The most exciting new restaurants are ones that come from restaurant groups we already know and adore. Altamarea Group opened Nicoletta, an Italian kitchen mimicking an original pizza-pasta joint in NY. The spot has an adjacent coffee shop – “Brew’d” – boasting minimalist design, intense espresso, and some specialty pastry items. Nicoletta is serving up a brunch deal that’s $25 for two cocktails, an appetizer, and an entree. It’s hard to find such a reasonable prix fixe that includes multiple courses and cocktails, so we came to assess the situation.
The space is well put together with an industrial-style interior. The building the restaurant resides in is one of the newly built contemporary office-like spaces, so the team did an excellent job making the open format feel warm and inviting. The entrance isn’t as loud as many other big restaurants. Seating arrangements permit intimate dates or large groups – perfect for enjoying the food and drink in comfort and style. Nicoletta is around the corner from a lot of the happenings in the area between Mount Vernon Triangle and Chinatown. Though it feels slightly ghostly immediately around the restaurant’s entrance, it’s actually incredibly close to shopping, bars, and public transportation.
It’s a no-brainer to begin brunch with the staff-suggested bloody Mary and mimosa. We also tried a specialty cocktail: the “artful dodger.” The Bloody was delicious and fitting for an Italian brunch. The drink resembled spiked pizza sauce, but we were pretty happy about it. It was adorned with a mozzarella ball and a lime wedge. We give kudos for the extra bite-sized snack, but the extra acid from a lime tasted like it was competing with the tomato. The mimosa was just how we like it: opaque from the orange juice and mostly bubbled by an extra dry sparkling wine. The artful dodger cocktail was refreshing and interestingly sour thanks to a variety of citrus fruits. It was a light cocktail that could definitely wash down the carb-loaded brunch.
To start, we ordered burrata and prosciutto, frito misto, and calabrese wings. The prosciutto and mozzarella is a really incredible addition to this meal. The portion was ample, the meat was silky and smokey, and the burrata was slightly cured, creamy, and even a tad nutty. You could make your ideal antipasti with the slices of bread that were essentially freeform pieces of charred pizza dough. The cheese came topped with a few roasted tomatoes and they only upset us because there were too few and we longed for more.
Frito misto is a hearty dish of assorted fried veggies with spicy aioli for dipping. We like this take on contorni; it’s easy to share, goes well with booze, and is a promising way to incorporate some veg into our morning meal, right?
The wings didn’t fit the vibe here. The sauce was fantastic, and we appreciated the fact they weren’t fried. But shredded bits of parmesean seemed forced. If you love wings and love cheese, you will love this, but we think you can find a better value with Nicoletta’s Italian-centric fare.
Signature Nicoletta masterpieces include classic breakfast and lunch options like the egg sandwich, waffle, and brunch pizza – and their best-selling calabrese pizza, tagliatelle, and carbonara. After careful deliberation, we recommend ordering from both sections and splitting a few things. This was our strategy and some dishes were a hit, while others a miss.
Definitely order the waffle, tagliatelle, and calabrese pizza. The waffles were simple, but aptly sweetened and not overly decadent. The waffle was served with fresh berries and cream–we always appreciate a bit of seasonal produce.
The perfectly al dente spinach tagliatelle came with a saucy pork ragu and a dollop of ricotta. Nicely seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper, this pasta dish was delicious and very much worth having for breakfast.
The calabrese pizza was awesome. Those D.C. natives who love Ledo’s pizza would probably die for this one because of its sweet, tomato sauce-forward qualities. This pie was everything that’s good about a deep-dish pizza, but with an extra thin, crispy crust. The toppings were ample and create that shameless situation where you’re too full to grab for another slice, but can’t stop picking off the little pepperoni bits. The breakfast pizza was good too, but was slightly dry and simply couldn’t hold its own against the calabrese.
We were pretty excited about the carbonara, but we ended up feeling underwhelmed. The smokey, creamy qualities of bright yellow egg noodles were spot on, but there was an overcooked egg buried within the nest of spaghetti with a surprise puddle of pesto. It would appear that the best option would be to mix it all together, but after doing so, there was too much going on.
For dessert, we tasted a cheesecake, vanilla soft serve, and olive oil cake. The cheesecake was slightly too kitschy and over-the-top with chocolate pearls and pretzels scattered across the plate, but the soft serve and olive oil cake were both wins. The soft serve was light, simple, and had no frills except for some scattered cake pieces. The olive oil cake was moist, lemony, and a truly perfect Italian finish for this type of meal.
The Bitches say: four Champagne flutes.
Nicoletta is great, casual Italian restaurant where the brunch price is right.
Nicoletta serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.