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Night Owl

Etto, Pizza and Antipasti by the Owners of 2 Amys and Garden District in 14UP

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Enjoyed a lovely meal at Etto last night, thrilled to have this restaurant in the neighborhood. It embodies so much of what neighborhood restaurants should be -- run by seasoned, local chefs and restaurateurs (Obelisk, Two Amys, Standard/soon-to-be-called Garden District)... relaxed and friendly... excellent food and drinks.

On display at the bar are beautiful antipasti. Last night included: swordfish belly; squash blossoms stuffed with faro, raisins and pine nuts; Roman artichoke bottoms; cauliflower; a rabbit roulade; peas and pancetta; and more. Also on the bar is a big punch bowl of house made "adult" punch. The wood-burning oven for the pizza is going non-stop.

We started at the bar (got there about 6:45pm and there was already a wait for tables, they don't take reservations), then were seated at a table for 6 to share with another couple. Not a problem for my friend and me -- spacious and we had enough privacy to enjoy our meal and conversation while making new friends. Peter Pastan was behind the counter all night, and kept a careful and close eye on everything going on, from bar to oven to kitchen to staff to diners.

Our meal:

  • Squash blossoms: By far the best of the antipasti we had; a wonderful blend of flavors and textures -- the first time I've enjoyed squash blossoms that weren't fried, scrumptious.
  • Cauliflower: Tasty, but couldn't quite place what made the florets orange-red, very mild in flavor.
  • Roman artichoke bottoms: A favorite, loved this version -- the bottoms were filled with what tasted like a blend of parsley, lemon and something savory, possibly anchovies (?).
  • Pizza ala Romana: Tasty pizza crust, crispy where it should be, lovely and chewy where it should be. I understand they mill their own wheat and mix in spelt. Gives it great texture and taste.

As for drinks, we kept things simple. A nice prosecco in retro glasses.

We left around 9:30pm and the place was jammed. Noise level might be my only negative, but that's typical of most places now, so it is what it is.

Will definitely be going back to Etto and, hopefully becoming a regular if I can get a seat. And I love the idea of having a place within a few easy blocks where I can order delicious and, in some cases, unique antipasti to bring home to enjoy as well.

Interested to hear what others think of Etto...

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I was also just here last night and had a fantastic meal. Night Owl, we may have unwittingly crossed paths.

Squash blossoms were good, but for my money, the smoked swordfish belly was the clear antipasto winner of the night. Also, the Negroni with homemade rose vermouth was quite nice, as the Green Hat Gin balanced with the rest of the drink's components.

Margherita and cottechino pizzas were excellent. I was admiring the nice large char bubble on the crust of the latter—a good sign.

I look forward to my eventual return.

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I was there a couple of weeks ago and thoroughly enjoyed the small plates, particularly smoked cod with citrus, cucumber, and toasted breadcrumbs. Farro salad with baby beets and beet greens and Roman artichoke were also quite good. We were not so fond of the pizzas, as they were completely soggy. I was happy to see the quote from Night Owl, indicating otherwise. Will have to try the pizza again.

  • Pizza ala Romana: Tasty pizza crust, crispy where it should be, lovely and chewy where it should be. I understand they mill their own wheat and mix in spelt. Gives it great texture and taste.

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I am so glad we're finally starting to discuss Etto. I had been waiting (hint, hint) for something else before posting, but, ah, oh never mind.

I have sat at the bar three times now for nibbles or a pizza and have loved everything I've tried. The crust of Etto's pizzas is truly something unique and fantastic, the special flour giving it a depth of flavor I've never tasted on another pizza. I'll also call out the negroni, a wonderful cocktail whose house made vermouth gives it an amazingly long finish akin to a fine red wine.

All of the other antipasti have been good, and the staff are cheerful and enthusiastic about this new endeavor. Love this place so far.

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I was also just here last night and had a fantastic meal. Night Owl, we may have unwittingly crossed paths.

Squash blossoms were good, but for my money, the smoked swordfish belly was the clear antipasto winner of the night.

ladi kai lemoni, we likely sat at the bar at the same time last night! Darn, wanted to try the swordfish belly -- it looked and sounded delicious -- but my friend wasn't so into it. Hope I can catch it another night there...

