Task: You’re charged with picking a restaurant for dinner. Difficulty: you want to really impress someone (super awesome friend from out of town or your significant other’s parents) and you want to show how ‘in the know’ you are about DC’s finer restaurants and your usual dives that offer $5-$10 meal deals won’t cut it. Graffiato is one of those places that’s set to impress. Not only is Graffiato founded by one of the country’s best known chefs, the food lives up to expectation. Is it expensive? It can be, but I’ll give you a breakdown of my favorite menu offerings* so you can make every penny spent worth it.
To start, get the flatbread with pepperoni sauce. The minimum you should order is one, but I recommend two if you are dining with more than just yourself. This dish knocked everyone’s socks off at Top Chef All Stars, and it will knock yours off, too. I don’t know what makes the sauce so good, but it’s pleasantly spicy with a hint of sweetness. Not a crumb of the wood-fired flatbread will be wasted and no driblet of pepperoni sauce will be left behind.
My next favorite item is the Brussels Sprouts. Everyone will love these, even people who think they don’t like Brussels Sprouts because they never had them prepared like this. The strong flavor is tempered with maple, pancetta, and perfect cooking. Even people who claim to hate these little leafy heads of joy will be amazed. If you don’t believe me, then go ahead and take the “Graffiato Brussels Sprouts Challenge!!!**” where you sneak one onto the plate of an alleged sprout hater and watch their myriad of facial expressions as you inform them of the true identity of the ‘delightful vegetable’ they just ate. If they still claim to hate them, their loss is your gain – more sprouts for you!
Tying for the #3 spot are the Hand-Cut Spaghetti and the Scallops. This is everything you’ve ever hoped spaghetti to be. It’s a simple dish, and like the pepperoni sauce, there’s a slight sweetness to it that I thoroughly enjoyed. The only thing I can say about the Scallops is that there is no such thing as a bad scallop, just bad preparation and Graffiato isn’t a place that hires inept kitchen staff. If someone had told me a week beforehand that I’d rank Brussels Sprouts over Scallops, I’d say those were fightin’ words. The spaghetti and scallops were great, but the sprouts were just that damn good.
Sharing the #4 spot were the Meatballs and Glazed Pork Belly. The Meatballs are served over creamy polenta and a farmed egg. Ms. Classy would rank this dish higher because she loves an egg that’s cooked perfectly over-medium. When the egg is broken and served, the polenta is a good mix for the yolk to prevent dripping when scooping your portion onto your plate. I liked this dish - Ms. Classy loved it. Sticking with my strict policy regarding pork belly, we ordered it when asked. It was perfectly cooked and a bit of apple is a great compliment to the succulent meat.
Finally, we’ve come to the only selection that I am not tempted to order again: the Beef Short Rib. Don’t get me wrong, I liked it. However, I enjoyed the Crispy Potatoes that accompanied it more so. I would rather try a different menu item next time.
Here is where I give my 'upscale place' disclaimer: everything on the menu is prepared to the highest level - ranking them is purely based on my personal preference. Except for the Brussels Sprouts, disliking those could be grounds for immediate institutionalization.
-Mr. Cheap Eats
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* Menu items may change without prior announcement, so plates described here may not be available when you visit.
** There is no official "Graffiato Brussels Sprouts Challenge!!!" I made it up to emphasize how amazing those little heads of perfection are.