The Best Italian Restaurants in DC Right Now
These are the best trattorias, red sauce joints, and pizzerias in our nation’s capital.
There’s something so satisfying and comforting about Italian food—whether you’re craving a hearty bowl full of pasta, the crunch of quality wood- or coal-fired pizza crust, or a salty bite of fat-marbled prosciutto in an Italian sub.
And if you know where to look, DC is full of great options to fulfill your craving. From homey and cheap neighborhood gems to swankier, high-end options, we have it all. So grab a fork, make a reservation, and dive into this list of the best Italian restaurants in the DMV area.
Chef David Deshaies and restaurateur Eric Eden of Unconventional Diner recently unveiled their latest project, L’Ardente, at the new Capitol Crossing development. With this grand opening also comes a grand and gilded-styled dining room, plus an extremely Instagrammable dish—lasagna that’s impossibly stacked lasagna 40 layers high and might require two people to take down. Other early favorites at this wood-fired Italian joint include the bucatini alla carbonara and the Ocotrani pizza with pomodoro, smoked octopus, caciocavallo, plus cheese and basil. At 180 seats, including 20 at an elevated island bar, you’re likely to find a perch where you can dine in Italian style in this modern and posh setting.
Angelo Ciotola brought his childhood growing up in Naples, Italy, and his love for family-style Italian cooking to Columbia Heights earlier this year. And when you’re here, you are indeed family. That’s mainly because his parents, Porzia Ciotola and Antonio Ciotola, are the restaurant’s chefs and bakers. “Mamma” makes all the pasta by hand, and she even came out of retirement to help the rest of the Ciotola family in the kitchen. The menu’s flavors hit on all the hallmarks of Italian-American cuisine—there’s eggplant and chicken parm, as well as housemade pasta and refreshing cocktails, like The Fiore, a take on a pisco sour with pomegranate, cardamom eggwhite, and lemon.
Modeled off a classic “red sauce” joint, this restaurant features Italian-American dishes you might order in The Bronx or Brooklyn. From handmade pasta dressed up in dishes like rigatoni alla vodka and five cheese ravioli to hand-pulled mozzarella with basil-marinated tomatoes, both the vibe and menu would make Tony Soprano proud. The concept comes from chef Matt Adler, who wanted guests at the 65-seat concept to feel like they’re at home for Sunday dinner. Popular dishes include the chicken parmigiana, pork chops pizzaiola-style, and dessert classics, like New York-style cheesecake with strawberry preserves and a transcendent tiramisu.
Alta Strada is a favorite neighborhood hangout with a menu of simple but delicious thin-crust pizza, pasta, and entrees. From meatballs and tagliatelle with Bolognese to the famed chicken parm that has a loyal following, this spot nails the classics. The dessert menu from chef Alex Levin features inventive spins on Italian essentials like cannolis with lemon ricotta filling or bombolonis served with Nutella dipping sauce. On Sundays, it’s half-of wine bottle night, and happy hour runs every day from 4 to 6 pm.
Chef Amy Brandwein’s market and restaurant concept offers a modern approach to shopping and fine dining—all under one roof. The restaurant revolves around a wood-fired oven and includes whole roasted branzino, grilled chicken, and roasted squab served with rendered plums, charred radicchio, and orange sherry. If you’re not in the mood for a sit-down meal, you can stop into Piccolina, an all-day cafe and market for grab-and-go breakfast or ready-made antipasti for the road. You can also stock up on quality ingredients like dry or fresh pasta, olive oil, anchovies, cheese, meat, and sauces to try your hand at cooking Italian fare at home.
This 33-year-old restaurant may seem like a tourist trap at first glance. But it serves up some of the best Italian food in Georgetown with dishes as familiar as what mom used to make. Think gnocchi rolled out by an ideal grandmotherly figure, three kinds of ravioli, and a beautiful, traditional lasagna. Beyond pasta, there are textbook plates of fried calamari, veal marsala, perfect Neopolitan-style pies, and more.
There’s great debate if it’s called a grinder, hoagie, hero, or just a plain-old sub, but there’s no debate that Grazie Grazie has some of the best Italian sandwiches offerings in a fast-casual dining experience at The Wharf. Italian cold cut sandwiches like the Minelli and 8+1 are popular orders, but be sure to try the Nonna too—it’s an Italian meatball sub inspired by owner Casey Patten’s family recipe and calls for meatballs that use a blend of ground pork shank and Italian sausage doused in gravy, making it the sloppiest and most savory sandwich on the menu.
Hidden in the rows of wholesale stores surrounding Union Market, you might miss Masseria if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Inside the wooden gate, the warehouse vibe gives way to a stylish courtyard, which leads to an industrial-chic-covered patio and dining room. Both the decor and the menu are inspired by chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s fond memories of Puglia’s idyllic landscapes and welcoming country houses. The tasting menu is the only way to play with six- and eight-course options from $162 to $215 per person. The dishes are modern and artistic takes on classics, and this fall there is a new truffle and game menu.
At Osteria Morini, you can not only taste some of the freshest handmade pasta, but you can also try your hand at making pasta yourself. The restaurant offers pasta classes, starting at $125 per person, demonstrating the dough-making process, different shapes, and usages of the wide varieties of pasta. Following each interactive course, you can, of course, enjoy the fruits of your labor with a three-course lunch featuring two of the pastas made in class, plus dessert.
Louie Hankins, Giovanni Ippolito, and Salvio Ippolito are the three-person team behind Shaw’s newest Italian restaurant—Quattro Osteria. Together they bring unique experiences straight from Naples, Italy, as well as experiences cooking in Tuscany. The menu features a mix of small plates, fresh-made pasta, and entrees, all with time-honored Italian flavors reimagined through modern techniques. That includes cod topped with pea puree and shaved black truffle, a dish known as Baccala in Tempura, or Parmigiana di Melanzana Scomposta, a deconstructed eggplant parmesan. The valued-driven menu also features a three-course, $50 per person dinner option.
The Red Hen
Find comfort food with Italian personality at Bloomingdale’s landmark restaurant, The Red Hen. While the rustic menu changes seasonally, chef Mike Friedman knows there are dishes that can never be retired: burrata with a liquid center, a big bowl of rigatoni that quickly catapulted to signature dish status, or one of the most sought after desserts in the District—panna cotta with hazelnut crumble.
This critically acclaimed restaurant is located in the heart of Adams Morgan. In addition to being a kick-ass Italian restaurant, Reveler’s Hour is also a haven for wine lovers thanks to an adjoining wine shop and sommelier Bill Jensen, who can pair Italian wine with everything from garlic knots to garganelli. Reveler’s Hour truly specializes in pairings to several different pasta dishes, including bucatini with clams served in a white wine, garlic, and chili flake sauce. Expect top-notch hospitality from the same Michelin-starred team behind Tail Up Goat (a few blocks away in Adams Morgan) as the restaurant encourages you to linger a bit—after all, it’s the Italian way.
Owner Biagio Cepollaro and chef Tonino Topolino both hail from Italy and earlier this year took a bet on opening an Italian-style trattoria in Camp Springs, Maryland—at the very end of the Metro’s green line, in an area of Prince George’s County that has very few sit down restaurants. Together, this duo is offering Marylanders a taste of real Italian-style pizza, light and airy on the inside with a charred crust that’s crunchy upon each bite. Their pies will also transport you to a Roman “pinseria” with several pizzas hand-pressed and based on the same artisan baking process that’s been passed down across centuries in Italy.