For those of us who work constantly─by the way, when did that happen?─it’s always nice when you can mix business and pleasure. This is far easier with Bitches work (read: brunch, parties, reviews) than the day job.
Nowadays, my Bitches contacts─writers, foodies, publicists─are also my friends. Such is the case with Lindley, a lovely blonde born and raised in the D.C. area who does PR for Heather Freeman. Lindley and I see each other regularly at events, parties, and charity functions, but rarely get to catch up one-on-one.
Last Sunday, we finally had the opportunity to chat like normal, sane, calm people─rather than frazzled event people─over brunch at Al Dente. Al Dente is located up in the beautiful tree-lined residential area north of the city on New Mexico Ave. I believe the neighborhood lies somewhere between Glover Park and Tenleytown. But, I’m directionally challenged and rely on Uber drivers so don’t trust me on that one.
Like the neighborhood, Al Dente is calm, peaceful, and relaxing. There’s a huge outdoor patio lined with tables. It’s all shaded by enormous orange patio umbrellas.
The inside decor seems a little off, for the style of restaurant, but in a fun way. There is a bar in the center and a wood-burning pizza oven behind it. The decor is feminine and funky─ritzy sparkly chandeliers hang from the ceiling, black and white damask wallpaper lines the walls, and hints of orange are scattered across the restaurant.
Lindley and I sat next to the floor-to-ceiling window on this particularly bright fall Sunday. Our server was friendly and prompt. We began with cocktails─a Bellini for her and an innovative Italian take on a mimosa for me.
Typically, I’ve been unimpressed with the brunch offerings at Italian places─Dino and Aqua al Due are key examples of this phenomenon. However, Lavagna is a rare, delicious, exception. It makes sense: Italians don’t brunch. But Washingtonians certainly do, so Italian restaurants in the District do their best to follow suit.
Al Dente has a thorough brunch menu including a $19.95 prix fixe that includes soup or salad, entree or egg dish, plus juice, Bloody Mary, or mimosa. We began with the poached eggs in fontina cheese, breaded and fried, served over polenta with a roasted onion cream sauce. This dish was a really exceptional taste on eggs, it was creamy, flavorful, comforting and delicious. I’m weird about eggs, but this plate was really well done.
Next up, a mushroom, Parmesan, onion frittata, which was enormous and presented in a cast iron dish. It was perfectly cooked, fluffy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and filled with enormous wild mushrooms, one of my favorite veggies (veggie, funghi, fun-guy, whatever).
Lindley had the house-made sausage, which she said was delicious. It was served with crispy potato home fries, which I really enjoyed.
As Al Dente is known for its pasta, we simply had to sample it (rough life). We opted for the signature smoked fettuccini carbonara, which is made with egg yolks, pecorino, pancetta and black pepper. The dish arrives with a hood atop the plate, and when it is removed, smoke rises from the pasta dish. The taste was, of course, smokey, and also very rich, due to the Pecorino. A really exceptional pasta dish.
Saving the best for last, the Italian churros are worth the trip. On the menu, they are described as fried pizza dough rolled in sugar and served with honey and chocolate dipping sauces. These Italian churros were crispy, piping hot and covered in sugar. Just really damn good. Moreover this “side” dish is enormous, plenty to share, and Lindley brought home leftovers to her very lucky boyfriend.
The Bitches say: A. Al Dente’s cuisine is fresh, well-prepared and delicious. There are plenty of options, and it’s a family friendly establishment. The prix fixe is a great deal, too.
3201 New Mexico Ave. N.W.
Al Dente serves brunch Saturdays and Sundays.