After strutting his stuff on Top Chef, Mike Isabella opened his own restaurant in the Chinatown neighborhood in DC in 2011 -- Graffiato. The Italian-inspired restaurant specializes in simple, small Italian meals, tapas if you will, served in an industrial setting.
The inside decor features illustrations of vegetables in various costumes on the walls while the feel is quite contemporary with its exposed ductwork and wood tables with aluminum chairs. On the walls one will find information about local farmers from which they source their ingredients and in front of the open kitchen is a funky wall of wheat. The restaurant was much larger than I had expected with its 130-seat configuration laid out across two stories.
Me and my coworker arrived on a Friday for lunch at noon. We were promptly seated on the second level. I was very aware that there were only a few vegan options, but I was still eager to try them out. We both started by ordering the Prickly Pear, Lime, Jalapeno, & Agave juice, which was quite delightful.
As our server came back to take our order, I told her that I was told over the phone that the hand-cut spaghetti was vegan. In fact, I called twice and was told both times it was vegan. Our server apologized and informed me that she had checked with the chef and confirmed that all of the pastas were made with eggs so none of them were vegan. Although I was glad she had checked, I was still very disappointed. That left me with only a few dishes to choose from under the "Vegetate" heading and the option for flatbread or a pizza without cheese. Hmmm. Even some of the vegetables under the "Vegetate" heading were off limits like the roasted cauliflower and charred asparagus as they are both made with butter.
So, I decided to make the most of it and ordered three small plates. I started with the Broccolini sans the feta. I think this was the best dish of all. The broccolini was sauteed in oil and served with a chunky tomato ragout and toasted walnuts. It was very good.
The next dish I tried was the Smoked Beets sans the ricotta. The beets looked almost like tomatoes as they were sliced thinly. They were served with this incredible beet puree made of smoked beets and pickling juice along with chunks of pickled orange.
Lastly, I ordered their flatbread and substituted their housemade marinara sauce for the pepperoni sauce. I loved the wood fired flatbread that could have been eaten without any toppings. The marinara sauce was okay, but nothing special. The bread could really stand on its own.
When our server brought the bill, she told me she took one of our drinks off because she felt bad that I had been told I could have the pasta here when I really couldn't. I thought that was nice. All in all, I enjoyed the small plates, but there really are only a handful of small plates to choose from that can be veganized. The prices are a bit high for small plates ranging from $7 - $14 per plate. The service was pretty good and I liked the atmosphere. However, I probably won't be back unless they add more vegan dishes as I feel like I tried most dishes that I could try. I only hope Graffiato adds more vegan options in the future.
707 6th St. NW
Washington, DC 20001