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Seasonal Favorites at Welcome Autumn Dinner

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” is a fond memory of crisp autumn nights spent around our trattoria’s kitchen table. Nonno Biagio would roast them in embers from the stove and then wrap them (still in their shells) in a kitchen towel after sprinkling generously with red wine or grappa. They would steam in that hot parcel creating the most flavorful roasted chestnuts I have ever eaten. Chestnuts have been a staple of the Mediterranean diet for centuries. There are European, American and Asian types of chestnuts on the market today. In Italy, they are found in two varieties: castagne – usually smaller and relatively flat sided – and marroni – rounder, larger and firmer to the touch. Chestnuts are considered a fruit and are low in fat, high in fiber and full of vitamins and minerals. They are often dried and milled into a very fine flour, perfect for all kinds of breads, cakes, pastes and pasta. Put a pinch of it on your tongue and it is just like biting into a sweet chestnut. More ways to use chestnut flour We will be featuring our own homemade chestnut tagliatelle with marjoram, walnuts and crispy chestnuts at our Welcome Autumn Dinner menu next week.

Enjoy the very welcomed brisk air under stars and twinkling lights at our Benvenuto Autunno: Welcome Autumn Dinner, Wednesday, October 10 at 7 pm on our Piazza.  Savor Tuscan kale bruschetta, fennel salame and pecorino fritters before the chestnut tagliatelle mentioned above followed by filet of pork with roasted grapes and wild mushrooms. Savoy cabbage and potato gratin will make the perfect autumn accompaniment. We’ll finish with a nod to the old Italian standby with a playful twist – pumpkin tiramisu. Buy tickets today

Kicking Off New Taste & Graze Series

Leading up to the wine harvest in October, we are kicking off our new Taste & Graze wine tasting series in September.

  • Sip & Savor: Taste the intricacies of high quality Italian wines.
  • Graze & Enjoy: Eat delicacies from our “grazing” buffet.
  • Connect & Discover: Meet famous vintners and learn about their wines.

We will be begin with outstanding Pio Cesare wines which have been rated many times in the 90s, hailing from the Piemonte region. Enjoy tasting 6 of their most renowned wines while grazing at our Antipasto table also featuring Risotto al Barolo at our Taste & Graze with Wines of Pio Cesare, Wednesday, September 5 from 6-7:30 pm. You will have the unique opportunity to meet famous vintner, Pio Boffa, during one of his rare trips to America. Learn how women are making major advances in the Italian wine industry with the introduction of Pio’s daughter, Federica, as his successor. $49 (all inclusive). Get your tickets today

Herbs Invigorate Italian Cooking

“Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme . . .” are more than just familiar lyrics from Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair” – these herbs make our dishes come alive! Fresh herbs are the fundamental element of all our cooking at i Ricchi – sauces, meat, fish, salads and vegetables. Fresh is always better and growing herbs is quite easy. But in a pinch, dried herbs can be used, in different proportions of course. In Italy, fresh herbs are easily found growing wild in the fields or along stone walls. All Italian cooks have hearty rosemary and sage bushes growing at arm’s length. It also is probably safe to say almost every Italian household will have fresh basil growing in their summer garden or in a pot on their kitchen windowsill.

The absolute king and queen of Tuscan cuisine are rosemary and sage (rosmarino e salvia). It is hard to think of a classic Tuscan dish that does not have at least one of these herbs as a crucial element. Rosemary can be very powerful, so use it with restraint. It is particularly delicious used to flavor roasted and grilled meats. Oven roasted potatoes take on an Italian flavor by simply adding its needles to the roasting pan along with a few crushed cloves of garlic and some sea salt. We also use rosemary, the epitome of Tuscan taste, to flavor our homemade schiacciatta (focaccia). Sage is a more gentile herb, especially good with poultry, pork and seafood. (See a picture of our Spiedino di Mare above.) It definitely reigns supreme in our Tortelloni al Burro e Salvia. Another very easy way to impart a Tuscan flair to any pasta is to gently warm butter and fresh leaves of sage with the addition of parmesan and freshly ground pepper. Try it at our Palio Party on the Piazza, Thursday, August 16 at 7 pm in our Arrosto Senese allo Spiedo: Grilled skewers of pork loin, chicken, sausage, Tuscan croutons, bay leaf and sage. Get tickets now

