Old haunts are like old friends. Time may pass, but visiting them reminds you how cherished they are.
Since moving to New York three years ago, my trips back to D.C. have become less and less frequent. It’s a shame, because I love Washington. Beneath its professional veneer, it hums with culture and life, restaurants new and old, endearing establishments beneath the establishment that tends to define it.
I recently returned, to reconnect with friends, their growing families and the city itself. Some things were the same—but so much had changed. (Exhibit A: The Wharf? Wowza.) As I reacclimated to a DC I’d fallen out of touch with, I also made time to visit some old favorites.
Near the top of this list is Lavagna, the Capitol Hill restaurant where I enjoyed countless birthdays, girls’ nights, dates, and early weekend evenings pausing for a moment before a big night out.
It is the gold standard for classy comfort in the District, an Italian restaurant that has the tendency to surpass even some of the meals I’ve had in Italy. Warm and inviting, it is always buzzing with people. As a bonus, the owner, Steve, always welcomes me with a huge hug, no matter how long it’s been since my last visit. (This is definitely something you do not get in New York.)
This past weekend, I gathered a group of friends for brunch at the restaurant. It was just like old times at the infamous bottomless brunch—with the addition of a baby’s highchair at the end of our table. There was this dear friend with his husband and their new baby. There was that dear friend with her great hair and wild stories. All in a place with which I go back just as long, and where I have shared meals just like this one.
As soon as we sat down, the generous mimosas followed. We toasted to all the great memories we have at Lavagna—and settled in to make new ones, as this bottomless brunch can go for the afternoon (if you’re lucky).
If you’re not game for mimosas, the cocktail menu is robust and tastefully Italian. You can get a Venetian Spritzer or a Bellini, pinkies out, or go for a classic Bloody Mary or Eddie.
The warm welcome may not change, but the menu does. Each time you visit, it’s a fresh take on Italian classics, dependent on what’s in season. This time of year, the menu is littered with squash and pumpkin, and it makes you wish the brick wall had a working fireplace, crackling during your meal.
The brunch menu is just as creative. You can go for classic egg dishes with a twist, something truly Italian—like the spaghetti carbonara or lobster ravioli—or a nice combination of the two.
For the Benedict lovers, the eggs Florentine is the perfect option. It pairs spinach and mornay sauce with perfectly cooked sous vide eggs. But the best part is the thick, delicious square of focaccia bread the benedict sits on.
The chicken and waffles is a classic at Lavagna, and they keep evolving it. The organic fried chicken is always big and juicy, and the belgian waffle is hot and fluffy. It’s the best combination, perfected with a side of fresh fruit.
The Italian sausage gravy is the perfect winter brunch fare. The dish is hearty—scrambled eggs and a delicious spicy sausage gravy covering doughy biscuits. It may not be the prettiest dish compared to its peers, but it is certainly one of the most delicious in the winter.
There are a few omelet options on the menu, a spinach version included, and you would guess them to be the lighter option. Guess again: these omelets are thick and hearty and stuffed with delicious fresh ingredients.
And the smoked salmon omelet is a sight to behold, cooked with citrus-cured salmon, smoked gouda, spinach and pesto. You barely need the side of potatoes.
There are dessert options aplenty (tiramisu anyone?), but for brunch, definitely go with the Marscapone pancakes. What seems like an entree can actually be shared as a dessert. The pancakes are thick, sweet, and spread with chocolate hazelnut and powdered sugar.
The brunch was perfection, and the best place to catch up with friends and revel in the things that change in Washington—and the things that don’t.
The Bitches say: A. Always a classic, never fails.
539 8th St SE
Washington, DC 20003
Lavagna serves brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.