The Italians might be one of the best cultural representatives for defining how life around the evening dinner table should be. Their combination of fresh ingredients, succulent flavors, large portions, a full wine glass and the joys of miei amici all encompass the ingredients of life at the dinner table. Although DC is no culinary NYC, it still maintains a vast array of both traditional and modern Italian fare, served up in numerous restaurants dotted throughout the city. Vento Restaurant is one of the more recent spots to pop up on the Italian cuisine map.
A trip to Vento, located on P Street NW near the heart of Dupont Circle, should be one of the highlights of the area’s cuisine scene. However, it appears that this spot still has a few kinks to work out before it can accompany names such as Tuscana West, Dino, Filomena or local rival-Al Tiramisu. The interior decor is spot-on and the ultra-modern design, with its exposed ceiling and sharp lines, gives way to a sleek and relaxed atmosphere while still retaining that intimate setting the Italians love. Unfortunately, the front of the house appears as comfortable with customers as an awkward elevator ride where you just couldn’t push “door close” fast enough. In other words, socially awkward with a fake smile and in need of some confidence to ensure guests that they’ve arrived at the right place for some handmade pasta.
Despite a few initial setbacks, the dinner menu is actually quite good…depending on what you order, and the wines are reasonably priced and offer a variety by the bottle or by the glass. For a starter, CAYPO highly recommends the Burrata served with grilled tomato, basil and red onion, cucumber relish and oh yea…perfectly sliced prosciutto. Now, what is Italian without some hand-made pasta just like Grandma from the “Old Country” used to make? Vento makes a valiant attempt at achieving such, but unfortunately hides many of the pasta’s flavors and texture under heaps of sauce. Anyone who has ever traveled to Rome (both Italy and Upstate NY) knows that good pasta doesn’t need much sauce. It appears Vento could use a little road trip and a notepad. ”Consistency” my friends is how pasta should be made. While the agnolotti was cooked beautifully, our tagliatelle immediately brought to mind the $.18 Ramen bricks we used to throw back at 3am after a night out boozing in college. Bland, overly seasoned, swimming in a bed of butter and oil and disappointing. Nonna would be rolling in her grave.
Vento has the potential to join many of DC’s leading Italian restaurants, but CAPYO fears that without a transformation, this one might just be “caput” before the year is over.