OK, so why do all the restaurants on 5th Avenue look identical? Literally butted up against each other (especially between G Street and I Street) you can’t tell a Whisky Joint from Italian. Friendly hostesses in varying states of attire are lined up one after the other beseeching you to enter. Restaurant Row is too simple of a word to explain this environment. Thank goodness for that one little discerning factor, the sidewalk menu.
An unusual thing happens once you enter one of the myriad of restaurants. While the patios may be small the interiors can be expansive with rooms and tables everywhere. It’s like 16 clowns climbing out of a VW. How did they do that? One of the treasures on the street is undoubtedly Chianti Restaurant. Like all the others it has a small inviting patio to enjoy some of the best people-watching anywhere. Walk through its doors and watch the lovely dining room open before your eyes.
A sea of tables fills the space, all draped in white linen with dark wood chairs. Beautiful large Italian paintings adorn the walls and the entire place has a classic, warm feel to it that immediately makes you feel comfortable. The bar near entrance is just what you’d expect in a nice Italian joint, large, stacked to the brim with wine, spirits and a bartender wiping down a glass (okay so the timing was just right for that one).
The large menu has it all. Dish after dish of delectable sounding Italian fare. Antipasti (starters), Insalata (salads), Zuppa (soups), Panni (sandwiches), Pizza, Risotto, Vegetable Pasta, Meat Pasta, Seafood Pasta, Pollo (chicken), Pesce (fish & seafood), Steaks & Chops and Vitello (veal) round out an incredible array of choices. And that is just the lunch menu!
Never one to pass up fresh made soup (even on a hot day, go figure) the pasta e fagioli (canellini bean soup, served with diced pasta-$7) was a scrumptious meal. Bursting with flavor in every bite, no can of soup has anything on this bunch. Keeping things fresh and crisp is the Pomodori salad (sliced beefsteak tomatoes with cucumbers, sliced avocados, aged balsamic and shaved Parmesan cheese-$9) which is delightful.
Entrees filling the table included a extraordinary gnocchi di patate grantinate (baked potato dumplings and mozzarella cheese with tomato or pesto sauce) . We actually asked for it topped with their brilliant meat sauce ($16) and it was as first-rate as it comes. Perfectly cooked for that elusive down home goodness. The lasagna della nonna (Italian meat lasagna with red sauce-$15.50) was an out of body experience. The dish embodied such bold flavors and easily became the most memorable selection and was surprisingly light for such a meaty dish.
On a separate visit, the special of the day was a sea bass served over risotto with sautéed spinach. Not only did the dish arrive to gasps due to it’s immensity of portion, but the aroma wafting up from it is one we can still relive if we close our eyes and wish. Get this if they have it. Precisely prepared sea bass, creamy, cheesy, luscious risotto and enough spinach sautéed in garlic to cover your vegetable needs for a few days. Dessert reared its lovely head with the tiramisu (ladyfingers dipped in espresso coffee and Italian liqueur, layered with mascarpone cheese and dusted with cocoa powder-$8) that was enchanting. So light and filled with delicate flavors that complimented each other so magnificiantly.
Chianti Restaurant delivers a sublime dining experience in a friendly, relaxed environment. The service was spot on and made the entire meal that much more enjoyable. It just goes to show when you hit all of the basics, what a great impression you can make. Chianti did that and more. Enjoy!
The good – Wow, wow, wow, Killer gnocchi.
The bad – Not sure what convention was in town that day, but they did not have noise filters or decorum for that matter. Not Chianti’s fault but a little distracting when trying to enjoy a lovely meal.
- City: San Diego
- Phone: 619-235-8144
- Name: Chianti Restaurant
- Address: 628 Fifth Avenue