Eating at Etrusco only wetted our appetite for good homemade pasta. Rather than trying someplace new last weekend, we decided to go to an old faithful -- Spezie.
Just to give you a little background about my experience with Spezie...the restaurant opened 3 years ago by the same people (Enzo Livia and family) that own Il Pizzico in Rockville. When my wife and I lived in Gaithersburg, we would visit Il Pizzico at least twice a month. The waitstaff knew us by name (and still do). When we moved to the District, we were sad that it would not be convenient for us to eat Il Pizzico's delicious homemade pasta. When we found out that Enzo was opening a restaurant in DC, we were ecstatic (Yes, I know it is sad how excited my wife and I get about food).
In my opinion, there is no other place in DC to get Italian food. I've heard people talk about other places like Maggiano's, Etrusco (whatever) and Paulo's. These places just don't compare to Spezie.
To start with, there are several appetizers we love to order. On the top of the list is usually whatever soup they have. Last weekend it was a lentil and barley soup. Other appetizers I recommend are...well, I recommend all of them. Try the watercress salad or the roasted peppers with gorgonzola sauce and truffle oil.
At Spezie, ALL the pastas are homemade. You won't find any spaghetti here, though, unless you consider bucatini, spaghetti (bucatini is broad, hollow spaghetti). Spezie has two ravioli dishes. A "half moon"-shaped pasta with spinach and ricotta topped with a cream sauce (my wife ordered this last weekend and it was out of this world) and a regular ravioli with porcini mushrooms, ricotta cheese topped with pistachio cream sauce. If you are having trouble thinking how pistachio cream sauce tastes, just think of heaven mixed in with 3 or 4 tablespoons of cream sauce. Also on the pasta menu are maltagliati (big thumbs up on this dish), and pappardelle (I've actually never tried this one but it sounds good).
A great alternative to the pasta dishes are the fish and meat selections. Just about all of them are good, but the only time my wife and I (because we're such pasta freaks) order them is when there is a special that caches our fancy. Last weekend, I ordered the grilled mahi mahi topped with crab meat and served with potatoes. I remember another time that I ordered a veal chop that still makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
The desserts at Spezie fall under the must-have section of this review. Just do yourself a favor and try one of them. Split one between you and your special someone or a friend. Even if you are full and can't eat another bite, once they put it in front of you, you'll find room.
Oh, and I totally forgot about my favorite thing about Spezie -- The olive spread and bread they bring out before the meal. Just remember to clean out your teeth afterwards. Otherwise you have a little black speck in your teeth all night that grosses everyone else out at your table.
One thing I was disappointed to see last weekend was that Spezie has raised their prices. Pasta dishes used to range from $12-$15 and now they all range from $15-$17. That being said, I figured that it would happen eventually -- the old prices were too low for a restaurant in that area . Now it is definitely a special occasion restaurant for us. The tab usually comes to anywhere from $120-130 before tip.
Spezie is located close to the Farragut North Metro station at Connecticut and L Streets NW. It is very convenient to Metro, or you can drive and use the valet for $5 (way cheaper than a cab ride).
What to wear: I would not recommend jeans, although they won't turn you away for wearing them. Sportcoat not required.
1736 L Street NW
Washington, DC 20036