I Ricchi: OLD-Fashioned

This place sure knows how to keep a tradition alive…

I Ricchi (1220 19th St NW) is a very convincingly authentic Tuscan restaurant on DC’s DuPont Circle. It has all the fixings of a proper Italian experience: waiters in black tie, pristine white tablecloths, high-backed, uncomfortable wooden chairs, corny trompe-l’oeil paintings, and elderly customers taking their time with their meal.

I ricchi” translates to “the rich people” in English. Apparently, this restaurant wasn’t just being self-reflective in the naming process: it’s actually owned by a chef named Christianne Ricchi, who married into a long line of Florentine cooks. Of course, that’s not to say that it doesn’t cater to the upper echelon: with antipasti that average $20 each and mains that average $37, this restaurant is definitely not trying to tempt the younger, hipper customer in.

I Ricchi is well aware of their place in DC’s food chain, so to speak. As she often manages to do, my grandma put it best: “We used to come here thirty years ago, when it was still cool.” Although they might not have their finger on the pulse of the city anymore, they do have a strong handle on their product: they make simple Tuscan food with strong, fresh ingredients.

To start my meal, I ordered the burrata, which came atop a bed of thinly sliced zucchini. Doused in balsamic and heavily salted, the veggies were cold and crispy, and the burrata lent some supple fattiness to the flavor profile. All in all, it was a very refreshing, cool dish that I would order again.

For my main, I ordered the lobster risotto, which was a special for Mother’s Day. When the waitress set it down in front of me, she remarked imperiously, “We do not recommend that you add Parmesan to this dish.” After taking a bite, I could see why — with all the cheese already mixed in, the risotto was insanely buttery. I’ve never had lobster that tender; you didn’t have to chew it at all, it truly just melted away. The risotto was also perfectly cooked, still al dente. I thanked the waitress for her guidance.

For dessert, we indulged in the tiramisu, which was easily one of the best I’ve had in DC. Again, this is a simple dish, done extremely well: the layers all retained their own flavor, the ladyfingers were the perfect level of moist from the coffee, and the custard was light and fluffy.

When i Ricchi first opened in 1989, it was named to Esquire’s Best New Restaurants list; you can tell that nothing about the place has changed since. Despite changing times, i Ricchi manages to retain its original charm — and perhaps even its original customers — by continuing to serve up good-tasting food with recognizable ingredients. With that commitment to greatness, it’ll continue chugging along far past the trendy restaurants that have come to cluster around it in recent years. After all, there will always be a market for old-fashioned.

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