Monday, April 12, 2010

Meet Me In the Piazza

It's no secret that I love Italian food. I spent a semester of college studying in Rome, which was wonderful. The downside? It affects my opinion of Italian food in the States. Every pizza, pasta and antipasti will be compared with the pizza shop around the corner from school or the trattoria down the street from my apartment.

Luckily, some of my problems may have been solved since I just discovered Toscana Cafe, which is a mere two blocks from my apartment. Toscana is owned by Daniele Catalani who came to DC from Florence about 10 years ago. When he left his post at Il Laboratorio and chose to open his own place, he brought with him the feel and taste of a true Italian restaurant to Capitol Hill.

Toscana is located in a row house on the corner of 2nd and F St NE. It's hard to miss due to the brick that has been painted yellow and orange and the line that always seems to be spilling out the door. There is no doubt in my mind that the line is there for all the right reasons. Picnic tables line the outdoor patio and the smell of fresh pasta comes spilling out the door. If you aren't drawn in by that, I don't know what else could entice you.

You may be intrigued in by smells and sights, but what you taste will bring you back again and again. The lasagna is gooey and hot out of the oven. Ground beef peeks out from all the corners. The gnocchi is fluffy... as if Italian grandmothers made it. You really can't go wrong. Just about everything that comes out of the kitchen is homemade and tastes like it's been made with love.

The restaurant also runs a swift carry-out business. They serve up perfectly-portioned pasta for less than it would cost to sit down in the restaurant itself. There are plenty of places to sit and eat around Union Station as well, making it easier to avoid the romantic atmosphere on the patio and save some money in the process if that's not what you're looking for.


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