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Fearless Critic restaurant review
Upmarket restaurant

Mon–Thu 11:30am–2:30pm
Mon–Thu 5:30pm–10:30pm
Fri 11:30am–2:30pm
Fri 5:30pm–11:00pm
Sat 5:30pm–11:00pm

Features Good wines, veg-friendly
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted


1112 F St. NW
Washington, DC
(202) 367-1990
Go for the tasty and thoughtful pastas

Are you skeptical of whether Tosca is as good as it’s cracked up to be, given that the restaurant is so deeply representative of the Washington power-meal scene? Given that it’s a place with a cheesy name, a place defined most clearly by the jacket- and bowtie-clad servers that scurry about the room, deftly timing courses to allow ample time for lingering (i.e. negotiating)? That the management seems to be as interested in networking as many of their customers?

Well, free your mind, because the kitchen is turning out homemade pastas on a level that would be taken seriously in Italy—and there are precious few Italian restaurants in DC about which you could say that. The emphasis here is on seasonal ingredients and fresh homemade pastas. Plump ravioli pillows, homemade and cooked for just a few moments, to an ideal texture, ooze with spot-on buffalo ricotta and evocative herbs. Ribbons of pappardelle, orange from a barely discernible dose of carrot, a magisterial rabbit ragú, deeply developed and subtly sweet, with whispers of white wine and thyme.

We like to build our meals here around pastas; mains are a bit over-focused on dark, syrupy sauces of red wine, fortified wine, balsamic vinegar, and such. Nonetheless, a whole grilled branzino (Mediterranean sea bass) or other fish of the day, deboned at the table, is first-rate—sweet and delicate—and fried, breaded veal chop Milanese, one of the most gently delicious of northern Italian classics, is expensive but extremely delicate. Salads can sometimes miss the mark; greens sometimes get slicked in oil rather than lightly dressed. Desserts are another weak spot—more style than substance—a fact that might be charitably interpreted as yet another sign of Tosca’s Italian authenticity. Amaretto-and-chocolate custard, for instance, comes out with a gelatinous texture that warrants prodding rather than indulging, and it’s surrounded by decorative spun sugar that looks more like scaffolding than an artistic culinary endeavor. The sugar’s failure to melt in the mouth results in near impalement when swallowing, rendering the dessert all but inedible. But Italy has never been a country of desserts. Order grappa instead.

It’s not particularly pretty, Tosca’s office-building-ish room, decked out in muted yellows and whites—elegant, maybe, but even that’s a bit of a stretch. But if you can get past the bland formality and the corporate-expense-account-tailored bill, you can have one of DC’s very best Italian meals here—networking not necessary.

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