Best Coast

BY Nevin Martell | December 1, 2016 | Feature Features

The great Michael Schlow delivers one from the (Italian) heart with Casolare.
The magnificent fedelini, which includes clams, garlic and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes

"Italian food is my first love—other than my wife,” jokes Michael Schlow, the James Beard Award-winning chef behind Casolare, a stunning trattoria located inside the recently opened Kimpton Glover Park Hotel. The 156-seat restaurant was designed by the Edit Lab team at Streetsense, who outdid themselves to create an authentic atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place in Portofino. Dark wood rafters contrast with sandy-toned tables and sage booths lit by teardrop fixtures. Stretches of marigold walls display abstract artworks from Schlow’s wife, Adrienne. Hand-painted tiles—rich with blues, yellows and reds—cover the walls to chest height, while brown rectangular tiling zigzags across the floors.

Casolare marks the fifth restaurant in Schlow’s hit-packed DC portfolio, which includes Tico on 14th Street, The Riggsby on Dupont Circle, and Conosci and Alta Strada in Mount Vernon Triangle. His new spot is another Italian concept, but it focuses on the fare of the Tuscany, Piedmont and Emilia-Romagna regions. Schlow wisely tapped Philippe Reininger, who has led The Ritz-Carlton culinary teams from Boston to Barcelona, as the executive chef.

Taking its name from the Italian word for a small cottage to convey a warmth and hospitality, Casolare is the chef’s heartfelt homage to the culinary traditions of the country’s coastal regions. Thin-crust pizzas are sublime here. Pull a slice from the bubble-spotted, glistening gold rounds, and you’ll be rewarded with a crackle when you fold it; though the crispy triangles still possess a little chew. Tomato sauce is practically painted on the Marinara, which is finished with translucent, razor-thin slices of garlic, while the Bianca gets an assist from rosemary and red pepper.

All the pastas are housemade with the exception of the fedelini, a thinner spaghetti featured in joyful jumble of clams, garlic and oven-roasted cherry tomatoes. Orecchiette is cold-weather fare, covered in garlicky and buttery breadcrumbs, small cauliflower florets and gooey strands of Grana. Wavy drapes of maltagliati hide shredded crab and plenty of scallions to create a dish that tastes simultaneously light and luxurious. Schlow gives credit to Mama Zecca—the cook in Avellino, Italy, who taught him the recipe—for the eggplant Parmesan appetizer: a trio of tiny towers standing tall in a sea of basil flecked tomato sauce.

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