One of the many beauties of living in Washington DC is that you have the ability to escape to different countries without leaving the city. This time we escaped to Italy with Chef Luigi Diotaiuti as our tour guide at one of his latest ventures – Aperto.
Chef Luigi starts his storytelling with his upbringing on a farm near Lagonegro, Basilicata. He tells us about the beautiful lands and how he carries this farm with him in his current culinary style and philosophy. Other than being a lively man (or as he would like to be called young man), Chef Luigi brought Italian food traditions to life and not only for tonight. He fights for saving these traditions through his own non-profit organization called Basilicata: A Way of Living to maintain the local traditions of the region while creating jobs and tourism.
Our first test of his traditions and creativity in food was the prosciutto in duck and lamb. Unfortunately I could not taste it due to dietary restrictions but Chef Luigi shared how rare it is to find proscuitto with house-cured lamb seasoned with sundried Senise peppers. I guess you, the reader, will have to tell me how it is!
I got my first Italian taste (after staring at the proscuitto) through 3 Italian pastas. Each came with a different character and ofcourse flavor. First up was the Potato Gnocchi comprised of house-made Yukon Gold potato dumplings, local-artisan crafted smoked duck sausage with fresh cherry tomato salsa.
Second (and my personal favorite) was the Laganelle. This dish features fresh, house-made pasta and hand-cut lamb ragu. The bold flavors of the lamb complemented with the warm feeling of comfort from the pasta made this my favorite winter dish. Pair it with a good drink and you will be set.
The third Italian pasta was the famous Ravioli filled with house-made burrata-stuffed pasta with thyme and ricotta salata. Having been to Italy myself and experienced the freshness of the pasta there, I was almost transported there when having taken my first bite of the Ravioli. Highly recommend ordering this dish if you are looking for a lighter pasta (the Laganelle dish is quite heavy).
For the seafood lovers we sampled two dishes: Seared Sea Scallops and Octopus. The grilled scallops came with a squid ink-infused cannellini bean puree topped with mixed field greens that is drizzled with Italian extravirgin oil. The contrast on the plate of the white scallops against the black squid ink is what first caught my attention, making me not want to ruin the presentation of this dish. But I could not resist the smell of the grilled scallops and after the first bite I could not stop myself from eating all three (even though I had to share) – sorry to the other folks!
The Grilled Octopus was paired with chickpea purée, fried parsley garlic and Senise chile pepper-infused olive oil. Upon tasting you could feel the grill on the octopus something that I am not usually a fan of but in this case the pairing of the purée and sauces brought a mixed flavor with the right reduction in the taste of the grill. For the octopus lovers out there I would recommend this delicate dish.
At Aperto you will find different styled seatings where you have the private room (very popular), semi private room with the great mural, and a cozy yet professional setting. The bar also seats 30 people which may serve as a good happy hour place especially if you work in the area (World Bank..etc). Once you fall in love with Chef Luigi’s food at Aperto, I recommend you take your partner (aka date) to Al Tiramisu which provides a very intimate setting.
Having ended the Italian tour, I leave you with the most impactful thing that Chef Luigi said that stuck with me “He knows he will die never having learnt enough”. Hearing this from such an accomplished Chef, humbled me and left me infused with his thirst of knowledge, curiosity and love for life. I hope you have the privilege of meeting Chef Luigi at either his Aperdo or Al Tiramisu restaurant and getting a dosage of his infectious spirit, and ofcourse delicious food!
You can reserve your Italian culinary experience at Aperto on OpenTable or by calling (202) 223-3600. Located at 2013 I St NW, Washington, DC 20006. Until then follow them on social media here: Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.