I had been dreaming about the Proscuitto San Daniele at La Tomate since brunch. This may sound odd, but when you write about food you find you also dream about it. No, this is not a joke or an editorialization. My dream was not merely about prosciutto, but love, scandal, success, and prosciutto—all things necessary for a really good fantasy. I digress.
I had been angling toward a return visit to La Tomate since this glorious brunch—and Sunday evening provided the opportunity. I had enjoyed a successful afternoon of exercise and spa treatments at Haven on the Lake with my friend Emily, then we headed off to dinner to recharge. With wine and carbs, of course.
We began by ordering wine by the glass: Pinot Noir for Em and a Barbera for me. I love Barbera with Italian, but Emily was less impressed by her Pinot Noir. The wines by the glass at La Tomate are affordable, and we enjoyed the Malbec (our second glass) far more.
Shortly thereafter, we received La Tomate’s bread basket, which is impeccable. The complimentary carbs at this Italian restaurant hit the spot: fresh, hot, traditional and satisfying chunks of white French bread. You soak it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar on your side plate, as one does when dining Italian. Why change a good thing?
As I had recently dined with someone who doesn’t like olives, I inquired after Em’s with trepidation. “Love olives!” she replied. Thank goodness, as the best way to begin a meal is with olives, fresh baked bread, wine, and a solid debrief with a good friend.
The mixed olives at La Tomate are my three favorite kinds: Cerignola from Italy, Picholine from France, and Kalamata from Greece.
As we Bitches often do, Emily ordered a couple of appetizer in lieu of an entrée. She selected the Eggplant Timballo, a popular menu item, we were told. The eggplant was a perfect dish for someone like Emily who loves fresh, healthy foods that don’t feel like punishment. The dish was almost like a mini eggplant Parmesan and layered with sweet red sauce, Mozzarella, and eggplant.
There are a few tempting salad options, and Emily went for the arugula, fennel, mushroom, and orange salad, which also had shallots, honey, and a citrus vinaigrette. It was a refreshing dish, and the flavors of pepper, arugula, and citrus played well together.
For my entrée, I ordered the Branzino, served atop thinly sliced potatoes and topped with a tomato, olive and garlic tapenade. It was delectable. While the fish was perfect—fresh, buttery, moist—the sauce made the dish. It was a well-executed Italian entree.
One of the things I find so charming about La Tomate is that it is truly a family owned and run establishment. Natalina, a lovely Italian woman, owns the restaurant—and by the looks of it she treats her staff like family. When she’s not present, the manager, Richard, runs the show with charm, poise, and a warm smile. Both of them make the dining experience more pleasant and more memorable.
The bistro recently opened an adjoining café, which serves breakfast and lunch items to go starting at 8:30 a.m. I have yet to go—but it seems like an awesome addition to the commuters from North Dupont.
If you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day dinner locale, La Tomate is serving A Color of Love themed dinner—a three-course meal that sounds delectable. For the entrée, you can choose from the Rigatoni with boar ragu, roasted veal, the fresh-bajed royal dorade, or the vegetarian erbazzone (a pastry with cheese, swiss chard, and onion). The meal is priced at an affordable $40, with a $25 option for college students with a valid ID.
La Tomate Bistro & Café
1701 Connecticut Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20009