One of the best things about having a food blog is that you constantly receive suggestions of new recipes and restaurants to try. I absolutely love discovering gems simply by word of mouth. A few weeks ago, at Bucknell Alumni meeting, I was discussing my food blog (most specifically my love of pesto) with a fellow alum. He asked if I had ever been to Tortino, an amazing little Italian spot on 11th Street. I had not even heard of it! This came as quite a surprise considering that I think of myself as THE subject matter expert on DC dining, especially Italian food. Take that Tom Siestma. But I digress…
Located on 11th Street NW, between M and N, Tortino sits in an English basement below a hair salon. Though outside may seems less than impressive, don’t hesitate trying this cozy, endearing spot.
Busy, yet quiet, Tortino is anything but trendy. Rather, you feel a warm and charming ambiance of a traditional Italian restaurant as soon as you enter the door. Our table wasn’t quite ready when we arrived (Tortino was hosting a private event in their large dining room that took up many tables), so we made our way to the bar and ordered a bottle of Chianti.
Just a few moments after we sat down, our waitress placed a bread basket on our table and poured rich olive oil with fresh ground pepper for dipping. Chelsea, Katherine, and I could not resist diving into the oven fresh bread (still piping hot I might add.)
Though our mother’s taught us not to fill up on bread, we could not resist polishing off our first basket and promptly ask for a second. Luckily, the sauce on appetizers and entrees left ample opportunities for dipping!
To begin, we enjoyed prosciutto di parma with balsamic pears and Raschera cheese.
I thoroughly enjoyed this heaping serving of prosciutto. You can’t beat the contrast of sweet yet tangy pear and salty prosciutto and cheese with the added acidity of balsamic reduction.
We also LOVED the “salad” of buratta over basil pesto, roasted beets and heirloom tomatoes.
If you go to Tortino, this is a MUST order. Just thinking about a perfectly portioned bite of buratta, beet, tomato, and pesto makes my mouth water. The pesto was also one of the best I’ve ever tried! I can’t put my finger on exactly what made it so special but I can’t wait to go back and enjoy it again.
Next, came a round of delectable pastas, all made in house.
Katherine elected a bowl of bolognese with fettuccine.
She was generous enough to let me steal this a way for a picture and a bite.
The serving of hearty bolognese pairs perfectly with the al dente fettuccine. The sauce is made with ground veal and infused with fresh thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf. I highly recommend someone in your party order this so you can at least have a taste!
Chelsea knew exactly what she wanted to order even before we arrived at Tortino (thank goodness for online menus!) She chose the half-moon ravioli stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and spinach covered in a bath of marjoram and truffle butter sauce.
Oh my lord. This sauce is a little piece of heaven sent down from God. Thankfully, I have a generous friend like Chelsea who let me constantly reach over to her plate and mop up some sauce with my bread.
As a sucker for buffalo mozzarella, I will definitely order a plate of ravioli when I return.
Per usual, the words “pesto gnocchi” caught my eye on the menu. The gnocchi was served in creamy, basil pesto and topped with crunch prosciutto and roasted pine nuts. I could have done without cream as I prefer my pesto au natural. However, the small gnocchi (in size, not portion), had the perfect consistency and texture.
Thank goodness I wore a flowy dress, otherwise, I would have been unzipping my pants at this point in the meal. Despite our stuffed stomachs, we still felt mentally prepared to tackle dessert. Chelsea’s mission in life is to eat as much tiramisu as possible so we obviously had to try Tortino’s version. We considered splitting one but quickly decided we each needed our own.
Wise choice! The espresso soaked cake melted in my mouth though I could have done without the fruity preserves crisscrossed around the plate.
In addition to the our three personal tiramisus, we also tried a slice of cheesecake.
Though we polished off every last bit of this slice, it didn’t match up to the dense, New York cheesecake I enjoy. Instead, Tortino’s version was airy and light, tasting of ricotta and mascarpone. Moreover, the abundance of fruit sauce on the plate did nothing for my palate.
Tortino is a hidden jewel in a sea of DC Italian restaurants. Whether you’re looking for a romantic date night spot or just a casual dinner with some of your best girlfriends, I highly recommend making a reservation and stuffing yourself to the brim at Tortino! Bonus points for a summer patio, happy hour until 7:30 pm, and half price wine nights (check their twitter!)
1228 11th St NW, Washington, DC 20001