Best Italian

Ristorante Tosca
1112 F St. NW; (202) 367-1990
Whether due to economy or consumer appetite, the District is awash with Italian restaurants, some average (Posto), some above average (Potenza), some quite good (Bibiana), and some borderline excellent (Siroc). But none of these newish establishments can compete with owner Paolo Sacco’s nearly 10-year-old Ristorante Tosca, where chef Massimo Fabbri squeezes every ounce of flavor from his admittedly pricy plates. It could be his turbot in “thyme crust,” a simple pan-roasted piece of fish in broth surrounded with a variety of vegetables, each cooked with a different method (braised fennel, roasted cauliflower, etc.) to provide subtle accents to the turbot’s clean, fresh flavors. Or it could be his supple house-made pasta, so fresh the tortelli or carrot pappardelle practically melts on your tongue. To my mind, Fabbri’s cooking isn’t as adventurous as former Teatro Goldoni chef Enzo Fargione’s, nor is it as straight-up rustic as Peter Pastan’s at Obelisk. Instead, Fabbri seemingly strikes a balance between the two, finding subtle new ways to express himself within the classical confines of Italian cooking. This is a genius all its own.

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