First Published July 9, 2011 – theredlens.com
Three words: Prosecco on tap.
Two words: Ham bar.
One word: Graffiato.
Mike Isabella, of Top Chef fame, has recently opened his own restaurant in the heart of Chinatown in downtown D.C. A two-story space tucked next to a large apartment building and across the street from the Verizon center, Isabella offers up Italian-inspired, locally sourced food and beverages.
The opening of Graffiato is exciting not only because of the celebrity behind Isabella, but because he is offering a different kind of dining experience. This is a feast your eyes and your taste buds. From the open ham bar that seats six, one can view the preparation of five different, local prosciuttos. And what accompanies ham better than fresh hand-stretched mozzarella? Isabella promises, “If you’re in the dining room, you’ll see one of our cooks stretching it for you.”
Isabella described the vibe to metromix.com: “We wanted it to be very neighborhood-y; very busy, loud and fun with a great value and great food.” James Horn, Graffiato beverage director, adds to that fun with an amazing selection of beer, wine, and craft drinks, including a wine made specifically for Graffiato by Virginia’s own Breaux Vineyards and the incredibly unique, Italian Prosecco on tap.
As a serious fan of Top Chef, enthusiast of great food and connoisseur of amazing drinks, I jumped at the opportunity to try it all for myself.
It was obvious the restaurant just opened: the bartenders weren’t as comfortable around each other, the wait-staff almost too eager to clear plates and fill water glasses, the flow between tables not yet smoothed out. That said, all the breaking-in just added to the hometown feel.
One would appreciate the fresh herbs, potted in cans, as the centerpieces, the generously low prices, and the dedication to bringing diners local food – an important movement in the culinary world. Isabella’s passion and dedication to food shone bright on Top Chef and he doesn’t disappoint with what he serves in Graffiato.
Unequivocally the best part (even better than the Nutella cookies): being greeted by Mike Isabella and his infamous laugh. I can now die happy.