1220 19th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036 | (202) 835-0459

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Need To Know Dinner with Tom Wheeler 3/26 @ 7pm

In today’s fast paced world, there are things happening that we should know about – new technologies, political forecasts, cultural phenoms, scientific advancements, and the latest advancements in art, finance, and literature. At our Need To Know Dinners you can meet and break bread with these experts in an exclusive and intimate setting.

Our next Need to Know Dinner is with former Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler on March 26 at 7pm. Tom is a renowned historian, entrepreneur and writer. His tenure at the FCC has been described as the “the most productive Commission in the history of the Agency.” For over four decades he has been involved with new telecommunications networks and services.

In his new book, From Gutenberg to Google: The History of our Future, Tom puts into perspective the current internet revolution. Dine with him and learn how the invention of the printing press, expansion of the telegraph, and now explosion of the internet has touched each one of us directly, shaping both commerce and culture, ultimately changing how we connect with each other. Signed copies of his book will be available for purchase.

The 4-course menu will begin with welcome cocktails and Tuscan savories. Pasta Cacio e Pepe with pancetta and arugula, Chianti-braised short ribs with roasted vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes will follow, concluding with homemade coconut-mint Nutella torta. $69 (exclusive tax and tip). Seating very limited. Free valet parking.

To reserve call 202-835-0459 or online here.

i Ricchi Turns 30 Today!

On January 11, 1989, Ristorante i Ricchi opened its doors in Washington, DC . . . before fax machines and the internet; before Apple and downloading, emails and texting; before pocket cell phones, cable TV and 24/7 instant access; before Americans knew of risotto or polenta or gelato; before authentic Italian menus . . . when eating Italian meant spaghetti and meatballs. The Ricchis (Christianne and Francesco) packed up their belongings together with their recipes and dreams – and their kids, Olivia and Daniele -and left the hills of Tuscany for the Golden Triangle and 19th Street. The plan was to prepare authentic food – to demonstrate how Italians really ate – as they have for hundreds of years – using fresh herbs, oak embers and handed-down family recipes. It wasn’t long before Washingtonians were eating multiple courses; grilled Tuscan bread (bruschetta) with white beans; their pasta BEFORE their entrees; and finishing their meals with homemade gelato or biscotti “dunked” in sweet wine.

Over the past 30 years we’ve witnessed a lot – including 5 presidential administrations and all that has meant – Republican, Democrat, Republican, Democrat and Republican again. We survived 9/11, an economic downturn, and now the explosion of new restaurants everywhere. It seems like it’s a big deal for a restaurant to have stuck around for so long, so I didn’t want to let this anniversary pass unnoticed. I thought it would be fun to team up, once again, with Francesco to mark the occasion. (For those of you who didn’t know, we parted ways a very long time ago, and he now operates his successful Cesco’s Osteria in Bethesda.)

Join us on Saturday, February 9 at 7 pm for our Trent’Anni 30th Anniversary Dinner – a communal feast of Ricchi family favorites. We want to recreate the feeling and the menus we so loved from our little trattoria in Cercina. We’ll be celebrating the flavors of “cucina rustica” – rustic Italian country cooking – with six courses and plenty of “vino sfuso” (traditional Tuscan wine) on tap. It’s going to be a great party! See our special anniversary menu here & reserve your ticket

Please come to help us celebrate our Trent’Anni!

Celebrating the Holidays the Italian Way

Spending Christmas in Italy can be an enlightening experience for those of us who are tired of the commercial frenzy surrounding the holidays here. Traditionally, family is at the heart of Italian Christmas – Natale – not packages and tinsel. Children do not write letters to Santa but instead to their parents, expressing their appreciation. In many households, the letters are ceremoniously read by the father after Christmas Eve dinner. Italians celebrate this joyous season from Christmas Eve (starting with the Feast of Seven Fishes) until the Epiphany on January 6 which is their main day of gift giving. In the Italian tradition, La Befana, a witch who tried to follow the three wise men, wanders around each Christmas bringing gifts to children hoping to find the Christ child.

