By Corinna Lothar
Don’t be put off by the informal appearance of Arcuri, the Italian restaurant at 2400 Wisconsin Avenue. Arcuri is a genuine Italian trattoria with some fine rustic dishes at reasonable prices. Four local friends got together to open the restaurant, which is named after partner Bryce Gerlach’s grandmother. Gerlach is a friendly, efficient manager who greets guests and makes them feel welcome.
Chef/partner Richard Jones has a way with meat. The lamb ragout with broccoli rabe and candied olives—yes, candied olives—is wonderful. Served with orechiette (little ears) pasta, the rich, flavorful ragout is balanced with the slight bitterness of the broccoli rabe, which in turn is enhanced by the sweetness of the olives that look like blueberries. A terrific dish. Equally tantalizing is paccheri (tube-like pasta) with a wild boar cacciatore served with creamy ricotta.
An unusual but excellent version of a beef stew is a Tuscan “peposo.” Tender morsels of beef are combined with porcini mushrooms and smoked cipollini onions on creamy polenta. It’s a rich, satisfying main course. Other main courses include a half roasted chicken, a wood-fired smoked pork chop, and skate.
Starters include a crisp slice of brioche with silken foie gras. It’s a delicious mouthful. Another excellent starter, and large enough to be shared, is a beet salad, topped with ricotta, pistachios, and fennel. The restaurant’s tasty meat balls, a mix of veal and pork, served in a tomato sauce, are also easily shared. Salads, steak tartare, mussels, and duck sausage round out the starters.
Arcuri also serves first-rate pizza. Made in a brick oven, the pizzas come in two sizes; even the smaller one is large enough to be shared. The crust is chewy and the toppings are classic (margarita) or out of the ordinary (broccoli rabe and fennel sausage, or Italian bacon, tomato, fontina, and potato).
From 5:30 to 7 pm nightly, an “early bird” three-course menu is available for $25 per person, not including tax and beverages. The menu changes monthly.
Arcuri has a full bar and partners with Pearson’s Wine & Spirits to offer wine selections, including $6 glasses of “house wines.” The wine and beer list offers a good selection of international wines and a dozen draft beers. The restaurant makes its own “‘cellos,” including limoncello, which reflect seasonal flavors, priced at $4 per glass.
Many of the dinner dishes are on the lunch menu, along with a variety of sandwiches. Arcuri is also open for brunch on the weekends.
Arcuri: 2400 Wisconsin Avenue NW, (202) 827-8745.
Hours: Lunch Monday to Friday, noon to 2:30 pm; dinner Sunday to Thursday, 5:30 to 10 pm; Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 11 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday, 11 am to 3:30 pm.
Prices: Starters $6.50 to $12, pastas $16 to $18, pizzas $9 to $19; main courses $14 to $24.