Chef Roberto Donna Offers Piedmont Cuisine in Washington DC

December 16, 2013

At Alba Osteria, Chef Roberto Donna wants people to eat the way Italians do at home in his native Piedmont region of Italy. The storied Washington chef, he of spectacular success at Gallileo and other restaurants in the 1990s and then a very public fall after an embezzlement charge in 2010, has landed on his feet with restaurateur Hakhan Ilhan. Donna has served as executive chef for the past two years Ilhan’s Al Dente in Wesley Heights, and now he is heading up the culinary program at its sister restaurant, Alba Osteria.

Donna’s focus on the Piedmont town of Alba, where he’s from, means a menu that’s not heavy on tomato or cream sauces, focuses on fresh pasta and has plenty of antipasti — smaller, lighter dishes to be shared before a pasta or other main course.

The antipasti are what Donna refers to as “Italian portions,” bigger than tapas but smaller than an entree.

Those small plates will be served in a stylish setting that pulls from Al Dente’s color scheme. Fiery orange chairs and accents dot the room, which also makes use of steel and reclaimed wood from an old crayon factory in Ohio.

For a more casual meal, there will also be more than a dozen pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven in the restaurant’s open kitchen; wood for that oven serves as a facade for several bar seats facing the oven and also hangs in steel circles on the wall.

Running the kitchen at Alba will be Chef Amy Brandwein, a D.C. chef who got her start with Donna at Gallileo.

“I’m pretty excited about the vegetable options,” she said. “There’s eight or nine vegetable small plates on there, so there’s a lot to eat in that area.”

One of her favorite pastas is Donna’s trofie alla finanziera, a chestnut pasta with a traditional veal and chicken liver sauce, and she’s also excited for the salame cotto, house made pork and beef sausage.

Donna said the restaurant tried to keep a reasonable price point, with small plates topping out at $9 and entrees less than $20. A wine list of mostly Italian wines to start begins at $18-$20 per bottle.

The restaurant opens to the public Dec. 30.

SOURCE: As Published in Washington Business Journal/Rebecca Cooper – Staff Reporter- Washington Business Journal

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