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Alta Strada, a Boston-Based Italian Chain Having Replaced Kushi in City Vista - with Chef Michael Zentner

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Alta Strada opened three weeks ago and MichaelBDC and I have already stopped in twice for two very good dinners.

After returning from a quick trip to New York, starting a new job, and facing an empty refrigerator, I convinced MichaelBDC to go to Alta Strada for opening night. We were surprised that the restaurant was only half full, but one of the GMs told us it was by design in order to allow the restaurant to ease into business. Michael Schlow was on hand to expedite and do some quality control.

We started with the grilled octopus with chickpeas, calabrian chiles, and parsley. About 80 percent of the chickpeas were blended with the chiles to form a hummus like consistency and spread in a crescent shape on the plate. This was topped with the perfectly cooked octopus (which was poached and then grilled) a few whole chickpeas, and parsley. MichaelBDC and I both enjoyed this dish, especially the spice from the chiles. We also had the crunchy meatballs to start. MichaelBDC enjoyed this dish a bit more than I did, though I thought it was very good. I agreed with him that the outside of the meatballs were very crisp but did not result in a dry meatball. The restaurant also gave us an order of whipped ricotta to start. This was a luscious and great dish MichaelBDC and I both enjoyed. The only downer was the gratis bread and olive oil. The Italian sesame bread was average and the olive oil needed some salt. But since MichaelBDC and I enjoyed the starters so much, it was easy to overlook this part of the meal.

We were already pretty full after the appetizers but had already ordered the Maltagliati with rabbit, fresh fava beans, and pecorino. This was my favorite dish of the evening. I really enjoyed the bits of rabbit and the fava beans. The pasta was lightly sauced, enabling the ingredients to shine through. We also ordered the broccoli rabe and spicy sausage pizza. It was good but not great pizza. There was nothing wrong with the dish, I just felt that the other items on the menu were much better. However, the pizza is perfectly good for an Italian place trying to offer a bit of variety. MichaelBDC and I each had a slice and asked for the rest to go.

Last weekend, my brother and cousin were in town to run the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler with me and we decided to have our pre-race dinner here. We ordered everything that MichaelBDC and I had at our previous dinner minus the ricotta and added an order of tagliatelle bolognese and local striped bass with rosemary, white beans, escarole, and lemon. I only had the tagliatelle and thought it was very good. For dessert the table split the lemon sorbet, which was delightfully tart, and the nutella tarte, which was delightfully rich.

MichaelBDC and I had two very successful visits to Alta Strada and are looking forward to more. It's so great to finally have a solid and decently priced Italian restaurant in the neighborhood.

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We hit up Alta Strada last night and had a decent meal.  Everything was seasoned nicely.  The tagliatelle however seemed more like fettuccine (nit pick), and the ribeye was a bit stringy and not very juicy/fatty (did not love it) I felt.  It is a fine restaurant and one that I would frequent if I still stayed in the neighborhood, but Dino's Grotto is just as accessible to us and we prefer it.  Service was extremely friendly, it would be a great place to take a acquaintances, definitely heads and shoulders over Carmines.  

There is an attached, somewhat secret crudo bar attached in the adjacent storefront called Conosci, definitely higher end.  They have interesting a la carte dishes, or you can "put yourself in [their] hands" for either $45 or $135 per person.  

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Say hi next time?

MichaelBDC and I were there Tuesday evening as well, but we got there around 8:30pm and ate at the bar. We had the crunchy eggplant with basil, tomatoes, and parmesan. This was a fine dish but I wouldn't order it again. Since the tomatoes are fresh tomatoes rather than a sauce, the dish ended up being a little on the dry side. We also had the cavatelli with broccoli rabe, pancetta, and rosemary which MichaelBDC loved. I thought it was great as well and would be happy to order it again. Finally, we had the soppressata and hot chile pizza which was a solid pizza. The pizzas here are solid but nothing elevates them to another level. Add in two glasses of lambrusco (Molo 8) for me and one for MichaelBDC and it was a great night. 

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ha- make that 3 of us there on Tuesday night!  

I was with a group of 7 so we had an opportunity to sample a variety of dishes.  Our favorite dish was agnolotti with asparagus, mint, pecorino, and pistachios. This was a standout dish oozing with flavor and a welcome crunch. I agree with eatruneat about the eggplant- it was just ok- too dry.  We liked the pizza- had two orders of pizza with mushroom, truffle and fontina.  I would have liked more truffle flavor but the texture was crispy- just the way I like it.  Oddly, one pizza was covered with fresh parsley and the other had a light sprinkling of dried herbs.  We asked why they were different but didn't really receive an explanation that made sense.  It was fine as half of us preferred one and the other half of the group preferred the other.  We enjoyed cauliflower with crispy parmigiano and breadcrumbs. The portion size on the antipasta selections were generous and in some cases we couldn't finish a double portion.  On the other hand, the rockfish was a small piece of fish.  It was cooked well but not much flavor on its own. The accompanying rosemary, white beans, escarole and lemon added interest.

