Med Lahlou, the owner of Lupo Verde on 14th Street NW, recently followed up on a plea from his children — “When are you going to open in our neighborhood?” — by rolling out Lupo Verde Osteria in the Palisades.
Residents are tickled to have another option in a stretch of the city where restaurants are surprisingly few. I’m pleased to see that the fried artichoke served at the original Italian establishment has made its way across town to a multi-floor restaurant carved from a former townhouse and fronted with a small patio.
One of a handful of antipasti at the newcomer, which opened last month, carciofi alla giudia acquires its flavor from a brine of oranges and herbs and, at the table, a dunk in a sauce of parsley, anchovy, lemon and olive oil. Served from Day 1 at both restaurants, the first course “will never change,” says Matteo Venini, corporate chef for the Lahlou Restaurant Group, which includes Tunnicliff’s Tavern and Station 4.
The osteria is no mere carbon copy of its sibling, which attracts a younger crowd interested in eating quickly and moving on, says Venini, 40. While the two restaurants share a few dishes, the junior one reflects the sophisticated tastes of its clientele. Hence the octopus on the list. The poached, fried tendril, garnished with Fresno chiles and embracing shaved fennel, reclines on a block of compressed watermelon. The combination makes for a refreshing seafood salad. (The pleasing crunch on the octopus comes courtesy of almond flour, shares the chef.)
Pastas are mixed, although their problems are easily fixed. Both the tonnarelli with pepper and pecorino, and the garganelli with meat ragu and fried basil would have been improved by longer cooking times. The pick of the pack: ridged ravioli swollen with garlic cream made rich with whipped cream and crushed walnuts, along with anchovy as a sharpener. “We recommend you eat the ravioli whole,” a waiter says as he presents the pasta with the liquid centers.
“I’m a meat guy, the son of a butcher,” says the chef, a native of Lake Como, Italy, and a veteran of Tosca, the downtown power restaurant. With that bit of biography in mind, consider his steak, which Venini dry-ages himself, sears in a cast-iron pan, treats to garlic and rosemary and finishes with smoked butter. The thick bars of meat arrive with equally delicious companions: smashed fingerling potatoes, sweetly mellow figs and a shower of toasted hazelnuts. One slice leads to another, then another. In contrast, duck confit with charred blood oranges is less interesting than the match reads on paper.
Assets at the 85-seat osteria, dressed with Chianti-colored banquettes and dark wood tables, include a forthcoming basement market and a by-appointment chef’s table, where Venini is offering an eight-course tasting menu for $130 per person. The top floor of the restaurant is a private room, outfitted with a fireplace and flat-screen TV, and able to accommodate 20 diners.
Lahlou seems to be a glutton for punishment. His fifth restaurant, an Italian street food purveyor called Lupo Marina, opens this weekend in the Wharf.
4814 MacArthur Blvd. NW.
202-506-6683. lupoverdeosteriaalimentari.com. Pastas and entrees, $21 to $36.