Tag Archives: Italian

Modena — Lunch on 23 January 2020



We’ve been here before.

The restaurant that used to live here was called Bibiana, and it served very good Italian food. It was part of Ashok Bajaj’s Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, the same organization that owns Rasika and Rasika West. Even though Bibiana was still successful 10 years after opening, Bajaj decided that it was time for a change.

He closed Bibiana last Fall and, in the space of a few weeks, renovated the site and brought in a new chef with a new menu. The result is Modena, and it’s sensational!

The bread basket was full of surprises. It was–well, it was “curated”, although nobody used that overly-familiar word. Four or five slices of bread, each of them different from the others, each a minor revelation.



I’m a creature of habit. If I’m dining in a French restaurant, I’ll usually have French Onion Soup as a starter, even in the warmest weather. If the place is Italian, and if Polpette is on the menu, I look no further.

The base here was polenta, with dandelion greens. I liked the beef, pork, and veal combination in the polpette, which was fortunate because the main I’d ordered also featured it.

Tagliatelle Bolognese

Tagliatelle Bolognese

The Tagliatelle Bolognese was yet another marvel. I’d always liked Bibiana, but Modena has taken modern Italian cooking to an entirely new level.

Dolci Budino

Dolci Budino

When I was placing my order, the server warned me: “Don’t tell me you’re ordering anything other than the Budino for dessert.” She told me that the bittersweet chocolate in the budino was “not children’s chocolate, it’s chocolate for adults.”

Dessert was served in a small glass. The chocolate was decorated with Chantilly cream and fresh passion fruit. And my first taste made it official:  I’d dined very well since the beginning of 2020, but lunch at Modena was the finest meal I’d had all month.

But wait, there’s more.

First of all, have another look at the budino. Beautiful, isn’t it?

During the meal, that helpful server who had recommended the dessert noticed that my IPad cover was a reproduction of Bruegel’s “Children’s Games”.*

She was a Bruegel admirer, and she’d lived in Bruegel’s Brussels for several years. Most of the customers in her section had departed by then, so we had time to chat. I showed her some of the blog postings from my 2018 adventures in Belgium, and she reminisced about the familiar sites. We talked about chocolate and waffles.

I was getting ready to leave when she came back to the table.

She brought me a second serving of that fabulous dessert.

Made my day, and then some.

* Here’s a website that lets you enlarge all or parts of “Children’s Games” so that you can zoom in on the action. According to Wikipedia, 80 games are depicted in the painting, but the word “games” is very loosely defined.

Filomena — Lunch on 1 May 2019



This week I took the newly-free shuttle from Dupont Circle to Georgetown for a return visit to an old favourite. Filomena has been around since 1983, and any restaurant that can still fill the house after 36 years must be doing something right. At Filomena, that means serving consistently good food and providing consistently good service at a consistently good price.

And the portions are huge. I have what I euphemistically call a large appetite, but I had to call for take-out containers for the two-thirds of the starter and the main. I couldn’t even think about touching the dessert until 12 hours later.



At Filomena, the Calamari Fritti is marinated in milk for 24 hours before being and quick-fried and served with spicy Marinara sauce.



According to the menu, when Bono, from U2, ate at Filomena, he liked the Rigatoni con Salsicce so much that he ordered seconds. While I’m sure that’s true, I can’t imagine how he—or anyone else—could do it. Perhaps he took a nap between servings.

The sausage is made in-house, with mushrooms, onions, Chianti, and herbs.

Chocolate Truffle

Chocolate Truffle

Insanely rich dessert. Chocolate cake between layers of chocolates-ganache.

So there it is, the opposite of trendy. And I hope they never change a thing.

Lunch at Filomena — 16 August 2018



This was my “Why haven’t I ever been here before?” lunch.

Filomena, in Georgetown near the canal, has been around for 35 years, but I’d somehow missed out on it until now. This is a classic Italian family restaurant, named for the matriarch of the founder’s family, and filled with furniture, antiques, and knick-knacks from her home.

The menu casually drops the names of some past patrons, like President Clinton, who favoured Linguini Cardinale (Lobster Meat in Creamy Cardinale Lobster Sauce over Linguini) and U2’s Bono, who ordered seconds of the Rigatoni con Salsicce (Whole Link Italian Sausage pieces with Mushrooms, Onions, Ground Italian Sausage, Chianti Wine, Herbs and Vine Ripe Sunday Sauce).

Polpetti Classico

Polpetti Classico

When I was in Venice last year, I had Polpetti—Italian meatballs—for lunch at Ca’ D’Oro, which were rumoured to be the best in the city.  According to the Michelin Guide, Ca’ D’Oro’s “meatballs are…legendary”.

The Polpetti Classico at Filomena were infinitely better.


I wasn’t able to take a useable picture of my main, Cannelloni Frutti di Mare. Here’s Filomena’s description of the dish:

“A Generous Amount of Fresh Shrimp, Creamy Mozzarella and Ricotta Cheeses blended and stuffed into the Pasta, Mamma’s rolled Black Pasta Sheets. Our original Seafood Lasagna recipe in the form of Cannelloni. Oven baked and covered with our famous Creamy Cardinale Lobster Sauce.”

A bit disappointing, after the great Polpetti.

Cookies n’ Cream Mousse Cake

Cookies n’ Cream Mousse Cake

This Cookies n’ Cream Mousse Cake gave me everything I wanted from a dessert. Not only was it delicious, it was, like everything at Filomena, generously proportioned, i.e. BIG. A welcome change from the three-bite desserts I’d had earlier in the week.

Will be back.

2017 Cookery Project — Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Shrimp Fra Diavolo

I’d planned to dedicate September to working on Mastering the Art of French (Bistro) Cooking.

That didn’t happen.

