Was in DC for a NSF meeting (Saturday-Monday) staying at the Washington Marriott (22nd and M). Had arranged for a prix fixe dinner at the nearby I Ricchi - awarded the "Insegna Del Ristorante Italiano" by the Italian President some time back. Had tried Laboratorio, but its 12 course tasting menu was astronomically priced - so was out of reach.
The room is very inviting and warm. The cheese bread was good, but you cannot munch too much of it or else will lose your appetite. The other bread on offer was too chewy for my taste.
They had prepared a 3-course meal with a special printed menu and an absolute charmer of an Italian waiter.
The first course was warmed mixed greens with goat cheese and a house dressing - this was good, but unremarkable.
The entree had 5 choices - I had the first item - which were 3 medallions of meat wrapped around various fillings - veal, lamb and chicken. The lamb medallion was not great (too dry and lacked flavor), but the others were decent. It was served with polenta and some vegetable which I cannot recall through the wine-induced fog of memory. Amongst the 5 of us, 3 chose this. The other two chose the wood fire grilled salmon on a plank - I think it was good without being remarkable. (One was from Microsoft in Redmonds WA, used to good quality fresh salmon - I noticed he left portions of it uneaten). He had initially wanted to try the brick pressed chicken - but "chickened out" when he learnt it was the whole birdie!
The dessert was 3 scoops of gelati or ice-cream - I had the chocolate gelati - had better gelati in Vancouver BC, last year during our summer trip.
At fixed prices, with tax and gratuity, it came to $60/person.
The wine was something else. Since we could not charge the wine to our official account, it was good that one of us had an expense account that could pay for it. Two others in our party were wine connoisseurs - one with a 900 bottle collection and another with a 400 bottle cellar. So we were happy to let them chose (and salivate over the wine list). They chose a perfect bottle of Amarone della Valpolicella - a dry red wine made from multiple grapes - Corvina Veronese, Rondinella, and Molinara. The grapes are rack dried, making the sugar content a little higher - but these are rich meaty wines and need the food to be just as strong to uphold the balance - perfect for once-a-year feasts. It was an incredible wine - sorry I don't remember the name - but was an amazing taste sensation for a palate not that discriminating (as the two that ordered). It was somewhat expensive, so we followed that up with a less expensive Chianti. I was told by the pair who knew, that their wine list was "impressive".
There were several tables which seemed to hold "power diners" - one I recognized from the TV - but could not place him. Chef Christina Ricci came out and gladhandled our adjacent table. It was enough of a spectacle to add a warm glow to our dinner!
The next night with a different group I had an unremarkable meal at Palm - across from I Ricchi. I had their lobster bisque (quite rich and good), their 14 oz. New York strip steak (done to perfection) - and sides of garlic fried string beans, garlic fried spinach and hash browns, served family style - with a less stratospheric Ridge Zinfandel. Nothing unusual, but safe and palate pleasing.
When I left LA (last Thursday) it was hot - adding to the fire fighter's problems. When I reached DC, it felt like I had taken LA's warm weather. On Halloween night (I was in Cockeysville MD), it was Indian summer - whereas it was raining and cold in LA. I understand the weather is resuming its normal chill now and tomorrow in DC.