Noah Dan knows the old-school gelato maker at the new Pitango in Adams Morgan requires more hands-on attention than automated machines. But that’s exactly why he likes it.
Though staffers must manually scrape the mixture as it churns, the machine allows for more control and such add-ins as nuts and herbs, resulting in more customized and flavorful gelato.
That commitment to quality, Dan says, is a common theme at the Italian cafe. To be as close to the milk source as possible, Pitango built a facility beside its dairy cows in Lancaster, Pa., where the gelato mix is made. Prosciutto is kept at a controlled temperature and sliced precisely to avoid uneven or torn pieces. “The pig sacrificed so much,” Dan says. “Most places don’t know how to serve [prosciutto] correctly.”
Like at other Pitango shops, you’ll find gelatos and sorbets in such flavors as black sesame, Sicilian almond, and milk and honey. But, unlike other locations, the Adams Morgan cafe — modeled after neighborhood cafes in Italy — also offers breakfast sandwiches, panini, toasts, charcuterie boards and alcohol.
It's meant to serve as a gathering place. “Cafes in Italy are an all-encompassing place to hang out,” Alisa Dan, Noah's daughter and business partner, says. “It’s common you sit and hang out and live life.”
The menu, developed by chef Alex McCoy, includes a prosciutto sandwich made with fresh mozzarella ($13). The mortadella sandwich comes with a pistachio pesto made with nuts from the foothills of Mount Etna in southern Italy ($12). Coffee is overseen by local roaster Vigilante, which created a special blend just for the cafe.
The concise drink menu features an Aperol spritz ($7), beer and wine ($7) as well as prosecco on tap ($8). The most compelling offerings are the cafe’s gelato and alcohol pairings ($8): The “affogato alcolico” come in five flavors, including berry sorbet and prosecco, mojito sorbet and rum and crema gelato and port. Dump the entire glass of booze over the icy treat, and savor the velvety mix.
Because the gelato is churned on premises, Pitango also offers custom flavors made on-the-spot for groups of up to 20. With winter on its way, the team hopes that these perks, along with the food and drink offerings, will keep guests coming, even in the cold.
“Gelato shops in the winter can be kind of sad,” Alisa Dan says. “We want to create a place where you would want to come hang out any time of the year.”
Pitango, 1841 Columbia Rd. NW.
Correction: A previous version of this article said Pitango bakes its bread on-site in Adams Morgan. The cafe sources it from a local vendor. This version has been updated.