Viva Italia

Capitol Cuisine

98
Near Eastern Market, La Collina offers home-spun and innovative Italian dishes, plus plenty of outdoor seating.

Viva Italia
We’ve recently dined at La Collina, 747 C St. SE, located across from Eastern Market. The six-month-old charmer is operated by CEO Hollis Silverman, who also runs the adjoining Duck and the Peach and The Wells gin bar. La Collina serves down home Italian-American and some innovative dishes. Note: For indoor dining, La Collina now requires proof of COVID vaccination or a recent negative test result.

We considered trying the arancini (fried parmesan-filled risotto balls), but settled on deep-fried artichokes, a delicious appetizer we first tasted in Rome’s Jewish quarter. Cooked in chickpea flour, the crispy ‘chokes arrived with aioli for dipping.

Peter’s down-home bigoli (long, thick pasta) and wonderful fluffy meatballs was enlivened with a rich tomato sauce. My spaghettini was laced with anchovy butter, chili flakes and garlicy breadcrumbs. The concoction was reminiscent of a Sicilian dish traditionally consumed during Lent. La Collina’s rendition, while richly flavorful, was too salty for my taste. Too much anchovy butter? Among other temptations are tortelloni cacao e pepe, sweet corn tortelloni with goat butter sauce, grilled branzino, and pork Milanese (fried cutlets).

La Collina’s wine list is limited: Frizzante (sparkling), bianco (white), rosato (rose) and two kinds of rosso (red), are available by the glass and carafe. Plus beer and cocktails. Dinner for two with a drink apiece, came to $91.53 including a 22 percent ‘living wage” service charge. La Collina currently has limited hours; visit www.lacollinadc.com.

La Collina’s appealing appetizer of deep-fried artichokes is accompanied by a dish of aioli for dipping.

Happy Return
We’ve also revisited an old favorite, Las Placitas, 1100 Eighth St. SE, at the south end of Barracks Row. On a warm, late summer evening, our group of four settled on the spacious outdoor patio. Accompanied by a ziggurat of chips, the complimentary salsa was as zesty as we remembered it. So was the guacamole. A serving cost $7.95,  but was large enough  for our table to share. Nice and chunky, the guac had just enough seasoning without overpowering the avocado. It complemented our tangy, frosty margaritas.

The kitchen does marvelous things with chicken.  Besides savoring the roasted half bird slathered with onions and bell peppers, we sampled an appetizer featuring chicken:  Taquitos Dorado, filled with choice of beef or chicken. We chose the latter, which practically melted in my mouth. Other starter options include ceviche, camarones al ajillo (shrimp sautéed in garlic butter) and pupusas, those savory little Salvadoran pancakes stuffed with pork or cheese (or both) and served with lip-tingling, Salvadoran-style coleslaw.

Puerco al horno is a plate of tender roasted pork morsels accompanied by plantains, white rice and black beans. The portion was generous enough for Peter and me to share. Other choices are paella, broiled tilapia topped with shrimp, and New York steak.

Prices remain moderate; service excellent. Las Placitas is closed Monday. Visit www.lasplacitas.com.

Wine About it
Across the street from Las Placitas, we stumbled into an amazing wine shop: Classy Corks Wine & Spirits. Located at 801 Virginia Ave. SE (the corner of Eighth and L), the newcomer arrived about six weeks ago. The spacious interior is lined with bottles of wine, beer and spirits—including tropical flavored rums from Hawaii–from around the globe. We went home with Gruner Veltliner (a crisp Austrian white) and a South African Pinotage. You can also find sodas, mixers and condiments. Prices are reasonable. Classy Corks stays open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day; they also deliver. Visit www.classycorksdc.com.

Happy Return
At last, someone is moving into the space vacated by Montmartre, 327 Seventh St. SE. Look for Newland, a “new American” restaurant, in the near future. Heading the kitchen will be Maryland native Andrew Markert, who has presided over the kitchen at nearby Beuchert’s Saloon, 623 Pennsylvania Ave. SE and adjacent sandwich-centric Fight Club.

The Newland moniker comes from the Baltimore road where Chef Markert, lived as a child. His menu will be similar to Beuchert’s, which he helped unveil eight years ago. At Newland’s, he plans to focus on Mid-Atlantic produce and homemade pastas, along with crab dishes and charcoal-grilled beef.

Markert launched his career with Michel Richard at Georgetown’s long gone Citronelle. He was later chef de cuisine at PS 7 in Penn Quarter. Beuchert’s beverage director Mackenzie Conway will select the wines—including lesser known vintages from Bulgaria, Chile and Idaho producers near the Columbia Valley. Look for high-end beers and cocktails as well.

Pizza Prize
Congrats to Andy’s Pizza, a regional chain which copped top honors in the “Traditional” division of the 2021 International Pizza Expo & Conference. Held in Las Vegas, the bakeoff had three divisions:  Traditional, Non-Traditional, and Pan. Each competitor had to create a signature pie on the spot for a panel of accredited chefs. Andy’s concocted its “classic” cheese pizza.

“I believe we won because we care about every ingredient in our pizza,” said proprietor Andy Brown. “It didn’t feel right to compete with something we don’t sell or pride ourselves on. We won with the exact same cheese pizza that’s available by the slice at all of our pizzerias.”

Andy’s Pizza is a New York-style shop with outlets in McLean (Tysons Galleria), Shaw (2014 Ninth St. NW) Navy Yard (1201 Half St. SE), NoMa (51 M St. NE), Atlas Brew Works’ Half Street Brewery & Tap Room adjacent to Nationals Park and Streets Market in Northwest. To place an order or make reservations visit www.eatandyspizza.com.