Bibiana Osteria Enoteca
Sleek Bibiana Osteria Enoteca is appointed with dark wood, layers of artistic glass, black leather, and lighting accents that speak of high-style Milanese design. The color scheme ranges from gold and beige tones found in the carpet to shades of silver grey-to-black incorporated in the fabrics, lighting warm jewel accents. Design efforts are led by Harry Gregory of London-based ARA Design.
The menu comprises regional authentic Italian fare featuring a variety of innovative yet traditional antipasti, house-made pastas and entrees. Stone baked pizzas are served at lunch and house-made gluten-free pasta is available by request with any sauce from the menu. All breads are baked in house daily.
Ashok Bajaj, the restaurant entrepreneur, is the proprietor. He owns some of Washington, D.C.’s best eateries: 701, Ardeo + Bardeo, Bombay Club, and The Oval Room. I met the chef, Jake Addeo, who is a bright young man. He explained how he got into cooking:
“I grew up in an Italian American family and pretty much all family gatherings were in the kitchen. My love for cooking was just absorbed from the people around me. In my teens, my father opened a restaurant called Caswell’s in Montauk, New York, and that's where I started cooking professionally.”
It’s a very welcoming place, and the staff were warm in their greeting. Sitting around me were a broad range of diners, a virtual cross section of the city from Baby Boomers to Millennials. It has high-end Italian food with prices for entrees ranging from $28 to $36. The service was attentive without hovering, the wines were well paired with the dishes, and the drinks were all served with speed.
The food is sourced largely locally. Chef Addeo said, “Since I have only been in D.C. for six months, I took the same approach that I used in New York. I went to every local farmers market and handed out my card. I have gained some key relationships for all different local products through them and through my fellow cooks.”
The dishes moved from mild to spicy. The food was altogether wonderfully prepared and imaginatively served. There were a great number of dishes served. This is a restaurant which offers traditional service of a pasta and a main course. The style of the menu was principally Northern Italian cooking. There was everything from spaghetti neri, a kind of black pasta made from squid ink, served with spiced razor clams, bottarga, ’aglio, and olio e pepperoncino.
I had excellently prepared scialatielli, Amalfi-style spaghetti, with manila clams, rock shrimp, zucchini blossoms, and tomato. For the main, there was capesante of seared diver scallops, summer squash, pickled rhubarb, zucchini, and herb pesto.
A friend across the table had antara, which is dry aged duck breast with sour cherries, roasted chanterelles muchrooms, and purple eggplant. She said that the duck was a bit tough, but that was forgivable when so much else about the meal was excellent. Another two of my fellow diners had pesce per due, a whole Mediterranean Branzino for two, baked in a sea salt crust with salsa verde, which was excellent.
I asked chef Addeo what his plans were for the future, and he explained, “My wife and I are making D.C. our home and wish to raise our two daughters here. Bibiana has given us the opportunity to do this and I will pay it back by creating great food and dining experiences for our guests. I plan to bring up two girls in a very friendly food culture. Friendly to the people, products, and planet that will feed them.”
If I were to score the meal and the restaurant I would give Bibiana Osteria Enoteca a solid A. Why? The attentive service, the beauty of the room, and the general gentile atmosphere were a treat. The food was memorable, and beautifully prepared and served. The conversation flowed well and we could hear each other without discomfort. My group had a completely happy experience, and I would recommend Bibiana wholeheartedly.