Picture: Agnolotti di Ortica – stinging nettle, goat cheese agnolotti, asparagus, morel mushrooms, spring onion (c. 2019).
Last Updated: July 2022
Current Status: San Lorenzo is open for dine-in service with an added streatery out front. The pandemic-era sandwich menu for lunch remains. Take-out and Delivery remain available as well. Note that they have added a 4% flat fee to offset current costs, if you are put off by that kind of thing. But why should you be?
San Lorenzo is one of several gems serving the Shaw neighborhood along this stretch of 9th Street. The food is fine-dining Italian in a classical tradition, but in a warm neighborhood setting. There is a straightforward fish of the day, a Bistecca, and usually a chop of some kind on the menu (currently veal). The stuffed and fried squash blossoms served with a peppery tomato sauce has become a classic appetizer here. The pastas are very good, especially those that are stuffed. Chef Massimo Fabbri opened this place after a long run at Tosca (and the underrated Posto). Speaking of chops, there is little doubt about his cooking skills. There are fancier Italian spots, but few with a stronger kitchen.
The space is a long and narrow to the back with a bar on your right and tables on your left, plus a few more in the back. The bar space is a legacy of the prior occupant, but San Lorenzo continues the tradition with a solid beverage program and a constant flow of patrons providing a lively backdrop to the restaurant. The wine list has many good affordable white options, the reds are a bit more upscale with a few sub-$100 choices. The kitchen and service are humming with no apparent impact of a tight job market on the staff size.
We are glad to see that it has emerged from the dark times still on its feet, still putting out good food, still treating the neighborhood right, and still worthy of a visit.
Washington Post: A head-scratching 2.0 from Tom in 2019.
Before Times Review:
Last visited: April 2019
The space is warm, bright, inviting, and sometimes loud. From 9th Street you step into a well-conceived, if packed, narrow, storefront spot that stretches to the back. Since opening in 2018, San Lorenzo has been bringing in the crowds. The payoff is reasonably-priced (though far from cheap) Italian that can be stop-you-in-your-tracks good.
The idea for the place was the chef’s, Massimo Fabbri. Fabbri helmed the kitchen at downtown dining palace Tosca for years. Part of the allure is that you can now eat his food without having to bring your expense-account friend along. A native of Tuscany, the name and nature of San Lorenzo draws from Fabbri’s roots. The pastas are insanely good but portioned so you can still fit in a main course if you come hungry. The menu changes with the season, with several anchor dishes for stability. Prosciutto-based ragu with fettuccine was decadent and sublime, requiring discipline not to scoop it up in a few giant bites. The calamari is a standout among the antipasti, as is the signature stuffed squash blossom. There are frequent nightly specials that often lead to goodness.
The wine list is Tuscan heavy but includes many decently-priced bottles. Even the high-end ones don’t appear to be marked up to typical levels. Many veterans of the local hospitality world make up the staff, and the professionalism shows. It is still a neighborhood place, but they understand the menu and the list. Along with the kitchen they seemed to have settled in.
It may be hard to snag a reservation, and even the bar is often filled end to end. I suggest the patience required to get in, it will be rewarded. It is a great neighborhood spot that is worth making a trip across town for.
Other Guidance: The atmosphere is nice neighborhood. Jeans are common and ties are not. GF, V can pick around the menu.
Washington Post: 2.0 (a head-scratcher from Tom)