Bibiana, Italian in Downtown DC That Brings Up Memories of Italy

We’ve long been fans of Ashok Bajaj‘s Indian restaurant, Rasika, so why not try Bibiana to check out his version of Italian food? It did not disappoint. Sleek and modern, yet warm decor, very good food and interesting Italian wine list.

The bar, with its clean lines and red front surface, was very attractive and friendly. We were led past the lounge, which looked to be cozy and friendly, past the main dining room to a semi-private room where there were two tables, separated from the main dining room by a metal beaded curtain. So we had privacy, but we could watch the rest of the dining room.  Great for a night out, even better for a group dinner.

Service was nice, although somewhat uneven. At times, it was quite attentive; at other times, there was definitely a lull.

My appetizer, the fried artichokes, showed signaled Rasika – at least to me.  Carciofi alla guidia is one of my favorites, but sometimes the artichokes are overly battered and soggy. There were so many good choices, though including an octopus salad and a burrata, that were close contenders. But I chose wisely.

The artichokes were unbattered and flash fried, in the style of Rasika‘s palak chaat (crispy fried spinach). The parsley garnish was fried in the same style – crispy and light, with a wonderful crunchy texture. The artichokes were excellent.

Fried artichoke appetizer

G’s appetizer also echoed Rasika – as he put it, Ashok knows sweet breads.

Sweetbreads

I love wine, but I’m more of a French and American gal, not so much the Italian wine connoisseur. But I have my regions I like – Friuli, Alto Adige, Sicillian nero d’avola … with G a Toscana fan.

The menu had a section on Liguria. My favorite Italian wine ever was an Ligurian pinot nero at a great wine bar in the Jewish ghetto in Rome, where our server spoke very little English and just poured us what he thought would be good – and he was not wrong.

Our bianchetti di Genovese went great with our food. Lush and full-bodied, a wonderful complement to our selections. But where do I find Ligurian whites in DC …?

For my main course, again, I was undecided. So many good choices. I was leaning toward fish or fresh pasta, although the bue (steak) looked excellent.

In the end, I went with the black spaghetti topped with fresh crab meat. Surprisingly light, with a slightly chewy pasta. Great texture and feel in the mouth. Of course, whenever I think about black spaghetti, I compare it to a squid ink black spaghetti smothered in olive oil and squid ink sauce that my sister and I had in Venice, oh about circa 1994, so in comparison to the idealized memory, Bibiana fell short. But what place doesn’t. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t find that Venetian restaurant today – if it still exists – and that it, too, would fall short.

Black spaghetti with fresh crab

Dessert was surprisingly good. I say that because the comments on Foursquare seemed to indicate dessert fell short. Not so. Dessert was my favorite course – when’s the last time I could say that?!?!

We settled on the zuppa agli agrumi, a scoop of mandarin sorbet on top of slices of mandarin oranges and red grapefruit, bursting with sweet, citrus and tartness, with a “soup” of limoncello and campari. On top, there were two slivers of candied citrus, or as G said “gummy bear things.” The spoons – I should have taken a photo – were perfect. They were long, thin spoons with a blunted end to scoop up the sauce.

Citrus dessert extraordinaire

It was very good, and I’ll be back – maybe to try the pizzas at the bar, which G says are excellent …

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