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Today, Monday, is opening day for Alba. We went to Alba on Thursday night for their "friends and family." We found it to be extremely imaginative with a number of dishes that I think are extraordinary for North America. I believe that it presents a new depth of Italian to Washington, D. C. that most have not seen before. I'd even suggest it is a real credit to D. C. that we have a restaurant like this. The setting is familiar and reassuring but a number of the dishes are a very real adventure. For anyone reading this who might have shared in one of the Laboratorio dinners I organized a number of years ago: do you remember the "duck stew?" Roberto has a dish called trofie all finanziera which is a type of pasta with what is essentially "duck stew" sauce. Remarkable. Also, an intensely delicious agnolotti al brasato (another Laboratorio dish), tamarin and an amazing chicken soup. Yes, chicken soup. It is even called this on the menu. Intensely reduced, deeply flavored chicken stock with cream, white wine and cubes of chicken breast and veggies with little "nuggets" of a pasta. Topped with homemade croutons. If it were not for our passionate waiter we would not have tried it. "Chicken soup" sounds so simple, so "Carnegie or Stage or Katz' deli like. But this was incredible. Better than any New York deli-all of which i have had chicken soup at. Others saw us, asking what we'd ordered. Pretty soon there were a half dozen or more bowls around us with another half dozen spoons for others so they could try, too. Roberto has never had chicken soup before-this is his first time presenting it. It will become a signature. Chicken soup. Trofie finanziera. Agnolotti al brasato. Tamarin. For starters and a bit of direction. Alba is an adventurous, exciting restaurant that gives full credit to the piedmont region where Roberto is from. And for anyone going, you'll see thematic features (various metallic structures and designs) throughout the restaurant which are from the Crayola factory which closed in Sandusky, Ohio in the late '50's. Alba recovered them from salvage and restored them where today they help create the unique but reassuring ambience of the room. Sandusky is also the home of Cedar Point, the greatest amusement park on Earth. It was once called 'the amazement park." There is both literally and figuratively a bit of the amazement park in Roberto's new Alba!
Andy Hayler's Review