I was never a Mike Isabella fan—not on his season (Voltaggio all the way) and certainly not on All-Stars (umm Richard Blais, I love you).
However, when we moved to DC and I read that Isabella was opening up his restaurant, Graffiato, in just a few weeks (Bryan Voltaggio backed it…) I knew I had to try it. So Amanda and Jordan let us hoard in on their reservation and we went.
The restaurant itself is a really great layout and I am a HUGE fan of open-kitchens, bonus to the fact that Isabella was ACTUALLY working in it. The main level of Graffiato maintains original features of its 1940s-era building with concrete floors, exposed ceilings and the brick wall on one side of the restaurant.
We waited a half hour to be seated, even though we had a reservation. We didn’t get too antsy just discussed, which dishes we were dying to try. When we finally got upstairs to the second floor we noticed it had a slightly more traditional dining room feel. Isabella and his father-in-law built the bamboo-and-oak tables themselves over the course of two weekends.
We wanted that bread basket to start. That much we knew, but then our waiter came over and as Amanda said “he had a soul patch that made me trust him.”
He explained the small plates, sharing style menu noting that “Chef Mike” recommended four plates per person, per course. Hmm that seemed like a lot. Then he said we should try the Chef’s Tasting Menu for $55/person. You get all the courses, with multiple dishes. I politely explained that being a pescatarian that probably wasn’t the best idea, but then he said the magic words “Chef Mike will accommodate you.” Say what????
We were in. And oh my, we did not know what we were in for. A full breakdown with photos is below, but let me just say that I left that restaurant a Mike Isabella fan. Not all of the dishes were amazingly flavorful, but I have to hand it to them I was completely satisfied and would most certainly without a doubt bring anyone who visits us there.
For the Vegetate Course:
- Blistered Sweet Peppers (pretty delicious and flavorful for a peppers and beans dish)
- Onions Three Ways (there was roasted garlic in this, so obviously it won me over)
- Fresh Fennel (I love fennel, and he shredded it and added fresh fruit, k thanks)
- Wood Roasted Mushrooms (eh, wasn’t the best)
For the Salad Course:
- Dehydrated Apple and Arugula with Apple Vinaigrette (the tiny little apples were so yummy, I thought it would be slimy but then you bite into it and it was crunchy)
- Roasted Baby Carrots (with LARDO, who does that??)
For the Wood Oven Course:
- Octopus with Artichoke and Chickpeas
- Chicken Thighs with Pepperoni Sauce (the very same Gail Simmons swooned over in the finale, direct quote from Jordan “ooooo it is exactly as I dreamed it”)
For the Pizza Course: Not one, but TWO pizzas
- Jersey Shore – topped with fried calamari, tomato, provolone and cherry pepper aioli (I couldn’t get enough, the pepper aioli was amazing)
- Countryman – topped with black truffles, fontina, duck eggs (anything with truffles I will eat and this was no different, wow)
Don’t forget the Ham and Cheese:
- Cracked Pepper Piedmont, Gorgonzola Dolce, Cabra La Mancha served with a TO DIE FOR garlic and caramel dip
- Fresh Mozzarella with balsamic (seriously it was amazing)
- PorcSalt Holiday Ham, Benton’s Smocked Country Ham, Olli Speck (I hear this was good)
For the Pasta Course:
- Roasted Potato Gnocchi with Braised Pork Shank and Burrata (Amanda requested this, we just kept waiting and waiting for it to come…Josh wished he had more of his own)
- Sweet Corn Agnolotti with Chanterelles and Pine Nuts (It melted in my mouth, so delicious)
- Risotto (Thought I couldn’t eat it, then I found out it was made with Pecorino stock….the balsamic was a nice touch…but wasn’t the greatest)
And then there was dessert:
- Basil Lemon Sorbet (so refreshing)
- Fried dough covered in dehydrated strawberry powder (gooey on the inside, crunchy on the outside)
- Chocolate tart with olive oil, sea salt gelato (not, a chocolate person, but the crust was yummy)
- Nutella cookies (made by Isabella’s wife, seriously delicious)