The problem with holiday meals - if you can call it a problem - is that the food takes a backseat to the company. Unless every single one of your friends is equally enthusiastic about ingredients and menus, convenience prevails. This is especially true when you have to juggle offices all over the Metropolitan area, parking, kids, significant others, and an ever-changing table composition. You're lucky if you can squeeze your party of 12 to a centrally-located casual-dining outpost.
This weekend I was pleasantly surprised to get a table for 6 with minimum hassle at the very reasonable hour of 8 PM at Tosca. I've eaten lunch there several times - since they do full menu, it's one of my Restaurant Week staples - and thought it's been around for more than 5 years, Massimo Fabbri comes up with gorgeous seasonal menus.
Tosca features Northern Italian cuisine that is on this side of hip. The menu is pretty straightforward yet it encourages adventurous ordering: on the one hand, every pasta dish is available as an appetizer or side order and on the other, anything on the tasting menus is available a la carte.
I started my meal with the Radicchio Salad. I had it the first time I went to the restaurant and I've happily eaten it since. The salad has radicchio and Bartlett pears, with a Gorgonzola cheese terrine and toasted walnuts. Each component is separate on the plate, and I especially like forming separate types of bites on my fork. B and S had the chestnut soup, a thick heavy concoction with Porcini mushrooms and ricotta cheese topped with Pancetta. The waitress suggested that the soup be stirred to incorporate all the ingredients. F and J had appetizer portions of the linguini with seafood.
Though S was dissapointed at the lack of Osso Bucco, there are plenty of protein options on the Tosca winter menu, including a perfectly cooked and somewhat intimidating Braised lamb shank with Barolo wine and vegetable ragu on a bed of polenta, Grilled pork tenderloin in a rosemary and Porcini mushroom crust, and a lovely rack of veal in a rosemary sauce. For a main course I ordered one of the pasta dishes from the Grande Degustazione Menu - Carrot pappardelle with a very well-seasoned rabbit ragu in a white wine sauce. Also from the same menu, B had a black truffle and pork sausage Risotto. The bite I managed to sneak was creamy and balanced - I could taste and smell everything on the dish. Our famished 6th - straight from DCA - had the roasted veal and proscioutto ravioli.
I love clementines and was happy to see a Clementine Panna Cotta on the dessert menu. It was a refreshing end to my meal and I had it while sipping espresso, combining two very good things (I feel the same way of the gorgonzola cheese ice cream on the menu).
Finally, a meal to match the company.
1112 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20004