The revitalized Barracks Row is getting all the credit for good food in Eastern Market, but in a grid more commonly known for the weekend farmer's market, the understated Acqua al 2 (217 7th St. S.E.) makes a strong case for best new Eastern Market restaurant.
The spot's already won a Hilly Award for Restaurant of the Year, as well as the Diner's Choice Winner on OpenTable.com. An outgrowth of the original Acqua al 2 in San Diego, this East Coast sibling captures the essential spirit of Florence, Italy.
Decorated in the earthern warmth of rich colors and dark woods, the venue never feels claustrophobic.
From the Primi Piatti section of the menu, we ordered the Cannelloni Ricotta e Spinaci. Spinach and fresh ricotta were rolled in fresh pasta (made in-house daily) and then baked in a bowl of tomato sauce topped with béchamel and parmesan cheese. The almost-searing heat of this pasta dish didn't soften the pasta to the point of limpness. Everything stayed together, even when we moved a heaping spoonful into a side plate. A new favorite.
Acqua al 2 is more particularly known for their steaks, so off the Secondi I got the Tagliata alla Robespierre. Grilled sliced New York Strip -- served on a bed of arugula topped with olive oil, rosemary and peppercorn -- arrived to a medium-rare perfection.
(As an aside: If you are ever at a restaurant that specializes in steak, order it cooked to the chef's recommendations because no matter what you think you like about a steak, the chef knows better. We promise.)
A friend ordered the Filetto al Mirtillo and with one taste, my tastebuds went mad with jealously. As good as the New York Strip was, the hand-carved filet mignon topped with blueberry sauce was the better choice. The sauce gelled with the richness of melted chocolate.
We're going back for another, as well as to try the dessert menu which we were too full to even attempt.
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