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International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

The Student News Site of Washington International School

International Dateline

Spreading Italian Cuisine in D.C.

Fettuccine al Ragù Bolognese from Sfoglina Van Ness. (Courtesy of Sfoglina Restaurant)

As an Italian living in D.C., I’m always seeking out restaurants which will do justice to my country’s cuisine. D.C. boasts about 21 Italian restaurants, largely due to the mass influx of Italian immigrants to the U.S. during the 20th century. 

Recently, I decided to visit four of D.C.’s most popular Italian restaurants and taste-test their signature dishes (pizza, pasta, gelato and more).

Sfoglina Van Ness

The first restaurant I went to was Connecticut Avenue staple Sfoglina Van Ness. Sfoglina is best known for its pasta and the restaurant’s name is even derived from pasta di Sfoglia, an ingredient used to make pasta. As soon as I entered the restaurant, I spotted the chefs making the pasta from scratch. Specifically, they craft “pasta all’uovo” by hand, which is an Italian recipe for making pasta from eggs. In doing so, the chefs not only serve delicious dishes, but also provide a comforting aroma of homemade pasta wafting throughout the restaurant. 

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I decided to order the “Fettuccine al Ragu Bolognese” so that I could compare it to the one my nonna makes in Italy. As soon as it arrived, I noticed its wonderful blend of different scents and flavors, many of which were from similar herbs to the ones my nonna uses. I could also tell that the pasta was made from scratch, as I could still taste the fresh dough and egg of the pasta. 

Overall, I found Sfoglina Van Ness to be a truly authentic place and the perfect choice for anyone craving a mouthwatering plate of pasta. 

Cafe Milano

Next, I went to Cafe Milano, which is located in Georgetown on Prospect Street. As soon as I entered, I was greeted by the hostess and escorted to the main room, which has both tables and a bar. As a starter, they immediately brought me a basket of warm bread, with olive oil and salt so you can make your own bruschetta. The bread was delicious and fresh out of the oven, matching the experience of going to a restaurant in Northern Italy. The restaurant’s ambience was lovely, and I particularly enjoyed the Italian songs that they played in the background. For example, they played songs from “Mina”, a classic 1960’s italian singer. 

Since risotto is the most famous food in the Northern part of Italy, I had to try it from Cafe Milano. I decided to have the “Risotto ai Porcini,” or “rice with small mushrooms” in Italian. As soon as it arrived, it had a delightful smell. The rice was cooked wonderfully and had the right amount of mushroom taste (not too strong or too faint). The only issue I noticed was that the mushrooms were not as fresh as they were in restaurantsI have been to in Italy. Nonetheless, the risotto was truly amazing and I appreciated that they did not add any other spices on top (like red pepper or garlic), as some other restaurants do. 

To end the night, I decided to indulge in a good coffee, specifically a double espresso. It was very strong and came from the Italian coffee machine at the bar. Overall, I had a great experience, however, the restaurant is definitely more on the expensive side. If you’re headed to Cafe Milano, their variety of risottos are definitely worth a taste. 

Il Canale

Another Italian restaurant I went to in order to determine whether it was worth it was Il Canale. Il Canale is best known for its pizza napoletana, or Neapolitan pizza. When I entered the restaurant, I noticed that they had pizza samples by the door. I tried one, however I was not truly impressed, because I felt it was a bit runny and didn’t have a lot of tomato sauce. 

I was seated in the upstairs area by a very nice waiter, who explained to me in Italian how they make their pizza. The restaurant uses the very famous Italian wooden oven, which gives the pizza a stronger taste of all of its ingredients and comes out very warm. 

I decided to order my favorite pizza, the Pizza Margherita, composed of pizza dough, tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil. At first, I was a bit skeptical since the tasting at the door had not been so enjoyable. However, when the pizza arrived, it smelled amazing. The smell was a delicious mix of basil and tomato sauce. The mozzarella was perfectly runny, but I still noticed that so was the tomato sauce, which was not much to my liking. I also noticed that the pizza was a bit oily on the bottom, which I am a bit picky about. Despite this, the flavor was delectable, representing a good Southern Italian pizza. 

Il Canale’s Pizza Margherita. (TripAdvisor)

I’m Eddie Cano

The last restaurant I decided to try was I’m Eddie Cano, which is also located on Connecticut Avenue. Similarly to Cafe Milano, the restaurant had a great ambience, including Italian music playing in the background. A unique aspect of I’m Eddie Cano is that the building has  beautiful bay windows, which are used as benches to be seated at tables. I also quickly noticed that the menu was split into two sections: one with American food and the other with Italian food. 

As an appetizer, they provided handmade bread with olive oil almost immediately. I ordered the cacio e pepe pasta, which is pasta with pepper and a creamy sauce. My brother ordered a simple pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs. My order was flavorful and truly Italian. On the other hand, my brother’s pasta was not as authentic and the meatballs were a bit tasteless. The sauce also had a bit too much garlic for his liking. Overall, though the restaurant had tasty dishes and a lovely atmosphere, the food was a bit more “Americanized” than in the other restaurants. 

Pasta Cacio e Pepe of “I’m Eddie Cano.” (Sofia Braccialarghe/International Dateline)

By Sofia Braccialarghe

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Sofia Braccialarghe
Sofia Braccialarghe, Food Editor

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