I’ve spent very little time in the kitchen this month, preferring to loll around watching Nordic Noir television shows and old episodes of The IT Crowd all day. What time I’ve spent on food preparation has been indiscriminate and unfocused. One of the few memorable new dishes I made this month is the Shrimp Fra Diavolo pictured above.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo is an Italian-American dish, like spaghetti and meatballs. It originated in the United States, but a list of the ingredients–olive oil red pepper flakes, garlic, oregano, white wine, San Marzano tomatoes, basil–certainly reads like what you’d find by opening Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking and picking a recipe at random.

For the pasta, I used Ronzoni Supergreens, an “enriched pasta with 5 green vegetables,” which I chose entirely because of its green colour. That combination of red sauce and green pasta would make for a nice seasonal side dish, if it were December (which it isn’t) and if I made a big deal of Christmas (which I don’t).

The next day, I added more crushed tomatoes, water, and a little white wine to the leftovers, and wound up with a first-rate soup.

I’ve decided to start rating these experiments on a five-star scale, The boldface entry is my evaluation of the current dish.

★ Disaster. Inedible. Poisoned the cat.
★★ OK, but once is enough.
★★★ Mixed results. Something went wrong, but might try this again.
★★★★ Good, but lacks that special something.
★★★★★ Excellent. Goes into my “This is a winner” file.

Bibiana — Lunch on 24 August 2017

2017 Summer Restaurant Weeks: Week Three, Day Two

The restaurant of the day—make that the ristorante della giornata—was Bibiana, an elegant Italian member of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, which includes some of the best dining establishments in Washington.*

(Years ago, Roger Price wrote a book that included a section on how to avoid people. He offered a list 10 sentences that were so profoundly dull they would immediately bring an end to any attempt to engage the speaker in further conversation. Two that I remember are “A girl I went to high school with works for the phone company” and “I used to live down that street.”)

I used to work in the building right across the street from this restaurant.



I had a special reason I wanted to eat at Bibiana.

When I was in Venice last spring, I had lunch at Ca’ D’Oro, a restaurant where, according to the Michelin Guide, “…the meatballs are…legendary.” Those legendary meatballs are called “polpette,” and Ca’ D’Oro’s were said to be the best in Venice.

I wasn’t impressed. I thought they were nowhere nearly as good as the polpette I’d had at Bibiana.

Had my memory been inaccurate? Time for a taste test.

Bibiana’s Sicilian-style meatballs with tomato sauce and white polenta won, hands down.


My main was pan-seared Atlantic grouper. I had a little trouble identifying the vegetable component, which was eggplant caponata. I liked the slight lemony taste of the carrot purée, and the fish was perfect.


A nice Baba al Rum for dessert, made with rum-soaked sponge cake, vanilla bean Chantilly fIlling, and pistachio gelato.

*The Oval Room and 701 are Knightsbridge restaurants. So are Rasika and its offshoot, Rasika West. Rasika has a good claim to being the best Indian restaurant in the US.

Bibiana — Lunch on 2 February 2017

Bibiana is part of the Knightsbridge Restaurant Group, which includes some of the best restaurants in Washington.



When my kitchen skills first progressed beyond making simple stews and roasts, and I started attempting recipes that didn’t start with the words, “Take one can of condensed cream of mushroom soup…”, one of my successes was Pomodori al Forno, a form of bruschetta featuring baked plum tomatoes, Bûcheron, and lots of olive oil. Ever since, I’ve been inordinately fond of appetizers served on toasted baguette slices.

For my starter at Bibiana, I had the Crostini with whipped Lardo di Colonnata (aka cured fatback with rosemary) and chicken liver mousse.

Short Ribs

Short Ribs

Oh, this was good! I’m definitely on a winning streak with mains this week. The very generous serving of Braised Beef Short Ribs may have been the size of a brick, but it was fork tender. It came with roasted heirloom carrots.



Cioccolato. A nice selection of chocolate butter mousse, bitter chocolate crumble, rose mousse, and apricot sorbet.

Café Milano — Lunch on 23 January 2015

2015 Winter Restaurant Week, Day 4

My final stop during 2015 Winter Restaurant Week (Part 1)* was Georgetown’s Café Milano. Café Milano is famous as a place to see and to be seen, if you’re a political, sports, or media celebrity.  I’m none of the above, but I was eager to check it out.

Café  Milano

Café Milano

The restaurant is on Prospect Street, near M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, in the heart of Georgetown.  It’s big and beautiful and crowded.  It’s also very, very loud, and, since the tables are close to each other, it’s not a good place to have a quiet conversation.

Café  Milano Pappa al pomodoro

Pappa al Pomodoro

This was a traditional Tuscan bread and tomato soup, with basil-infused olive oil.   Impressive. Imagine the best spaghetti sauce you’ve ever had, and you’ve got some idea of how it tasted.

Café  Milano Taglio di branzino del mediterraneo con vellutata di patate , capperi e cime di rapa saltate

Taglio di Branzino del Mediterraneo

My main was a sautéed Mediterranean sea bass fillet in a potato-caper sauce, with sautéed broccoli rabe.  I didn’t know what to expect w/the potato-caper sauce, but found it to be excellent. The fish was simply but expertly cooked.

Café  Milano Zuppa inglese alle fragole


Piedmont traditional chocolate, amaretto, and caramel flan.

Celebrity count:  Zero, but I wasn’t really looking.   One Dimension or Hillary Clinton could have been sitting at the next table, and I wouldn’t have noticed.   Almost anybody except One Dimension or Hillary Clinton could have been sitting at the next table, and I wouldn’t have noticed.

*2015 Winter Restaurant Week officially ends on Sunday, but many restaurants, including some of DC’s best, extend the party for another week.