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  • Reservations Recommended

    Restaurant Review ~ Lupo Verde / 1401 T St., NW

    Honest Italian.

    It’s about 8:30 p.m., and a line leads out Lupo Verde’s front door. That tells the story: this place is hot news, and all the young and hungrys know it. What underscores its success as the newbie on 14th Street is that this has become the city’s restaurant destination. From mega eateries — think Matchbox — to cozy sit-downs such as Café St. Ex, would-be patrons can pick and choose from multiple cuisines.

    But if you are hankering after divine Italian eats, Lupo Verde (or Green Wolf, an odd name for a restaurant) takes the prize. For one, it looks like a slice out of Southern Italy with its exposed brick walls, rustic outdoor seating, and indoor fixtures. Unpretentious and solid, it sets the stage for the menu, constructed by the newly-arrived-from-Italy Italian chef. Some dishes are classics, and some, such as the porchetta, are his very own creation.

    So regardless of which appetizer plates you select, your entrée must include the porchetta, a boneless pork chop that has been cooked sous vide for a lengthy time, then finished off with a brushing of a prune sauce (yes!! delicious) that adds just a touch of sweetness to the meat. It is so well seasoned and so tender that you will need only a fork to get your mouthful. Besides, it is served with a rectangle of polenta and a fan of fennel, the perfect flavor combo.

    But back to the beginning, where you should start the meal with the artichokes: two whole chokes, including the stems, are battered, breaded and then fried, yielding a surprisingly succulent veggie starter to the meal. Surely a seasonal dish —- artichokes are a spring/summer vegetable —- the bet is that come fall and winter, it will be replaced. A gastronomic loss.

    Other appetizers include a trio of well-seasoned and grilled shrimp with a side of a warm radicchio salad (five stars) plus a pea soup with anchovy-seasoned croutons, beef carpaccio with arugula, and swordfish tartar with toasted fennel citronette. You can also select from among the cheeses —- from fresh to blue to Gorgonzola —- and salumeria choices to kick off the balance of the meal.

    Chances are you will dine here with friends or at least a significant other, so as you ponder entrée choices (the porchetta is numero uno) you can select a freshly made pizza with selections of cheese, meats, and vegetable toppings or move onto the first course of assorted pastas. All pasta is made in-house, so the finished dish is ultra fresh: the gemelli with parmigiano, pecorino, and pepe (pepper) may be the most outstanding. Of course, one can only eat so many pasta dishes at a seating.

    Other entrées: the fried seafood mixture with prawns, calamari, sardine and baccalao; the lamb stew; grilled sirloin steak; and the salt-baked branzino offer serious options. The branzino is succulent and accented just slightly with a bit of lemon and a slice of charred lemon — hard to beat.

    Desserts, should you have the time and energy, include at least one curious offering, fried eggplant with chocolate crema and caramelized nuts. More familiar are the semifreddos and the gelati, such as hazelnut or almond gelato.

    Of course, the wine selections are tempting, and the bar with its own bar master is a source of top-notch cocktails.

    Lupo Verde / Dinner nightly, 5-11pm; after dinner to 2am & to 3am Fri. & Sat. Entrée prices: $20-$29. 202-488-8097; www.lupoverdedc.com.

     

     

    Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, editor, and restaurant reviewer. She has authored books on Asian and Mexican cuisines published by Simon & Schuster, Doubleday, and Macmillan. Other credits include restaurant reviews and food articles for national and regional publications, as well as former editor of the Vegetarian Times and former food editor/writer for the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong. Click here to visit her website.