Image: Spreads to start!
Last Updated: 6/11/2020
Gift Cards – for Altamarea group.
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: October 2019
Osteria Morini can feel a bit manufactured, but don’t let that get in the way of enjoying its excellent food. The space is a large-floor, high-ceiling, tall-windows spot on the waterfront at Navy Yard. Bright and sparkling, the pre-fab nature of it can deceive you into thinking everything will be artificial. The food and the service will put your concerns to rest.
The cooking is rooted in the classic cuisine of Emilia-Romagna. The flavors are deep, and the dishes can be rich – this is not a light pasta and salad spot. There are meats and cheeses and other antipasti to start, but the standout are the spreads of three different kinds: whipped parm, ricotta, and trout. Substantial enough for a meal in themselves, they are best shared. The pastas are just a little softer than al dente with sauces that match the rich theme. The wild mushrooms with the rigatoni are braised for extra depth. Ragu antica supplemented with soffrito dresses the tagliatelle. The mains continue that theme with choices like duck, brodetto, veal osso buco. There are grilled choices of steak, pork chop and branzino that come with extras beyond a simple piece of meat. For the pork chop it was pancetta, braised cabbage, and apple mostarda balancing the fatty meat with tangy, sweet and umami. Early on the desserts were award-winning and are still very good.
The wine list is robust but not overwhelming. There are some gems under $60, some unique finds, and standards for the less adventurous. French and American choices supplement the Italian-heavy list. As noted above, despite the factory scale of the setting, the service is generally on the spot and gracious. Weather permitting there is outdoor seating to take in the view.
The development of the area did create some fear that safe, tourist friendly places would dominate. With unique spots like District Winery, Bluejacket, Shilling Canning and Chloe that did not happen. Osteria Morini may be one of the more mass-market appeal spots. It is part of a larger NYC-based empire that also includes the Nicoletta spots in D.C. Nonetheless, it is delivering at a level serious diners can appreciate. There are now many reasons to make the trip to Navy Yard – even in the offseason. Morini is one of them.
Other Guidance: It is a nice place, but not fussy. Dressing up is appropriate but not necessary. GF and vegetarians can do well (vegans have a tougher time). GF pastas can be substituted – and don’t lose much from the real thing.
Washington Post: Tom gave it 2.5 stars in 2016 and put it in the Spring Dining Guide that year. He started the bidding at 2.0 in 2014, saying “Although Osteria Morini might face stiffer competition in the city’s northwest quadrant — home to the aforementioned Casa Luca, Alba Osteria and other Gianni-come-latelies — the Italian arrival between Nationals Park and the Navy Yard is setting a bar for others to match, and maybe even raise.” Both Casa Luca and Alba have now closed, FWIW.