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Michael White’s Osteria Morini nears Navy Yard debut, with Nicoletta to follow

When Osteria Morini opens near the Navy Yard in about three weeks, another star out-of-town chef will have planted his flag in D.C. Osteria Morini is an import from New York chef Michael White, who has nine restaurant brands (and two other Morini locations in New York and New Jersey) under his name.

Before Thanksgiving, Capitol Riverfront eaters will be sopping up pasta sauce and tucking into plates of grilled meats, all with a waterfront view. White's Altamarea Group has been eyeing D.C. for several years, tracking the rise of the city's food culture. "I was looking at the market and seeing a very positive momentum influx of young professionals coming into D.C. -- much as we have seen in New York," said Ahmass Fakahany, Altamarea's CEO and co-owner with White. "We got feedback that our type of Italian would be very right for D.C. and very welcome."

Polpettine, a dish that is expected to be on Osteria Morini's D.C. menu. (Courtesy of Osteria Morini)

Their type of Italian? It's from the Emilia-Romagna region at the top of the boot, including Bologna and Modena. While the menu won't be identical to the New York and New Jersey locations, Fakahany says there will be many dishes in common, particularly on the list of homemade pastas, from cappelletti to garganelli.

In late spring, the group will open Nicoletta, based on the New York restaurant of the same name, in a seasonal stall along the Riverwalk Trail. While its New York counterpart serves sandwiches and other entrees, the D.C. Nicoletta will serve only pizza because of space restrictions in the stall.

The D.C. openings are part of a huge expansion push for the Altamarea Group, whose revenues increased dramatically over a short period of time -- from $3 million in 2008 to $50 million in 2011 -- according to Du Jour. Morini will be the fifth restaurant that the group has opened this year.

In the New York Times's lukewarm 2010 review of the SoHo Morini, critic Sam Sifton cautioned the restaurant against expanding too quickly. Fakahany isn't worried. "We have cultivated a number of world-class chefs under Michael [White]. The chef that we hired for D.C. has been in waiting for seven to eight months," said Fakahany, of Matt Adler, who has been training at Morini's other locations. "This is not an opening chef. He is deep in the game."

Osteria Morini, 301 Water St. SE (Metro: Navy Yard). Opening late November.

A previous version of this post stated that this was Altamarea's second opening this year. It is the group's fifth. The restaurant's quadrant has also been corrected.

Maura Judkis covers culture, food, and the arts.



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