Image: Saffron Taglierini
Last Updated: May 2023
Tortino has been putting out classic, reliable Italian food for a decade. It is not fancy or flashy. It does not lobby hard on social media. It is not in a buzzy neighborhood to get pulled into a Washingtonian list. But it is busy feeding people who come from the area and sometimes a little farther to enjoy a good meal.
Though the vibe feels like a classic red-sauce joint, the food draws on more Tuscan inspiration. The menu has a handful of classic, though not exactly obvious, appetizers (marinated mushrooms, prosciutto, scallops), and handful of salads, an even greater assortment of pastas, and a few mains. There is little to guess because the dishes are easily imagined from even the cursory description: Saffron taglierini with scallops, calamari, cherry tomatoes, baby spinach, cream sauce; pappardelle with chicken, mushrooms, cream sauce; lamb shank osso-buco style. This is not to say that attention is not paid to details or that it is not well-prepared. The kitchen is run by chef/owner Noé Canales, who spent decades working in some of the more notable Italian kitchens of the city – Café Milano, Tosca, Il Tiramisu. One can see the crowd-pleasing aspects of Milano, the practiced hand of Tosca, but mostly the straightforward approach at a reasonable price point of Il Tiramisu.
Spread over two dining rooms, with a small bar and the extra touch of white tablecloths. Warm bread is gratis. The wine list is more substantial than you might expect and affordable. The menu is probably a bit more sophisticated than Billy Joel’s Mr. Cacciatore’s, but Tortino always brings to mind the “bottle of red/bottle of white” feeling of the Italian restaurants in his songs.
Other Guidance: As a neighborhood spot, shorts and t-shirts are not out of place, but there might also be a couple dressed up a little for a nice night out. Located at street level, but there are a few steps to get in. GF and vegetarians have to do a little work to find something between the pastas and meat-heavy mains.
Address: 1228 11th St NW, Washington DC
Website: http://tortinorestaurant.com/ (there are three online, but this appears to be the main one).
Reservations: Opentable or call 202.312.5570
Washington Post: Positive 2 Stars in 2018 and inclusion in Fall Dining Guide. The opening review from 2012 is no longer online.
Washingtonian: No coverage, though it did get a half-hearted shoutout in a Kliman chat.