You could have knocked me over with a feather.
After an excellent meal at Ghibellina, I was strongly swayed that there may be a new king of the 14th Street Shuffle (theÂ Dining GuideÂ Shuffle, that is). Further proof that DC’s Italian Renaissance is in full-swing. People are talking about this-and-that neighborhood, but the biggest change in DC’s dining scene of late has been the explosion of high-quality, moderately upscale Italian restaurants.
And Lupo Verde, at least downstairs at the bar, positively screams Italian.
If you’ve never had a Na Biretta beer, get one, and if you like a lot of malt, get theÂ Na Biretta RossaÂ ($9) – this is like Moretti La Rossa, but better, and on steroids. Excellent quality, and a very cool-looking bottle to boot. I would get this again in a heartbeat, but there are four Na Birettas on the menu, and I’m eager to try the other three.
It took forever for me to get my appetizer, probably close to half an hour, but when it arrived, I knew what took so long: I cannot imagine the labor that went into theÂ Torta di CozzeÂ ($9), and they’ve got boulder-sizedÂ testicoliÂ offering this on a 14th-Street menu. Nominally a “Mussels Cake,” this was an incredibly elegant little plate of warm, shelled mussels, sandwiched between two small wafers, with a half-melted scoop of Burrata, a little Parmigiano, and a drizzle of leek sauce. While not a large dish, and perhaps more delightful than delicious, this was not a nine-dollar plate of food; get it now, or pay more later – assuming it can possibly remain on the menu.
Lupo Verde has a nice little wines by the glass list, but I went straight for the house white:Â Pinot Grigio on TapÂ ($8) from Piemonte, and it was a solid (not perfect, but solid) match with the Torta di Cozze – ideally, you’d want something a bit fuller bodied and bone dry.
I recently had a very good spaghetti carbonara at Rose’s Luxury, so I thought I’d try Lupo Verde’sÂ CarbonaraÂ ($14) to compare – there was no comparison. Lupo Verde’s is made with homemade paccheri, guanciale, eggs, and Pecorino(-Romano?), and the paccheri is a wonderful vehicle for this classic Roman dish. This was, without question, the finest carbonara I have ever eaten. Like the Mussels Cake, it was a fairly small portion, but it was also a fairly small price – my server came down and almost apologized that the dish, served in a metal bowl, is presented merely warm, not steaming hot, because “that’s the way they eat it in Italy,” he said. Maybe, but the dish was plenty hot enough for me, and I was entranced by its execution.
Lupo Verde’s house red is also from Piemonte:Â Sangiovese on TapÂ ($8), and while this was a perfectly nice wine, especially for the price, I would counsel having it with a less-delicate, perhaps tomato-based dish, or charcuterie, and I would again recommend a full-bodied, bone-dry white with the Carbonara.
Although I was getting somewhat full, I knew I hadn’t eaten very much – these were not large courses – and since it was early, I knew I’d be wanting something later. So I got a plate ofÂ Three CheesesÂ ($13) to go which came with slices of bread, walnuts, and apricots. I apologize for failing to note the cheeses, but if you’d like, you can piece the order together yourselves: Lupo Verde is currently offering a total of four DOP (Denominazione Origine Protetta) cheeses, and I got the three that weren’t Castelmagno. That was about the most non-helpful thing I’ve ever written, but the portions were fair, and although the cheeses are stored in plastic wrap, they were in perfect shape (on a similar note, my beer had gone several months past its expiration date, but it, too, was in perfect shape).
It is important to recognize that I have now tried only two cooked courses at Lupo Verde, and I am not reviewing the restaurant; I am reviewing the individual meal. And I’m going to come right out and say that these were the two most refined dishes I can ever remember having on 14th Street. Needless to say, coverage is initiated, strongly, inÂ Italic, and Lupo Verde, based on this one meal, is a legitimate contender for the 14th-Street crown.
Yeah, you could have knocked me over with a feather.