Image: Meatball sampler and Pizza Bianca slices (in lieu of bread service) at Nicoletta Italian Kitchen
Last Updated: 7/5/2021
Current Status: Open Weds – Sunday, they are doing dine-in, take-out and delivery.
First Visit: April 2019
Nicoletta is constructed from a combination of very good Italian cooking and marketing analysis. It is a product of a large, but not giant, New York restaurant group, under the guidance of Chef Michael White. That group is also behind the acclaimed and excellent Osteria Morini. Nicoletta is a step down in formality and sophistication of cuisine from Morini. Sometimes corporate flak obscures, but in this case the company website tells you exactly what they market-tested: “Nicoletta Italian Kitchen is your fresh, new neighborhood restaurant, offering familiar Italian classics in a comfortable and lively setting.” That’s their goal, and they hit it (do you think they did polling on cucina v. kitchen for the name?).
Nicoletta does traditional dishes well. It is not meant to provoke; it is meant to please and soothe. There are pizzas, pastas, and mains. The line-up of mains reads like the staples you would expect: hangar steak, burger, branzino, half roasted chicken (adding a hyphen would totally change that dish), veal cutlet, and chicken parm. There is also a seafood dish. No vegetarian dishes in the mains. The pastas cover the basics, with some touches of flair. The tagliatelle was rich with a deep ragu, spinach pasta, and a dollop of ricotta. The meatballs were moist and dense, served with a simple, good red sauce.
One week after opening, the Italian spot Alba, located across the street, shut down. Probably wise, because Nicoletta was about to “drink their milkshake.” Now the only direct competition is from Alta Strada, around the corner. (According to its website, Alta Strada brings “soulful, Italian classics” from a Boston-based restaurant group – and it is pretty good too.) The service at Nicoletta is still settling in. The cocktails are decent. The wine list covers ground quickly without gouging. Despite teasing above about the corporate touches, Nicoletta comes recommended by us. If you are in the area, it is worth checking out. Note that they also opened a straight pizzeria in Navy Yard recently.
Rating: Worth Trying Out
Neighborhood: Chinatown/City Center
Address: 901 4th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Reservations: On website
2.5 Tom: 1.5 Stars. “The verdict, after four meals: Nicoletta Italian Kitchen has moments of promise, just not enough of them.”
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