Food critic

The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2019 Fall Dining Guide.

Live Oregon sea urchin. (Danny Kim/Pesce restaurant)


Before he came to Pesce in Dupont Circle five years ago, Andrew LaPorta was best known for his deep-fried pork shank at Biergarten Haus on H Street NE. “I was a meat guy,” he says. “I was scared to death. What was I going to do with fish?” Plenty of wonderful things, as diners would discover. Fried soft-shell crabs with a salad as sharp as anything I’ve encountered in Southeast Asia. Walleye in a crust of walnuts. Skate displayed on ruffled housemade potato chips.

There’s no finer fish house in Washington than Pesce, where the menu is written on a roving chalkboard and the utensils bear the shapes of sea creatures. Old-timers will be pleased that LaPorta, who bought the restaurant from Regine Palladin two years ago, has retained some classics; the sardines, treated to butter and garlic on the grill, are as sublime as ever, as is the grilled calamari, which benefits from a marinade of thyme, rosemary and olive oil (and whose ink goes into the sauce).

LaPorta wants customers to know Pesce is the opposite of snooty. “We want people to come in, hang out and not feel rushed.” Also: “no foams, no airs.” For real. The cooking is more about ingredients than ego, and if you’re looking for meat, you’re out of luck. LaPorta is all about fish these days. Lucky us.

2.5 stars

Pesce:2002 P St. NW. 202-466-3474. .

Open: Dinner daily, lunch weekdays.

Price: Small plates $10-16, sharing plates $26-$38.

Sound check: 775 decibels / Must speak with raised voice.