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Josh   

We went with the boy around 6:30 on Wednesday. The staff was great and weren't phased at all by having a 9-month old in a high chair (we called ahead to make sure it wouldn't be a problem). Although we sat right down, the restaurant was full immediately after, and by the time we left an hour later, there was quite a waiting list. Looked like they were taking phone numbers and would call when your table was ready so as not to overcrowd the small bar area.

Drinks: The Negroni was good, but a bit syrupy for my tastes. I'd like to taste their vermouth on its own, but didn't see it on offer. My wife's "A Bitter Woman" was great...made with an Amaro I hadn't heard of, Campari, and grapefruit juice. We split a glass of Rose, which was described as "A Weird little Rose." Crisp, dry, refreshing...not so sure what makes it weird, but we liked it.

Food:

  • Roman Artichoke: not much to add here...great.
  • Asparagus, fava beans, and prosciutto: Fresh and light. Asparagus and favas were well-cooked and not the least bit soggy. I could eat a much larger plate of this for dinner most nights of the week this Summer.
  • Roasted peppers and garlic, olives, and mackerel: This was on the regular menu. Made me wish for some bread to sop up the olive oil.
  • Pizza with tomatoes, pine nuts, squash blossoms, and ricotta: The crust was great..good amount of chewiness and char. We avoided the soggy pizza mentioned above, so hopefully that was just an off night. Overall, the pie didn't have too much flavor aside from the pine nuts, and needed a good dash of salt to liven up the tomatoes. Next time I'll try the margherita.

All of the above were Elliott-approved...especially the pizza crust, and it's closer than heading to Pupatella or 2 Amys, so we'll definitely be back.

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rbh   

am i the only one that saw Garden District in the sub-title and thought of the nursery of the same name that used to be on 14th St and thought it a strange business transition?

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Best. New. Restaurant. Legit, honest, not out of a marketing box bullshit. Highlights: tripe salad, ember eggplant, cauliflower, really just everything. And Kat is awesome. (Mic drop).

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LauraB   

We moved to the neighborhood on Wednesday and last night we were thrilled to walk 3 blocks and have a wonderful dinner at Etto.  We went early as we were too tired to wait for a table.  Arriving just after 5:00 we were seated immediately, with just one other table occupied.  The place began to fill shortly thereafter and every table was taken by the time we left around 6:15.  There was a photographer from the Post taking pictures of the food, the décor, the people, almost the entire time we were there.  I thought it was strange that they would be doing this during service on a Friday night.  I overheard the photographer tell someone that the Post review would be appearing on either August 18th or 25th.

Our overall experience echoed those described above.  The food, service, and ambiance were terrific.  We shared two small plates: a kale salad and Romano beans with heirloom tomatoes.  Both were very good, but the kale salad was just divine: so fresh, so bright and citrusy.  We each ordered a pizza: margherita for me; the sausage and "friarelli" for him.  We had no problems with the pizzas being too wet and the crust and char were perfect.  I agree with the comment above that the special flour (they mill the wheat themselves) really gives these pizzas a unique quality that is very appealing.  I enjoyed my margherita very much, although I would give the edge to Pupatella's margherita, if forced to choose.  My husband really liked his choice; I found the rapini a bit too bitter, and I say that as someone who really loves rapini.

I inquired about carryout and was told that currently only the pizzas are available for carryout but that more of the menu may be included in the future.  We'll definitely be taking advantage of that and returning often for a sit-down meal.  There's a lot to like at Etto.

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sandynva   

i believe two amys has the best pizza in the area (though i haven't been to ghibellina or seventh hill yet) so was very excited about Etto.  we had carryout pizza from Etto last night and, sadly, i was underwhelmed.

My margharita was fine, and good even, but would've been better if less charred. i like a bit of char, but the taste of carbon was quite strong, with an almost coal/petroleum byproduct undertone, so much so that you couldn't really taste the basil.

my companion had one of the special pizzas--cherry tomatoes, squash blossoms, and buffalo ricotta. the ricotta wasn't dolloped around but rather was presented in a big wedge in the center of the pizza that i assume was meant to soften with the heat of the fresh pizza but didn't. we cut it up and sprinkled it around the pizza which also had yellow cherry tomatoes and some smallish, not particularly abundant bits of squash blossom.  the cherry tomatoes went surprisingly well with the tomato sauce (the sweetness was a nice contrast) but between those and the heavy char you couldn't taste the ricotta or the blossoms. we liked the margharita better.

