Ghibellina, 14UP

(See the March 12, 2014, Review here.)

I had a friend in town, and went to Ghibellina to try their world-beating pizza, perhaps the best in all of Washington, DC right now.

After waiting for awhile, she had a San Pellegrino Grapefruit Soda (*) while I had a Frizzante ($12), Via dei Milleri Prosecco, Damrak gin, fresh strawberry, simple syrup, and lemon, and by the time we were halfway finished we got a seat at the bar.

As it turned out, we didn’t test the kitchen on this evening. Mark Kuller once told me, “If you don’t make good charcuterie, it’s much better to source it well,” and this was the case at Ghibellina.

We started out with the full monty: Varietá di Salumi Artigialani ($24), a plate loaded with the entire assortment: culatello, finocchiona, salami toscano, salsicce cinghiale, and the lone house-made item: fegatini which was also the best item on the plate.

“I could stop eating right now,” I said when we were finished.

But we’d already ordered Antipasto d’Estate (for two) ($24), Burrata cheese, balsamic-roasted cippolini onions, marinated rapini, sweet peas mash, and some unannounced button mushrooms. While the charcuterie was well-sourced, this dish was flawed, under-seasoned, under-salted, and lacking punch. Every single item was bland, and essentially, a “Burrata for one” was stretched into a “Burrata for two” due to all the condiments - which added about $10 to the price.

We saw the pizzas coming out, looking on covetously, knowing we could have ordered better. But, you still have to try different things in a restaurant, and on this evening, we had a good time, but only a decent meal that scarcely tested the kitchen with its talented chef, Jonathan Copeland. While Ghibellina didn’t lose any ground in the Dining Guide, we probably ordered some of the least rewarding things on the menu here.

We returned a week later, hoping to get at some of that terrific pizza, but ended up putting our names on a list, and subsequently found a table at Etto (so we called and removed our names – a shame because I really wanted that tremendous pizza again).

While this is technically a “review” of our meal, it’s really not. I know what Chef Copeland is capable of here, and it’s a whole lot greater than purchased culatello, as good as it was.

(*) It says something about me – I’m not sure what – that it gnaws at the inner depths of my core that I can’t remember how much the San Pellegrino cost.

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