Italy’s most popular herb, from north to south, is without a doubt, basil (basilico). Who among us could take a whiff of it without envisioning the joys of summer eating – tomato, mozzarella and basil (Caprese) coming first to mind. Join us during Restaurant Week, Monday-Thursday, August 13-18 to try two different types: At lunch our Casarecci Caprese – Chilled house-made extruded pasta, local tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, olives and basil or at dinner our Pappardelle Caprese: Hand-cut homemade egg pasta ribbons, local cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil pesto. Make reservations here or call (202) 835-0459. Another absolute personal favorite is Pesto alla Genovese, frequently served here as a special during the summer. Tender fresh basil leaves are blended with pine nuts, garlic, butter, olive oil and parmesan to make the most fragrant green paste. *A little secret to keeping that beautiful emerald color is NOT to heat it – simply add it to hot pasta or steamed vegetables and toss briefly.

Another mainstay of fresh, clean Italian cooking is parsley (prezzemolo). We use it by the case! I am old enough to remember when it was difficult to find Italian flat leaf parsley in grocery stores. Admitting to using that old curly version is like admitting to once owning a Princess phone. (I did and was oh so proud of it at the time.) Some Tuscan recipes call for a “soffrito” of parsley and garlic as a starter for a sauce, but many times it is best to add parsley at the very end of a preparation to maintain the crisp, grassy flavor and color.

Other fresh herbs featured on our menu include: oregano (origano): to flavor our very popular Tomato Schiacciata pictured above; thyme (timo); mint (menta); bay leaf (alloro); chive (erba cipollina); and tarragon (dragoncello). When I can get my hands on it, we even use a version of catnip (nepitella) to season our braised mushrooms.  Read more about these herbs

Indoor Italian Street Food Party

Enough with the rain already – we are tired of being forced to stay inside. The Italians would say “piove da morire” (it’s raining to death), and certainly the lack of sunshine can make us feel depressed. So . . . we’re throwing a party INSIDE this Thursday. Come to our Indoor Italian Street Food Party August 2 at 6 pm, and taste the freshness of traditional Italian ingredients as well as beloved Florentine fried favorites for just $39 (all inclusive). It might be wet outside, but I guarantee you’ll feel the warmth of the Tuscan sun in our dining room. Buy your tickets now and also enjoy a complimentary glass of frosé.

Pizza will be on the menu of course, but “al taglio” the kind that is prepared in large sheet pans covered with various toppings and sliced into large squares. Piadina Romagnola is a well-known, thin sandwich from Emilia Romagna, most notably found at the beaches of the Adriatic. It is made with soft, tart stracchino cheese, prosciutto and arugula folded into a flatbread pocket. Florence is known for its wonderful fried foods – many of which can be found in the city’s “friggitorie” fry shops. We’ll be serving samples of this Tuscan tradition including: Pollo Fritto, fried chicken; Scagliozzi, polenta chips; Bocconcini di Mozzarella, fried mozzarella; and Coccoli, Florentine fritters.

Gelato and sorbetto can be traced as far back as 3000 BC to Asian culture who flavored crushed ice. Florentine Caterina de Medici was known for having introduced gelato to the French in the 1500s when it was used as a palate cleanser between courses as well as a sweet indulgent ending to the meal. Read more We’ll be serving our own sweet lemon sorbetto. When it gets really hot in Florence, the most popular way to end an evening is to join your friends to eat ice cold cocomero – watermelon – at a stand along one of Florence’s streets.

In recent years, Italians have gone crazy for street food. There are two kinds of street food – the food that is cooked in the street, and the food that is sold in shops but consumed on the pavement. In Florence you’ll find pizzerie that weigh it and sell slabs of pizza by the slice and friggitorie that specialize in everything fried. People will crowd these storefronts and stand around, many times with a glass of local wine, and the next thing you know it’s a party.  Party with us Thursday!

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