The pizzas are about one slice larger than the individual size pizzas at two amys or paccis, but, to my mind, pricey.  the margharita was $17 and the special $23, so with tax and tip, almost $50 for 2 carryout pizzas.  it might have been because it was carryout, or because it was so expensive but i'm in no hurry to go back, or even to eat the leftovers in my fridge. the decor was nice though (similar to two amys' bar area) and the host who took our order was very nice. people seeking carryout should know that at the moment they only do pizza and you have to go there and order in person, you can't call ahead.

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First trip to ETTO last night.  It was like 2 Amy's minus all of the kids - while still loud, it didn't approach the insanity that can be 2 Amy's on a Friday or Saturday evening.

A few thoughts on the food / experience:

-It's a small space.  I arrived at 530 and our party of 4 was seated quickly but as there were only 4 or 5 four tops (the rest two tops) I watched the hostess quote 45 min + waits for anyone who came in much past 630.

-I enjoyed the rose (more like a very light Sangoveise vs. a traditional "pink" rose) and the Ballard Canyon Syrah that were on tap

-We had the plate of 3 meats (boar, chorrizo, and spicy calabrian), burratta, and roasted beets / sheeps milk riccotta - all were delicious and large servings for the price.

-We ordered 2 pizzas.  The flour they use gives the pizza almost a whole wheat look / crust.  I really liked it and they came out with a nice char.

-For dessert we had the donut peach and blackberry crostada - extremely delicious with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Another excellent addition to 14th street.

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LauraB   

It pains me to write this post, but having given such a positive thumbs up in my earlier post on Etto, I feel I must report on this most recent experience.  We haven't been back to Etto since our first visit near the end of July.  Not because we didn't love it, we did, simply because we've had a lot going on.  Tonight we decided to order carryout pizza from Etto (pizza is the only menu item that they offer for carryout).  You can't phone in your order, you must order in person.  We ordered the same two pizzas as on our previous sit-down visit to the restaurant: the Margherita and the Sausage and Friarelli.  When we opened the box containing the Margherita I was at first confused. There were 3 enormous char blisters covering most of the outside crust (we are talking several inches wide and at least 2 inches high for each of the 3 blisters) so large and so burned that I wasn't sure what I was looking at; they had to be removed, essentially removing most of the outside crust; in addition, the mozzarella was not melted at all, the chunks were pretty much intact from when they had been placed on the uncooked pizza; and the bits of basil were burned so badly that they were tasteless.  To my mind, none of these problems were due to the carryout nature of the pizza; it would have been the same if served in the restaurant -- the difference being that one could send it back in the restaurant.  The other pizza, the Sausage and Friarelli, did not have these problems, although my husband reported that it had way too much rapini.   Sadly, I don't think we'll be rushing back for pizza at Etto, whether carryout or sit-down. 

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Gadarene   

The cauliflower pizza here is amazing. Wonderful char, just the right amount of sauce, and the pine nuts really bring everything together.

I also greatly enjoyed the smoked swordfish belly and shaved fennel appetizer that was one of the nightly specials.

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Went here with the boyfriend for the first time last night. We arrived around 7pm and found seats at the bar where we waited for about 15 minutes before our table was ready. The wines were a bit on the pricey side but we ended up settling for a glass of California Syrah on tap ($8) and a glass of frappato ($9). The wines were drinkable though not remarkable, which is to be expected for glasses under $10.

For food we started with a selection of small plates. The standout for me was the cauliflower with saffron and pine nuts. My boyfriend's favorite was the octopus with gigante beans, which I also really enjoyed. We both also really liked the green onions wrapped in proscuitto with vincotto. Finally we had two of the meats, the venison and the spicy calabrian. We enjoyed both options. The disappointment of the bunch was the wild boar rillette. When the rillette was brought to us, the server mentioned that it had just been taken out of the refrigerator and needed to sit for a bit. It sat for a loooong time, so long that the server thought we were done with it and tried to take it away. That was annoying, but even when the rillette had warmed up it was tasteless. That was a big bummer as we both love rillettes. We also ordered the pizza on special (anchovies, artichokes, basil, and breadcrumbs). The pizza was not that great. I enjoyed the breadcrumbs and the anchovies but the pizza was overcharred and the artichokes were dry.

We'll be back, but next time, we will stick to the small plates.

