After learning of it via a friendly neighborhood tweet from ANC Commissioner Mike Bernardo, we spent last Saturday at our neighborhood’s new Italian bistro, Tortino. We grabbed a couple buddies with extensive Italian experience – one’s last name is Pesce, for God’s sake – and then grabbed a table.

Humble beginnings

And certainly not pretentious

From the exterior, Tortino isn’t much to look at, though the lighting certainly makes it welcoming. Enter from the sidewalk and take a few steps down to the dining room and staff are eager to take your coats. The ambiance is pretty clinical, sort of like a 1980’s Soviet idea of Italian fine dining – aside from the flat-screen TV over the bar.

Not a deal-breaker.

First up was a round of drinks. Very prompt. My gimlet was a little sweet, but also plenty pulpy, as I like ‘em.

pulpy gimlet, dirty in the distance

The husband ordered some calamari, fairly tried and true. I’m realizing only now that there was no lemon on that plate. I must not have noticed at the time because the spicy marinara really grabbed my attention. I had a Caesar salad, which included a wee bit of avocado. Well, its roots are Mexican, after all. I got no report on pal No. 1’s chestnut soup, but Mr. Pesce was digging his salad. And No. 1 got more excited when the crab cake arrived.

Caesar is as Caesar does.

Surprisingly good marinara with the calamari

Somebody snuck in some prosciutto! Didn't even see that...

And the crabcake

I seemed to win the menu lottery, though. First bites of the husband’s steak had him ahead, but when everybody tried my pasta it was time for a recount. Specifically, it was the spinach pappardelle with chicken, wild mushrooms and cream sauce. When you’re going to ingest a pile of cream-sauce calories, you want something worthwhile. It definitely was. There were a couple moments when I considered throwing in the towel, but my mouth couldn’t say no.


The winning pappardelle

I passed on dessert, but to my left the panna cotta seemed to disappear as quickly as it arrived. I stuck with an espresso, though the waiter forgot my twist. There was also some confusion with the wine. We ordered a bottle with two glasses. Because that particular bottle is also served by the glass, the waiter thought we wanted two glasses of wine, rather than the whole bottle with two glasses. No worries. Just be very clear with ordering.

Save room for dessert.

Unless you go carb overboard.

Tortino is not a destination. I wouldn’t choose it as a backdrop for a marriage proposal or a first date. But, if you’re settled and live in the neighborhood, Tortino could easily be your comfort-food spot. It doesn’t have the lovely patio that Veranda boasts a couple blocks north, but for many months of the year who needs it? Instead, Tortino seems a reliable new neighbor that can quench your thirst and feed your hunger. There is no doubting it has a warmth. And in D.C., multiple courses for four, with drinks (four) and wine (one bottle) – at a place to which you’d return – for less than $200, is not too shabby.

Tortino is located at 1228 11th St. NW. 202-312-5570.