Francesco told me that as a child, he would leave his shoes at the foot of his bed (no stockings hung by the chimney with care in the Ricchi’s house) on the night of January 5th in the hopes that the friendly old witch would fill them with candy and not coal. Instead of carrots for Santa’s reindeer, Italian children would leave hay for La Befana’s donkey. The first Christmas I spent at Cercina, I was surprised to see they didn’t put up a Christmas tree, but instead a presepio or nativity scene. Babbo Natale or Santa Claus was a figure from the northern European countries. The Italian Christmas holiday is more about spending time and sharing a meal together than exchanging presents. The emphasis is on family. The old Italian saying is “Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi” – “Christmas with your family, Easter with whomever you want.” Read more

Though the Feast of the Seven Fishes in not celebrated in Tuscany, it is in southern Italy and Sicily – and so it has become a tradition of mainly America’s Italian immigrants. They abstain from eating meat on the eve of Christ’s birth, but still find a way to celebrate by preparing a feast of a variety of fish. We have taken a bit of artistic license and have crafted a menu of modern day specialties that we are sure you will enjoy for 3 days leading up to Christmas. Join us for the Feast of Seven Fishes, Friday-Saturday, December 21-22 or on Christmas Eve – Monday, December 24, from 5:30-10 pm. We will begin with smoked river trout pâté crostini and prawn salad with cannellini beans followed by Tuscan crab fritters with crispy prosciutto and rich lobster risotto. Next we’ll serve the thinnest strands of hand-cut pasta with manila clams and roasted zucchini only to then finish with Tuscany’s famous fish stew, Cacciucco, a medley of 7 different types of fish. The sweet finale will be a panettone trifle with mascarpone chocolate cream and toasted hazelnuts. $95 (exclusive tax and tip). 

Change up your NYE routine, and experience an Italian NYE tradition as you indulge in pork and lentils which Italians consider a good luck meal. Plan now to attend our NYE Party – Cenone di San Silvestro, Monday, December 31 at 5:30 pm. Choose 1 of 4 options for each of your 4 courses including my favorite, Nonna Irma’s homemade, three-meat tortellini with veal reduction, or try our grilled swordfish steak with a divine lemon and fresh herb salsa. Toast the New Year with a complimentary flute of Italian sparkling. $95 (exclusive tax and tip). We will be prepared with hats, noisemakers, confetti, streamers and hundreds of floating balloons! 

Make it a family tradition (as many have done), and spend the night before Christmas with your extended i Ricchi family. Make reservations for both of these events now by calling (202) 835-0459. See menus and more info here

Taste the Art of Handmade Pasta

So you think, pasta is simple. The reality is centuries of Italian invention, industry, agriculture, hunger and politics have shaped pasta into its myriad forms and flavors. Pasta is different all across Italy. In the poorer South, pastas of semolina and water are shaped by hand into chunky peasant forms (ie: orecchiette). In South-Central Italy, the same semolina dough is extruded by machine into simple long shapes and complex short ones, then dried and packaged (ie: spaghetti, rigatoni, penne). North and North-Central Italy – wealthier by far – uses expensive egg yolks and refined flours to make silky ribbons and tiny stuffed shapes (ie: tagliatelle, tortellini). In the far North – cold and under the influence of Germany and Eastern Europe – white flour is often replaced by other starches: bread crumbs, chestnut, buckwheat, and rye (ie: pizzoccheri). The properties of each type of dough and the tastes and traditions of each region also determines what sauce to be used. Choosing the right pasta shape to go with the right sauce is a serious Italian preoccupation.

One of our focuses has always been to serve a variety of handmade pastas, an art that even in Italy is becoming harder to find in restaurants today.  When you have a pasta craving, put your carb-free diet on hold for the day and dive into a bowl of steaming homemade pasta! If you’d like the toothy experience of a thick, handmade spaghetti-like pasta, choose Pici All’Aglione with the simplicity of tomato and garlic sauce garnished with ricotta. For a taste of Tuscany, try Rigatoni Strascicate – literally means the pasta is “dragged through” our classic 12-hour simmered sugo.

Handmade spinach and ricotta filled tortelloni is a dish we have been serving since we opened with three sauce variations – classic butter and fresh sage; Florentine tomato and cream; or the seasonal corn and roasted mushrooms. Taglierini Alle Vongole (pictured) is a fine egg pasta gently tossed with little neck clams and roasted zucchini, while Cavatelli Neri is pasta flavored with squid ink and extruded through a brass die to form short, twisted cylinders sauced with our house-made fennel sausage, gulf shrimp and diced, fresh tomato. Consumed with a glass of Italian wine, a good plate of pasta is one of life’s little pleasures! Give yourself a mid-week treat, and stop at our bar for a quick flavorful dinner.

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