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Graffiato
Top Italian in Chinatown

The problem with Top Chef is that you just have to sit there and watch incredible deliciousness, the whole time knowing it'll never be yours. And then when Padma's done talking, you realize that you can't have any of the food, either. Fixing that last part -- with the food -- is Mike Isabella's Graffiato.

After straight killing it on Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars, the Zaytinya veteran's first solo concept is a raw, "no-frills", inventive Italian eatery with a cinderblock bar downstairs, plus a top floor rocking wood booths and a cured meat station called the "Ham Bar" -- also the only public place where it's OK for you to grab her two pig 'tails. The "anything but traditional Italian fare" starts in the wood oven with king crab legs paired w/sea urchin and guanciale, a roasted potato gnocchi w/ braised pork shank, and pizzas like the cherry pepper aioli/ provolone/fried calamari "Jersey Shore", ironically named for a cast not allowed in Italian restaurants, inventive or otherwise. Boot bubbles come from the only tap of Prosecco in DC, plus there's craft cocktails like the Gin & Juice Tonic (strikethrough theirs) w/ lime-quinine ice cubes, and the Virginia is for Lovers made with gin, wine, and aperol, so apparently it's also for lovers of drinking.

And while they're not on the menu, Mike's secretly making 15-20 orders per night of zeppoles: sweet, fluffy dough balls dusted with strawberry powdered sugar, served with balsamic chocolate dipping sauce, and available by request, a quality that your 100+ unanswered love notes indicates is not shared by Padma.

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1. Graffiato 707 6th St, Washington, DC 20001

Opened by former "Top Chef" Mike Isabella, Graffiato is an innovative Italian eatery in Chinatown (yes, confusing). What's not confusing is the tastes or the fact that there is a ham bar where locally-cured meats are carved to perfection right in front of you. The open wooden bar-style kitchen allows you to converse with the chef as he kneads the dough for your personal wood-fired pie.

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