Do you remember The Guards? Anyone who has ever hung out in Georgetown—or ventured there once or twice—likely knows of The Guards, the M street bar known for preppy debauchery.
I feel like every time you mention The Guards in Georgetown, some bro launches into a story about this “one wild time” that he’ll “never forget, man.” Honestly, try mentioning the Guards and see if I’m not correct.
The new restaurant, Rialto, could not be more different than preppy predescessor. The Italian restaurant is all gilded and glam, with mirrors and fireplaces and a baroque, Venetian Renaissance theme. It’s the perfect place for a masquerade party or Mardi-gras-themed dinner. In fact, the basement would be fabulous for a bourgeoise, burlesque, and Bitch party brunch. Just sayin’.
When I arrived at brunch, I walked in the door and was surprised that the fancy-pants decor looked lovely during the day. There were two jazz musicians seated in front of the sunny window playing lovely, calming music that was enjoyable without being distracting. There is a long bar with leather tufted stools that would be quite cozy for happy hour. Across from the bar is a tiled open-air kitchen with enormous brick ovens used for baking the Italian restaurant’s bread and pizza selections.
Typically, Italian restaurants only offer a few items at brunch, but Rialto’s gigantic brunch menu provides a slew of choices. There are savory crepes, served with arugula salads, and sweet crepes, served with fruit. You can order several pastas, or pizzas, or hot small plates, like calamari, fried polenta, or the meatballs, which I’m told are quite yummy. There are also eggs, omelets, Bennys, and hearty entrees like the polenta and shrimp, i.e. the Italian take on shrimp n’ grits.
While Rialto does not offer a bottomless option, the cocktail selection is stellar and, at six dollars a pop, you can rationalize your way into ordering a second, and perhaps a third. I immediately decided upon the Rialto Spritz, as this light, fizzy cocktail is made with prosecco, grapefruit, and Aperol. It did the trick perfectly.
Cher had a limoncello cocktail—prosecco, limoncello, and lime juice—as well as a San Marco, Rialto’s mimosa with prosecco, Charbay blood orange vodka, and orange juice.
When dining at an Italian restaurant, I find it impossible to turn down the gnocchi. The gnocchi at Rialto is served in the traditional style: house-made, enormous, fluffy balls of potato pasta covered in a light, flavorful marinara.
For my entrée, I chose the Georgetown, which consisted of poached eggs and asparagus perched atop fried polenta patties and topped with Hollandaise. As a regular bruncher, I appreciated the variation from a traditional English muffin, and loved that it stayed true to the Italian cuisine. The eggs were poached correctly, the asparagus was properly cooked, and the Hollandaise was light and flavorful.
If I’m honest, my favorite thing about Rialto was the side of Caesar salad. Again, Rialto’s take on a classic Italian dish was classic. Romaine lettuce, lightly coated in creamy Caesar dressing, sprinkled with Parmesan and topped with croutons. At first, I was merely appreciative that the dressing wasn’t excessive. Then, I realized the croutons were fried Polenta rather than bread—and they were delicious. Seriously rocked my world. I was so excited about this Caesar and I’m not even embarrassed.
For her entrée, Cher selected the Rialto omelet, which was filled with shrimp, roasted tomatoes, and mascarpone. The omelet was enormous, light, and filling. It was served with a Caesar side salad, which Cher also enjoyed, but with a little less obvious enthusiasm than yours truly.
Keeping with the traditional Italian theme, we opted for tiramisu for dessert. However, I quickly noticed the menu featured fried Zeppoli, otherwise known as Italian for doughnuts. And, if you know anything about being a Bitch, you know doughnuts are mandatory. The tiramisu was incredibly thick, and was far too reminiscent of tiramisu from a cafeteria or an Olive Garden.
The Zeppoli were a bit too greasy and deeply fried, but yet somehow still pretty good. They were covered in powdered sugar, and soon so was I. It’s hard to temper my enthusiasm about anything, much less brunch and dessert.
The Bitches say: B-. The food at Rialto is satisfactory, but not remarkable. The baroque decor and upscale ambiance is great for a gals brunch and the jazz as quite good.
2915 M St. N.W.
Rialto serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.