.”
Pizzeria Orso’s margherita pie ($12.75): Orso’s (400 S. Maple Ave., Falls Church; 703-226-3460) simplest pizza is also my favorite (though I’ve yet to meet a Neapolitan-style pie there that I do not like). The margherita’s three toppings — buffalo mozzarella, tomato sauce and basil — are in perfect balance with its chewy, fire-blistered crust.
Pupatella’s doughnuts ($3): This Ballston pizzeria’s (5104 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 571-312-7230) pies are right up there with Orso’s, but I am especially smitten with Pupatella’s cream-filled doughnuts (available only on weekends). Their deep-golden crust, chewy and not-overly-sweet interior and airy cream filling (in vanilla and Nutella flavors) remind me of pastries I ate at cafes in Italy for breakfast during my college semester abroad. Yes, weight gain occurred back then, too. Then, as now, it was all worth it.