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DPop   

Don has been on his soapbox for several months about Ghibellina (and rightfully so), but I'm not so sure that it has the best pizza within a .25 mile radius.  I've been to Etto 3 times now and feel safe saying that it's my favorite pizza in DC, which isn't a slight towards Jonathan and the fantastic work he has done at Ghibellina, or even the folks at Il Canale and Menomale.  It might just be that Etto reminds me of the great pizzas I had at Two Amy's several years back before their issues with wet pizza started to crop up.  Peter Pastan has figured out a way to move some of that early magic to a small spot (with a lovely patio) right into the heart of 14th Street, and I'm better off being able to choose from two excellent places only a block away from each other.

I've tried several pizzas, including the Cotecchino mentioned above, and have loved them all, but none more than the Calabrese (tomato sauce, basil, red onion, spicy salami) I had the other night.  I think I feel a bit differently that some regarding char on a pizza, so maybe I'm in the minority, but I love that this crust captures so much of the smoke and blister from the wood burning oven.  When you have high quality tomatoes, cheese, and charcuterie, it's hard to differentiate oneself in a pizza like this unless you nail the crust, and for me, Etto absolutely does.

We also tried 3 small plates on our last visit, one coming highly recommended by both the bartender and waitstaff, whose exact name I forget but was absolutely wonderful and took me right back to my trip to Italy last summer.  The dish consisted of bell peppers that had been soaking in olive oil and other herbs on the bar laid flat on a plate and liberally coated with a thicker version of the Tonnato sauce you get with a Vitello Tonato, and then covered with peppers to make a kind of sandwich.  This was rich without being heavy, delicate without being bland, and just fantastic.  If they have this dish the next time you go, do not pass it up just based on the description on the menu (which does it no justice), it is right up there with the best that Two Amy's ever produced in its day.

I usually do not tout desserts, but I would recommend not stuffing yourself too much so you can have a few bites of the Etto of Chocolate Salami while you polish off your liter of '12 Ballard Canyon Syrah, a lovely "chunky monkey" that is Pastan's creation out of the New Vineland Winery and only available on tap at Etto and Two Amy's.

I'm happy only having to wait 20 minutes for a table here at 8:30 on a Saturday night, but this restaurant deserves more attention from discerning diners.

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Marty L.   

Is the crust still whole grain (is that the right term?), that is, milled on-site with spelt -- and darker, chewier than 2 Amys?  I enjoyed it the couple of times I was there, but the folks I was with weren't as keen on that particular crust.

Don has been on his soapbox for several months about Ghibellina (and rightfully so), but I'm not so sure that it has the best pizza within a .25 mile radius.  I've been to Etto 3 times now and feel safe saying that it's my favorite pizza in DC, which isn't a slight towards Jonathan and the fantastic work he has done at Ghibellina, or even the folks at Il Canale and Menomale.  It might just be that Etto reminds me of the great pizzas I had at Two Amy's several years back before their issues with wet pizza started to crop up.  Peter Pastan has figured out a way to move some of that early magic to a small spot (with a lovely patio) right into the heart of 14th Street, and I'm better off being able to choose from two excellent places only a block away from each other.

I've tried several pizzas, including the Cotecchino mentioned above, and have loved them all, but none more than the Calabrese (tomato sauce, basil, red onion, spicy salami) I had the other night.  I think I feel a bit differently that some regarding char on a pizza, so maybe I'm in the minority, but I love that this crust captures so much of the smoke and blister from the wood burning oven.  When you have high quality tomatoes, cheese, and charcuterie, it's hard to differentiate oneself in a pizza like this unless you nail the crust, and for me, Etto absolutely does.

We also tried 3 small plates on our last visit, one coming highly recommended by both the bartender and waitstaff, whose exact name I forget but was absolutely wonderful and took me right back to my trip to Italy last summer.  The dish consisted of bell peppers that had been soaking in olive oil and other herbs on the bar laid flat on a plate and liberally coated with a thicker version of the Tonnato sauce you get with a Vitello Tonato, and then covered with peppers to make a kind of sandwich.  This was rich without being heavy, delicate without being bland, and just fantastic.  If they have this dish the next time you go, do not pass it up just based on the description on the menu (which does it no justice), it is right up there with the best that Two Amy's ever produced in its day.

I usually do not tout desserts, but I would recommend not stuffing yourself too much so you can have a few bites of the Etto of Chocolate Salami while you polish off your liter of '12 Ballard Canyon Syrah, a lovely "chunky monkey" that is Pastan's creation out of the New Vineland Winery and only available on tap at Etto and Two Amy's.

