People choose where to dine for a variety of reasons, and sometimes convenience tops the list. I select Floriana, the Italian restaurant near DC’s Dupont Circle, as the location for a pre-theater dinner. Since my friends have come to expect carefully curated restaurants when they dine with me, I feel the need to issue a qualifier in advance. Floriana is not one of DC’s buzzed about restaurants, I tell them. But we should expect good food, reasonable prices, and an intimate and pleasant environment. It’s also a brief walk to Theater J at the DCJCC. Since it’s February, proximity to our destination is an important factor.
What we get at Floriana is a mixed bag. Pleasing environment: check. The restaurant, in a converted rowhouse, feels like you are dining in someone’s cozy home. Reasonable prices: check. Pasta entrees are all in the low $20’s, and meat and fish in the mid-$20’s. Only filet mignon tops the scale at $33, which is still a bargain.
The food? Here’s where inconsistency takes the reigns. We are off to a solid start, with warm bread accompanied by savory pesto. Most of our party of eight begin the meal with salads, which are uniformly fresh and satisfying.
I enjoy generously portioned goat cheese agnolotti with shrimp, baby zucchini, and tomato. The dish lacks depth, but fulfills my desire for a hearty plate of pasta.
Two of my friends are positively bursting with enthusiasm over pan-seared trout with acorn squash, cipollini onion, brussel sprouts, and mustard vinaigrette. One says it is cooked to perfection, and tops her list of favorite fish dishes.
Zucca, a pasta dish with roasted butternut squash, hazelnuts, brown butter, and sage, is a disappointment. My friend is immediately taken aback by the pungent taste. She’s surprised to find blue cheese as an ingredient, since it’s not included on the menu description. I find the taste off-putting, with the blue cheese bordering on rancid, and overwhelming any of the other flavors..
The dessert course takes the meal into a real nosedive. Cannoli filled with pumpkin is so unappetizing that my friend flags down the manager before the dessert makes its way down the table. He informs us that he has already requested its removal from the menu. The filling tastes like its come straight out of a can, and begs for more sugar. Apple pie with ice cream is slightly better, but it’s a low bar after the cannoli.
Floriana has positive attributes, and I may return to check out the fish dish that garnered such high praise. But ultimately, there needs to be more balance between the highs and lows in the food. A restaurant without checks and balances runs the risk of being vetoed.
Floriana, 1602 17th Street, NW, Washington, DC