Monday, July 8, 2013


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Last week, we celebrated our friend Abby's birthday over drinks and noshes at new 14th Street hotspot, Ghibellina.  From the same people behind       Acqua al 2 in Eastern Market, Ghibellina adds another Italian eatery to the booming 14th Street restaurant scene.  The interior is absolutely meticulous.  Olive oil bottles line the wall close to the ceiling. There are intimate booths tucked along the wall and more traditional dining tables provide unique seating options. Also, the kitchen at the back of the restaurant is open, which allows diners to watch as their food is prepared.  

When we arrived at the restaurant, it was super crowded but we were lucky enough to snag some seats at the bar.  The bartender was very attentive and quickly grabbed our wine, prosecco, and an off-menu St. Germain cocktail.  All were stellar.  My only quip with the bar was the seats.  The stools were immobile, and were way too far from the counter top.  It made for really awkward leaning!  If I had been eating food there, I probably would have ended up with more on lap than in my mouth!  Luckily the whole bar does not feature these stools--the others were mobile stools with backs.  Make sure you choose those if you can!

We managed to sample a few of the offerings from Ghibellina's expansive menu.  It features small plates of pastas and various meats and fish, pizzas, and salads.  Abby and our friend Jackie decided to share the Salsicce e Cipolla Pizza (sausage with wood-roasted onions).  They were both extremely pleased with the thin crust pizza.  Abby usually adds red pepper flakes to everything, but said this pizza presented the perfect amount of spice.  Jackie thought that it combined the right amount of heat and tanginess!  

Liz and our other friend Casey decided to try the Bianca Pizza, which was topped with rapini, mozarella, garlic, calabrian chilies, pecorino romano, and fennel seeds. Liz and Casey both thought the pizza was absolutely delicious. Liz was so excited to finally have a thin-crust pizza option in the neighborhood! 

I  sampled this pizza and, as a self-dubbed pizza connoisseur, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. The flavor was spot on; the cheese combined with the garlic, chilies and veggies was quite literally a pizza party in my mouth.  The thin crust was also cooked perfectly--not too crunchy and not too soft.  The crust also had the perfect amount of char around the edges.  

We also decided to try something a bit more unique and sampled a carpacchio of octopus. Although carpaccio is usually raw, the octopus was boiled and served chilled in very thin slices on a plate with garbanzo beans, fried capers, and oil with paprika. The octopus was so tender that it practically melted in your mouth.  Combined with the garbanzo and amazing fried capers (who knew how good this was?!) the perfect combination of acidity and neutral flavors were mixed. 

The last dish we tried was dessert for the birthday girl.  We decided on the strawberry tart with mascarpone ice cream.  The pastry tart was flaky and light. I could have eaten 10 of these desserts on my own!  Strawberries and mascarpone ice cream, I must say, is a fantastic dessert combination.  The mascarpone ice cream was like an elevated whipped cream.  I liken this dish to strawberry shortcake for adults.  Way more mature.

Ghibellina is a much welcomed addition to the neighborhood.  It provides a unique option for Italian dining, and from what we tried, perfectly hit the mark.  

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