As a young vegetarian in college, my go-to meal was always pasta. When I headed out to eat, I would frequent Italian restaurants because of the plethora of options. But, as soon as I became vegan, I realized my favorite cuisine would no longer be as accessible as it had been before as fresh noodles are often made with eggs, pizza with cheese, and ravioli with both. So when Ghibellina, the new Italian Gastro Pub, opened in May, I was skeptical. Would it be vegan friendly? Well, I was delightfully surprised to find that it was!
My friend, Saurabh, and I headed over for dinner on a Sunday night. The restaurant was packed and I was glad to have a reservation. The restaurant is designed so that the entire front of the restaurant opens so those sitting at the front can look out over 14th Street. It was a beautiful day and happy hour was in full swing at 6:30 p.m. In the middle of the restaurant is a unique bar where patrons sit around an oval with the bartender in the middle. We walked past the bar to the dining room in the back. It was quite cozy back there and a nice departure from the happy hour crowd in the front. Here we could see an exposed kitchen with a big brick oven. There was a warm, modern feel to the restaurant with exposed white brick walls and iron-clad lighting. We liked the dim lighting as well.
On the menu, several soups, salads, and sides are vegan along with a pasta dish and pizza. I started with a very nice glass of wine.
Saurabh started with the Pappa Al Pomodoro, a tomato-based soup with hearty croutons that are cooked down in the soup along with fresh olive oil. We both loved this dish.
I had the signature Insalata Ghibellina, which was a beautiful salad loaded with arugula, confit tomatoes, and pine nuts. It was dressed in an olive oil based dressing and tossed with a vegan pesto then topped with avocado. Just be sure to tell them to hold the cheese.
For our main dish, we really wanted to try the Marinara pizza, which is served as it is in Italy -- without cheese. This naturally vegan pizza was exceptionally good. We topped half of it with calabrian chilies and half with wood-roasted onions. It came out with a thin, wood-oven cooked crust that raised up in a fluffy way around the perimeter. In the middle was tomato sauce with oregano, garlic, olive oil, and fresh basil. We used the shears to cut pieces of pizza and what we found was a perfectly cooked crust and a delectable sauce. The onions were great and the chilies even better as they are super spicy.
On the side, we also tried the Fagiolini Sfiziosi, which was green and yellow wax beans in a lemon sauce with mint and croutons. Again, a winner.
Although I am not familiar with the owners or their other restaurants, they clearly know what they are doing. The owners, Ari Gejdenson and Ralph Lee, also own Acqua al 2 in DC; and Ghibellina is named after the street on which their American diner is in Italy. The Executive Chef, Jonathan Copeland, does an excellent job executing their vision of an authentic Tuscan menu.
The food was delectable and the service was excellent. The server even knew which items were vegan and was prepared to answer all of our questions. The prices were pretty average, if not on the low side, with the sides being about $8 each and the pizza only $13. All in all, a great experience and a great addition to Logan Circle. I look forward to dining here often.
1610 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009