Service was good and even as the restaurant filled it was easy to carry on a conversation.

Overall, I like Alta Strada but it's not a restaurant where I would go out of my way to dine.  A couple of my colleagues work or live nearby and are anxious to head back in the very near future.

 

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Was just included in the Washington Post Top 10 New restaurants - which I think is a prelude to the Spring Dining Guide: 

What caught my attention was this, referring to the Tagliatelle Bolognese, "...its recipe based on the classic at the revered Ristorante Diana in Bologna." Loved Diana when I lived in Bologna, so may just have to go to try it out.

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I think the above is actually a Sietsema First Bite column, not a Top 10 New Restaurant (today's was Convivial)

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3 hours ago, Tweaked said:

I think the above is actually a Sietsema First Bite column, not a Top 10 New Restaurant (today's was Convivial)

You are correct.  I saw it on the front page and just assumed it was the latest in the Top 10.

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I saw the sun yesterday! I swear the sun was out!

Accordingly, we cruised around yesterday (Mon, May 16) looking for a new place to try. I hadn't been to CityView for probably a year or so. When we dropped in, they said the dining room was full so we grabbed seats at the bar, with our backs to the open patio (around 7pm).

OrderedRicotta (starter), Margherita pizzaMaltagliati

The whipped Ricotta dish is house made (and as described by @eatruneat). The pizza is not - nor intended to be - a traditional Neapolitan pie. It's a signature Michael Schlow style, closer to a New York-Neapolitan, with less cornicione, less rise, and without the coal oven. [So I guess, not so NYN after all]. Was okay but I won't crave it. The maltagliati (also described above, similar to pappardelle) was a must because FAVA BEANS (also pecorino and braised rabbit). The pasta is obviously fresh, but lacks the texture and chew of the superlative Red Hen, and the fava beans didn't seem integrated or of a piece with the dish. 

By the time we were finishing up around 8pm, despite it being a Monday, the bar was already full and the dining room humming. I wasn't blown away by any of the (limited) selections we made, but everything was executed well and we finished it all. I can see how they're going for a neighborhood audience - albeit a an upscale neighborhood, w/ L'Hommage Bistro across the street and many floor of high-end condos up above. The bar area is breezy (literally, with the windows open) and light feeling.

Michael Schlow clearly has found a vein in DC and I'm sure this place will do as well as the others. Good spot for early dinner with friends, a not-too-special occasion, taking less adventurous out-of-town company, or the aforementioned CityView resident who's tired of Busboy & Poets. 

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Can someone explain to me the attraction of Alta Strada?  I've never been to the DC branch because it didn't sound like it excelled at pizza or pasta, and it generally looks boring.

Then Alta Strada came to me.  By opening in the Mosaic, it was too close for me not to try it out.  So with two coughing and sniffling kids in tow, we went to find out what Schlow has to offer.  As it turns out, not much.

No one liked the crunchy meatballs.  A crunchy coating doesn't make an otherwise bland meatball better.  

The macaroni al amatrciana was actually pretty good - due mostly to the shell pasta being al dente.

The fedellini with shrimp and hot chilies was not good - overcooked pasta and fishy shrimp.

So the menu is limited and nothing's really all that exciting.  As the only Italian joint in Mosaic, it might last awhile, and I might even go back because the choices for dining in Mosaic is pretty lackluster.

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On 2/24/2017 at 10:44 PM, Ericandblueboy said:

Can someone explain to me the attraction of Alta Strada?

On 5/17/2016 at 2:37 PM, saxdrop said:

Good spot for early dinner with friends, a not-too-special occasion, taking less adventurous out-of-town company, or the aforementioned CityView resident who's tired of Busboy & Poets. 

@saxdrop lists nearly all the reasons why I go to Alta Strada. I would also add that it is a good, decently priced, neighborhood Italian restaurant. 

@MichaelBDC and I recently went with my aunt and uncle who were in town and didn't want anything "fancy." We split a few appetizers including the octopus and a summer salad. My uncle had the fedellini with baby clams, shallots, thyme, and toasted bread crumbs while my aunt, @MichaelBDC, and I split two pizzas (the Little Stevies and the Margherita). My aunt and uncle LOVED it and it was more than enough food as we had almost a whole pizza left over. 

Most often, @MichaelBDC and I find ourselves at Alta Strada due to lack of planning and desire to cook. We want to go somewhere convenient, where we won't have to wait too long (if at all), and we know the food will be solid. A week after our visit with my aunt and uncle, @MichaelBDC and I found ourselves in that situation on a Friday evening. Not wanting to stay out too late and wanting something simple, we went to Alta Strada for a few appetizers, the aforementioned fedellini, and a pizza. 

It's a good restaurant to have in the neighborhood, and probably the best casual option in the neighborhood, but not necessarily a destination Italian restaurant.

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