Capitol Cuisine: Go Crazy, Grandma Style

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Manhattan Vibe
We recently enjoyed a pleasant dinner at Caruso’s Grocery, tucked away in The Roost complex. What a treat! This cozy, vibrant restaurant conjures visions of Manhattan’s iconic Delmonico’s and other Big Apple Italian landmarks. Unfortunately, Caruso’s decibel level also rivals that of many New York restaurants. We could barely converse with our fellow diners.

Our party of four settled into a cozy booth indoors to experience the vibe. As we sipped Pinot Grigio and Chianti (Caruso’s Italian and American wine list offers some vintages by the half bottle), we perused chef/partner Matt Adler’s menu. Our group settled on an appetizer of spicy meatballs and a delicious garlic Caesar salad which Peter and I shared; we could taste the obligatory anchovies. My hefty portion of garlicky linguine and clams (in their shells and slightly chewy) was delicious. Peter’s old fashioned spaghetti and meatballs provided a culinary trip back in time. So did Carole’s baked eggplant rollatini stuffed with herbed ricotta. A modern touch was her side of gluten-free spaghetti with marinara sauce. Other options included calamari, trout piccata, chicken parmesan, seafood fra diavolo and a hefty 14-ounce ribeye.

We could not leave space for the Brooklyn-style cheesecake with strawberry sauce or tiramisu, but we ended our delightful evening with tiny glasses of house made limoncello. There’s also sambuca (also house-made), grappa and other potent potables. Located at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, Caruso’s is open nightly. For more information or to make reservations (highly recommended!), visit www.carusosgrovery.com 

Crazy Love
Coming soon—if not already—to Barracks Row is Crazy Aunt Helen’s, 713 Eighth St. SE, formerly Finn McCool’s. Showcasing American comfort food (including breakfast) prepared with seasonal ingredients, Helen’s is owned by Mary Quillian Helms and veteran restaurateur Shane Mayson. “I’m very excited about having a second restaurant on Capitol Hill,” said Helms, whose family has operated nearby Mr. Henry’s for 50 years. “And this is something new for me, serving breakfast!”

Located in The Roost, the interior of Caruso’s Grocery conjures visions of Manhattan’s iconic Delmonico’s.

Designing the colorful interior is Miss Pixie Windsor of Miss Pixie’s (Logan Circle), who is splashing the interior with her signature vibrant colors–including a purple staircase, white wrought iron chairs, mix-and-match plates and funky coffee mugs. Executive chef is Mykie Moll, who is whipping up Jewish-style brisket (from his grandmother’s recipe), Reuben sandwiches, corned beef hash and roasted chicken, plus shepherd’s pie and other classics. He’s also working on vegan dishes. Wine, beer, seltzer, cider, mead and cocktails will flow. Concocted by bartender Jo-Jo Valenzuela, drinks have zany monikers like “Crazy Aunt Helen’s Lemon Drop” and “Kiss my Sassafras.”

DC native Mykie Moll also wielded his whisk at Petworth’s now-defunct Pom Pom, as well as at Doi Moi, Mintwood Place and Shaw Bisou. The two-story Crazy Aunt Helen’s seats 76 on the first floor, including 26 at the bar plus 53 upstairs. The outdoor patio will accommodate a dozen customers, with an additional 12 seats in the Streetery. For more information and hours visit www.crazyaunthelens.com.

Baseball-Japanese style
En route to a Nationals baseball game—our first visit to our beloved ballpark since the 2019 World Series—we lunched at Basebowl. Located at 1201 Half St. SE—almost in the stadium’s shadow—Basebowl delivers a whimsical, sporty take on Japanese-fusion cuisine in the cutting-edge minimalist interior (there’s also outdoor seating).

The menu focuses on ramen (literally pulled noodle soup), an Asian mainstay these days. Other options are pink salt edamame, poke tuna nachos, an array of dumplings, gyoza, won tons, fries and bento boxes. I decided on the latter—smoked eel resting on a bed of rice, corn, seaweed and cucumber slices.  The deal also included a bowl of miso soup and a nondescript lettuce and carrot salad with ginger dressing which sank to the bottom.

Our friend Nan went for the “Switch Hitter,” a generous bowl of mushroom broth laced with tofu, noodles, corn, greens and other veggies, dribbled with white truffle oil.

Likewise, Peter’s “Signature” bowl overflowed with tonkotsu broth (made from pork bone marrow), sliced pork, mushrooms, greens, seaweed and sesame seeds. And….serving two, the $38 Super Basebowl is replete with an eight-ounce ribeye, jumbo shrimp, fried egg, corn, seaweed and more.  Desserts include several kinds of cheesecake; there’s also a full bar. Lunch for three including my $12 glass of rose, came to $69.30 before tip. Basebowl is open daily for lunch and dinner; call 202-975-1066 or visit www.basebowldc.com.

Caruso’s hefty plate of garlicky linguine is ringed with chewy clams in their shells.

New Arrival
A recent arrival near Union Station is Junction Bistro, Bar & Bakery, 238 Mass. Ave. NE. Operated by Franco and chef Noe Landini (who also own the venerable Landini Brothers and other Junctions in Alexandria and in Chevy Chase, the newcomer is upstairs from Buffalo & Bergen. The all-day menu offers Nova Lox toast, “classic” burgers, smoked brisket, roasted salmon, tofu stir fry. Breads and pastries are baked daily at the Northern Virginia location. Junction Bistro is open daily for dine- in and carryout, including weekend brunch. Call 202-800-5222 or visit www.junctionbakery.com.

Spaghetti and meatballs provides a culinary trip back in time at Caruso’s Grocery.

Market Watch
Savor the flavors of Paris at Eastern Market Saturdays and Sundays. Stationed along the outdoor farmers line, Panorama Boulanger artisan bakery dispenses French-style pastries including individual quiches; we sampled the traditional Lorraine (studded with onions, cheese and ham), and the spinach/salmon version. Both were delicious. You can also find freshly baked croissants, cinnamon buns and artisan breads including French-style baguettes, sourdough and whole-grain rustic breads. For more information call 202-532-7462.

Welcome Back
Across from Eastern Market, The Eastern Wine Bar, 360 Seventh St. SE, has reopened. For hours and details visit www.easternwinebar.com

A previous version of Capitol Cuisine included a discussion of Camp Anthem. Camp Anthem closed in June so that The Anthem staff could fully prepare for upcoming shows and events. The Hill Rag regret any inconvenience.