I'm happy only having to wait 20 minutes for a table here at 8:30 on a Saturday night, but this restaurant deserves more attention from discerning diners.

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DPop   

It's definitely darker, but I didn't find that it was chewier than Two Amy's (although I admittedly have not been there in years).  It had a lot of character, was not oversalted unlike some of the upscale pizza places in the area.  It was very much to my personal taste.

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jca76   

For anyone who has been wary of Etto at peak times due to long waits (as I have been), the addition of the patio this summer, which about doubles the restaurant's capacity, appears to have significantly helped the issue.  My group of four was seated immediately at around 7:00 last Saturday night, and there was another four-top that sat empty next to us for awhile more.

The burratta was as fantastically creamy as always (we just had to order two!), and I very much enjoyed a pizza special with squash blossoms, tomato puree, heirloom tomatoes, and burrata.  It was a perfect seasonal pie and didn't suffer from the sogginess that plagues the margherita extra at 2 Amys.

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LauraB   

We went for dinner this evening to Etto and what a delight it was! We had gone several times in the early days last year, but had not been in quite some time.  So, we were happy to see that Etto has not lost a step in the intervening months.  As we had had a big lunch earlier in the day, we ordered only small plates and mostly they were on the lighter side.

We started with 2 Salumi: the Fennel Pollen and the Spicy Calabria.  These were both very, very good, and the Fennel Pollen was just excellent.  These put to shame the charcuterie we had at The Partisan last week.

The Celery, Celery, Celery and Walnut salad sounds boring but was delicious "“ the addition of shaved pecorino added a nice salty accent and the citrus vinaigrette brightened it perfectly. The Eggplant Caponata and Savoy Cabbage (the caponata was wrapped in the cabbage leaf and then dressed with additional sauce) was really good: nicely briny and with a crunch from an unknown ingredient.  Shrimp in Romesco Sauce: the shrimp were perfectly cooked, heads on; the sauce was served on the side and, frankly, who doesn't love romesco sauce? A very nice dish.  The Lamb Sausage with Sauerkraut was MrB's favorite (but then, MrB has never met a sausage he didn't love).  I have to concur, the sausage was really delicious and the sauerkraut, while not as tangy as I might like, was a nice accompaniment.  MrB also had a starter of Chicken liver mousse on crackers with quince jelly which he really liked.  There was not one disappointing dish in this entire line-up and the dark German-style bread that they served (free!) was great.

Our server, Camilla, was really pleasant and very knowledgeable.  You don't hear much about Etto these days, which is really a shame.  It's quite a gem when it comes to small plates of creative and delicious food.

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Rieux   

Big pizza fail at Etto last night. My friend and I lucked into two bar seats after being turned away by a long wait at compass rose. The hostess/server was lovely, but my meal was off. We each ordered a cocktail, then my friend ordered pasta and Brussels sprouts, I ordered the Calabria pizza, and we split the farro salad, as I am in a major farro kick

Our cocktails took about 20 minutes or more to arrive, even after the server noted the delay several times. Also, it was not a backup at the bar- we saw several other people who arrived much later get cocktails while we waited. It was ridiculous. The drinks arrived about 8 minutes AFTER we got our food, and while there were apologies, I think something should have been comped to make up for the delay -one of the drinks or a dessert (and I am a person who thinks restaurants comp too much, but this was one of the justified times, I believe).

My pizza was a real disappointment. I like the whole grain, but somehow the crust was like a wet dishrag. Spongy, soupy, totally flaccid and not good. It had nice black char, but even those parts were still spongy. How do you even accomplish that?

The farro salad was fine (I liked the pomelo in it, which offered contrast) but also a bit dull and not better than what I can whip up at home from pantry staples. My friend thought her pasta was fine,but I didn't taste it.

We had fun, as we were just wanting to eat before an event at DC9, but I won't be back to Etto for a long time, and there may be a reason it wasn't totally slammed at 8 on a Saturday.

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Gadarene   

This might be my favorite restaurant in DC, in terms of overall comfort to value to deliciousness to interesting bar program.  The marinara pizza is ridiculously good, once supplemented with olive oil and red pepper, and a steal at $13.  And the puntarelle salad.  Oh my.

 

Every time I come here I wonder why I don't come sooner and thank God that it's not more crowded.

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