In 2008, date planners everywhere suffered a major loss when a kitchen fire closed Ristorante Piccolo. But rejoice, incoming romantically inclined interns! Piccolo has finally re-opened. Built into a townhouse on 31st Street in Georgetown, Piccolo is  a pleasant stroll from the hubbub of M Street NW.

With a classic Italian menu and intimate two-person tables on the second-floor balcony, Piccolo’s return continues to strive for a romantic setting. The interior boasts walls with a warm glow and soft acoustic guitar recordings play throughout the dining room.  The menu will be comfortable to anyone familiar with Italian-American food, with no real surprises but a solid showing of classics.

Romance and budget can live in harmony for diners willing to head out before May 23rd: Ristorante Piccolo is taking part in a Tastings Journal promotion featuring a 5-course tasting menu (one glass of wine included) for $45.

I visited the restaurant last week with some co-workers, willing to test my third-trimester appetite against all five courses. The first course’s bruschetta had a surprising kick to it with the tomatoes giving way to a welcome spice not typical in bruschetta. Flavors settled down for a creamy lobster bisque featuring a few lumps of lobster meat. My third course, spaghetti with a tomato reduction and pesto, mixed flavors nicely though not so well that I wanted to push myself to finish the bowl. (As a brief aside, I was pleased to see the bowl of pasta served with a spoon and fork, spoons making it so much easier to twirl pasta appropriately.) By the fourth course, fresh tortellini stuffed with cheese and tossed with seared jumbo shrimp, I was starting to fade. My stomach was running out of space and my short-sighted menu selections seemed to concentrate on only the richest of each course options. By the time the desserts came around, I barely mustered the spirit to try a bite of each…though I did note with satisfaction that the tiramisu had the familiar tang of ladyfingers soaked in espresso (a step I think many restaurants skip).

I’m glad Ristorante Piccolo is back on its feet. Though they desperately want to carve a niche as one of the most romantic dining options in Georgetown, I’m reluctant to vote for them for the title. The spotty service we received (a waiter who didn’t know what pasteurized meant, two others who were unable to break a $20 when the bill came, having to request the wine that was supposed to come with our fourth course rather than be reminded of this included benefit) kept me just a little on edge. Still, if they can work out the kinks I’d heartily recommend the restaurant for those evenings out when you need a solid but safe menu of familiar Italian dishes.

Ristorante Piccolo
1068 31st St NW
Washington, DC 20007
Ristorante Piccolo on Urbanspoon

If you’ve never visited this traditional Chinese tea house tucked away near the C&O Canal on Wisconsin Ave, you are cha-exteriorin for a treat. Ching Ching Cha is an airy oasis from the hustle bustle of Georgetown’s crowded streets, shops and restaurants. Stepping into this Chinese tea house, it’s hard not to be surprised by the sheer openness of the space. The ceilings are high, the space is unobscured by walls (save for a small area around the kitchen). Arrive in the afternoon and you can enjoy sunshine streaming in from their skylight.

Afternoons are the ideal time to visit Ching Ching Cha as a break from the gruels of shopping. You can have a seat in the traditional tea house manner – shoeless, on the floor – or help yourself to one of their tables. Or you can ease your way out of shopping mode by perusing their significant collection of tea pots, teas and other small gift items.

The menu at Ching Ching Cha is inverse to that of most restaurants: pages upon pages of tea varieties tickle your curiosity and precede a single page of food options. Selecting tea is priority number one. There is enough tea variety to satisfy any palate. Options range from traditional black or green teas to light white with a touch of fruit to earthy, nearly tobacco-like options. My personal favorites are the performance teas – hand tied teabuds that unravel and bloom into flowers right before your very eyes. More details and photos after the jump! (more…)