review: Locanda

It’s been a few nights since I had dinner at Locanda with Tim, but it’s still very memorable. I found that, for all of my foodie ways, when it comes to Italian cuisine I am completely unprepared for the myriad names for dishes and types of pasta. In the past few times we’ve talked, he mentioned a new Italian place on Pennsylvania Avenue and I am not as good at keeping up with DC food news as I used to, so it was completely unknown to me. Locanda is just down the block from Eastern Market metro station, in fact it used to be Meyhane, where Jhim took me for my birthday 2 years ago. Later that night I would experience my first line dancing lesson. As I walked around the block before heading in, my brain was wondering where Meyhane was, but my memory wasn’t good enough to realize that this new restaurant had taken its place.

It’s never a good thing to eat with friends that enjoy food. We are mutually bad influences on each other. We pretty much shared bites of our orders and our meal consisted of:

Cheese course: Toma Piemontese, Pecorino Sardo and Gorgonzola Dolce

Appetizers: Panzerotti (w/mozzarella, mortadella & peas) and Burrata & Prosciutto Di Parma (over a drizzle of “Laudemio” oil)

Entrees: Maccheroncelli (w/truffled fontina cheese) and Chive Fettuccine (w/day boat scallops, speck, shiitakes & Amontillado cream)

Dessert: Strawberry and Lavender Panna Cotta

Their menu from that night was sort of temporary, but I found myself unable to remember the specific names of the dishes we had, so I e-mailed them. Owner Aykan Demiroglu was kind enough to respond quickly and send me a copy of the current menu which I’ve posted online. We had a lot of food, much more than I’m used to in one sitting, but everything was very good.

Highlights are the Burrata & Prosciutto appetizer. Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese, made from mozzarella and cream. The outer shell is solid mozzarella while the inside contains both mozzarella and cream. Had it not been sitting atop strips of prosciutto, it might have been mistaken for a dessert. After having some, I would easily order that to finish a meal instead of something sweet. It’s impossible to describe the dish, almost like whipped mozzarella and when wrapped in the ham, it was simply delicious. I’m sure that olive oil costs a small fortune, but having seen enough shows about it, I’m sure it was Tuscan and it was fragrant and the dish wouldn’t have been the same without it.

When I asked the server what Maccheroncelli was he responded very plainly, “Macaroni and Cheese” explaining that the type of pasta was different from elbowed macaroni. There was nothing plain about that entree at all. Fontina cheese, truffle oil, toasted breadcrumbs sprinkled over top that melted in your mouth and all served in a mini cast-iron pan. Except for the fact that I couldn’t touch it for a while (it kept its heat well) it was amazing. I love a good mac & cheese and that put every fancy version of it I’ve ever seen to shame. I am in so much trouble come holiday time when I have my mother’s mac & cheese because I’ll be dying to jazz it up.

I could easily see myself going back to see what new items they’ve come up with, and maybe to get that Burrata dish to go. I probably wouldn’t get a cheese plate again. I do love cheese, but the portions weren’t really worth the price. The Fettuccine was great though the scallops were a bit extraneous as they overpowered the taste of any bite they were in. I almost might have wanted them served on the side. And I am learning not to skip dessert, that Panna Cotta was amazing, I’ve never had it before and while I wouldn’t order one just for myself it was the perfect light closer to the meal.

When it gets nice outside and they’re able to open the windows out onto Pennsylvania Avenue, I imagine the place will be packed one the scent of the food starts to pervade the block. Interesting note was the size of the tables. We were seated for two and in most place there is barely enough room for one to rest ones’ arms and elbows on the table. Yeah I know some old book says that’s uncouth, but I don’t care. Their tables are big enough for multiple plates, glasses, etc to all fit without jockeying for space. We had more room than was necessary and they didn’t try to put the tables on either side of us right up close. By comparison, I’ve been to a few tapas places in recent months and the tables are so bare minimum that it’s a good thing not all dishes come out at the same time because there’s never enough room. —

While it seems to be a bit upscale considering its restaurant neighbors on that block, Locanda is definitely worth the trip… in my case a second trip. Or maybe I’ll just call up to see if I can get that appetizer to go. 😉

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