Some weekend mornings my brunch parties grow quickly. I wake up at 10 a.m. to a barrage of texts: “Where is brunch, Bitch?”
Other mornings I have coordinated with 10 or 15 people and then I wake up to flood of excuses: “Too hungover.” “Forgot I have to move.” “Can’t find my pants.”
You know how it is.
I’m grateful for forgiving restaurant hosts and hostesses who can accommodate my ever-fluctuating party size. I love those who do it with a great attitude. I adore those who give me a smile and a little shit for it.
When I walked into Ghibellina last Saturday, my brunch party of six had whittled down to three.
“What happened?” asked the kind host at the stand.
“Hangovers, I suspect,” I responded with a wave.
He chuckled, then directed me to the bar to wait for the remaining two. I asked for a mimosa and he winked, “Not too hungover?”
But I love it. Next to Le Diplomate and Etto, Ghibellina is the newest and nearest restaurant to my home—and it is a great local to have.
I’ve been for dinner multiple times, perched at high tables with girlfriends, sharing small plates, sipping wine, gossiping, and anticipating the night. I had high hopes that its brunch was just as enchanting as its dinner.
The restaurant is beautiful. Long and rectangular, but with a fully open front façade, where you can sit on a stool, enjoy your meal, and watch the world pass by on 14th Street.
There’s a long granite bar, and the bartenders are super friendly and accommodating. At the tail end of the space, the kitchen is open, pouring light and whisping lots of lovely smells into the restaurant.
The brunch menu was tiny, and inserted into a small box within the normal menu. We ordered coffee and cocktails. The mimosa was just fine, nothing special. But $8? Really? Where’s an Italian bottomless when you need one?
The Bloody Mary, I am devastated to report, was perhaps the worst Bloody Mary we’ve ever had in the city. We couldn’t even finish them. Also, it was $10. Painful.
We shared the challah French toast—mi scusi, the pane tostato—which was soggy toast with a few limp slices of peaches and a couple of almonds. There was a teensy bit of powdered sugar and cream, too. But overall, an overwhelming amount of syrup.
Everything on an Italian menu always sounds so sexy. I’ll take the vitello arrosto! The lombatina! But then you attempt to translate the dish name in your head and yogurt con cereali e frutta ends up simply being … yogurt, cereal and fruit. Sigh.
The ‘Grande Americana’ dish sounded particularly fancy pants in Italian, but was actually two overcooked meat patties, a dollop of scrambled eggs, some potato cubes, and toast. Rather Denny’s for such a nice Italian restaurant.
(Ghibellina has since, it seems, taken this dish off the menu. Maybe they were just giving it a try.)
Matt ordered the vegetarian brunch dish, the Uova Shakshuka. It arrived in a tiny bowl, smaller than a soup. It was spicy tomato sauce with eggs, roasted eggplant, mascarpone, and basil. Too small for brunch—too small even to share.
He was still so hungry that we ordered a margherita di bufala pizza (with an egg on it—it is brunch, after all). It came quickly in their classic style: haphazardly shaped and slightly burnt crust, straight out of the oven. Accompanying, a pair of scissors to cut through the pie.
Of course, as we suspected, the dishes we ordered from the main menu were the best on the table. The insalata Ghibellina was perfection, made with arugula, avocado, confit. But I’ve had that at dinner, too.
The regular menu is small plates—for sharing (I am so sick of small plates). But the brunch menu, our server informed us, has dishes large enough that you won’t need to share. Not true, we found. We were left a bit hungry yet broke from the price tags.
After brunch we wandered around the Mid City Dog Days Sale, ending up at Local 16 for bottomless mimosas. Two brunches in one day? Why not. The first one didn’t offer enough.
The Bitches say: D+ Ghibellina, I am a devout regular for dinner. But your brunch needs a lot of work.
1610 14th St. N.W.
Ghibellina serves brunch Saturday and Sunday.