Graffiato: Lives up to the hype!

Last night, after three weeks of anticipation, I had the pleasure of dining at Chef Mike Isabella’s new restaurant Graffiato. I had heard great things from the “first looks” in the Washington Post and Washingtonian, but I was still nervous the restaurant was not going to live up to its recent hype.

I was dining with a party of six, which I don’t recommend if you’re going to visit in the next month or so. There weren’t any six-tops in the upstairs dining area, and unfortunately for us, the entire downstairs was dedicated to a private party (I have a feeling a lot more of those will be happening in the near future), so we were relegated to this bar-like area that overlooked the kitchen itself. Not really ideal for speaking to everyone in your party, but it was cool to see all the chefs in action.

I started out with a cocktail, the Sage and Confused which featured cucumber liquor, sage and lime- the perfect, refreshing cocktail for a disgustingly humid day and night in DC. My other friends had wine, and the restaurant does feature Presecco on tap!

Sage and Confused Cocktail

For those of you who don’t know, Mike Isabella used to be the head chef at Zaytinya, another popular DC restaurant that features Mediterranean/Greek tapas. Mike has continued the small plate trend at Graffiato, so with a party of six we were able to try a lot of the dishes on the menu.

We started with fresh bread and a mozzarella ball (not featured on the menu) that had an artichoke and olive tapenade spread on top. The bread was served with butter and an olive oil gelee. The gelee definitely raised a few eyebrows at our table, but tasted delicious. Other starter dishes included the snap peas with tomato pesto and goat cheese and a sort of pickled egg plant dish with sweet flavors.

We tasted three of the pizzas on the menu:

  • Pork and Beans: Pepperoni, white bean paste, arugula, sweet peppers

Pork and Beans Pizza

  • The White House: Mozarella, ricotta, taleggio, prosciutto, black pepper honey

  • The Vermont: Leeks, farmhouse cheddar, bacon

The Vermont

I enjoyed all the dishes, but the White House stood out from all the rest- the flavor combinations of the pepper honey, ricotta and prosciutto were unbeatable. Mike Isabella nailed this one.

We also tried two of the dishes made famous by his Top Chef All Stars appearance, the Gnocchi (which Mike made in honor of his grandmother) and Chicken Thighs featuring the pepperoni sauce that made Gail Simmons go crazy! We also opted for the Sweet Corn Agnolotti which Todd Kilman raved about in his initial review of the place.

All of these dishes had one thing in common: amazing flavor. That is the main takeaway I have from Graffiato – all of the dishes feature fresh ingredients that pair perfectly together to create a powerful blast of flavor with each bite. You will understand why Gail went crazy when she tasted that pepperoni sauce!

Roasted potato gnocchi with braised pork shank

Chicken thighs with pepperoni sauce

Sweet corn agnolotti with chanterelles, pine nuts

Finally, dessert. I am not a dessert person (you may have figured that out from the lack of sweet things I showcase on the blog), but I am so grateful we decided to try the dessert last night! Nutella cookies with sea salt and hazlenut, and a chocolate tart with olive oil and sea salt gelatto — even I was in heaven! The chefs cooking in front of us also sneaked us a scoop of the pistachio gelatto which was delicious.

Chocolate tart and Nutella cookies

My advice: Get here, and get here soon.

Recommended for: I really can’t fill out this section just yet, as I am sure things will change once the hype settles down a bit. Right now I wouldn’t try here if you’re searching for an intimate dinner- it’s crowded, tons of things are going on, people are packed in. You will get a glimpse of Mike Isabella though!

Pros: Flavor, flavor flavor! Fresh ingredients, celebrity sightings, fun cocktails, great dessert, Chinatown location- right off 6th street about a block and a half from the Chinatown metro, friendly service

Cons: Crowded, kinks with the service etc not worked out just yet, not ideal for large groups (so it seems)