In the newly redone restaurant space in the Hamilton Hotel downtown, you’ll find some of the best, elevated Southern Italian osteria dining in the DMV. At Via Sophia and Society (the restaurant and its accompanying cocktail bar), you’ll find full menus for breakfast all the way through dinner and weekend brunch. They’ve even got a semi-traditional Italian “aperitivo” with small bites and pizzas available in the afternoons. We were able to stop by and sample a few items off the dinner menu, and we look forward to returning to try everything we missed.
We had a reservation for a Sunday night, and we arrived to find a buzzing, but not packed, restaurant. The new space is beautiful, with a bold yet neutrally-colored interior, combining tasteful touches of Italian art and a prevalent, wood-burning pizza oven. The service was friendly and attentive, and at least our server (although he was from Albania) spoke wonderful Italian – really enhancing the authentic experience.
We clearly couldn’t wait to dive into our pizza as soon as it arrived. There aren’t too many pizzas on the menu, but that doesn’t make the choice of which to get any easier. We went with the fra diavolo (Italian for among the devil, alluding to its spice) which is a traditional red sauce pizza topped with salame picante, Fresco chilies, red onion, bufala mozzarella, and San Marzano tomatoes. It was the perfect amount of heat with an incredible combination of flavors. The crust was thin and crispy without being too dry. This is one of those pizzas you could eat everyday if diabetes weren’t a thing.
We continued our stroll down Via Sophia with their rabbit ragu pappardelle. At least when we had it, it was also filled with ramps along with pecorino and Castelvetrano olives. The pasta was perfectly cooked. The rabbit ragu was rich but not overwhelming. And the ramps gave it that extra little punch to top it off. I’m really hoping this stays on the menu in one form or another even after ramps season is over.
Despite already being quite full from our first three courses, we found the courage within to press on and order the tagliata di manzo. Via Sophia cooks it to order (we went with medium rare) and pairs it with charred spring onion, confit cherry tomatoes, a balsamic reduction, arugula, and a Barolo jus (!!!). My first take was that I now want this Barolo jus on everything I eat. My second take was that this steak was just about as close to perfect as it could be. Light crust on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside, made slightly sweet by the balsamic reduction. The meal would have been good if we hadn’t gotten this far down the menu, but it was made so much better since we did.
Last but not least, upon the recommendation of our waiter, we ordered the olive oil cake for the grand finale. The cake was thick and moist with just the right amount of sweetness. It was paired with a lemon curd, some mixed berries, and little sweet nut clusters, then topped with homemade whipped cream and a sprig of mint. Despite the seemingly “healthy” components of this dish, it is a heavy dessert. But don’t miss it. Just bring friends to help you eat it.
All in all, Via Sophia is a welcome addition to the Downtown dining scene. There’s a covered outdoor space, and the bar was slinging some impressive drinks. That space has had some past issues, but here’s hoping this one can stick around a while.