In college, I quit the University’s cross country and track team my sophomore year. Then I went and joined a sorority, which horrified my parents who could not believe their hard-working first generation Asian-American daughter would now be a sorority girl. In their minds, it was almost the equivalent of dropping out of college and becoming one of those women selling their bodies on K street at 6am (note: these are very friendly ladies who wave to me during my morning runs now). Shockingly, I managed to make it through three years of Greek life just fine, and left with a group of the most wonderful friends. One of these friends is my incredible big sister, Kerry. She is one of the sweetest, kindest and smartest people I have ever encountered, and I sincerely hope she is a friend I will be privileged enough to have throughout my whole life. After living in Arlington for years, then heading to North Carolina for business school, Kerry and her boyfriend finally moved to the District over the summer which has just made my life 100x better. For her 29th birthday, since her boyfriend was going to be out of town for work, her sister and I decided to take her out to dinner.
I suggested Lupo Verde, a Southern Italian restaurant located on 14th street that neither Kerry nor Kristine had tried yet. I first tried Lupo Verde when it opened last year, and while I thought it was decent, did not find it memorable enough to compete with the other Italian restaurants on 14th (Etto, Ghibellina). But when I returned in May with TBM for dinner on their outdoor patio, we both thought the meal was fantastic. I was excited to go back and see if it lived up to the high standards set by my second dinner there.
It ended up being a slightly cold (first one of the fall), rainy Monday evening, perfect for a night of wine and comforting carbs. I arrived before Kerry and her sister, so I sat at the bar and ordered a Lupo Alberto (rye, fennel liquer, fennel bitters, tonic). It was a light whiskey drink, slightly watery but easy to go down. While reading yelp reviews earlier that day, I laughed because several people specifically made a point of mentioning the hot bartenders. Ruth C said, “The bartender was so fine that I blushed and nearly tripped over a barstool, so it’s a good thing we opted to dine on the patio where I could retain some semblance of wit.” Kimberly S noted in her review, “There have been whisperings that Lupo Verde is home to the hottest bartenders in town. Being the skeptic I am, I had to check it out for myself and I would like to happily report that yes,the barkeeps here do look like they all walked out of a Ferrari ad.” First of all, “whisperings?” Who is whispering? What else are they whispering about??? I want in on the DC whispers! Is there a newsletter I can sign up for? Second, this was now my third time to Lupo Verde, and while I have no complaints about the bar staff, I either have different taste than the whisperers, or I have not been lucky enough to be in the presence of these “hottest bartenders in town.” I failed to trip over any barstools, and this is coming from the most uncoordinated, graceless runner you will ever encounter.
The birthday girl and sister got there a few minutes later, and the hostess seated us at a communal table by the front of the restaurant. While I do like the cozy atmosphere of Lupo Verde, I need to remember that in the future I should note or request a non-communal table because they are pretty small and it can feel extremely tight if you end up at a table with a couple trying to make it a romantic evening. This time we were lucky enough to be at a table with two other women who ended their meal shortly after we sat down.
Our wonderful (and authentically Italian) server started us off with the incredible focaccia bread, which we dipped into their smooth olive oil. We decided to get a meat and cheese board, and left it up to our waiter to put together our selection of two cheeses and one meat. I love the selection here, which is not surprising since the restaurant has its own cheese shop on the first floor. The presentation of the platter is incredible. These trays are labeled (greatly appreciated), and served with fresh figs, apricots, grapes, nuts, thick slices of bread and crispy bread sticks. Jam and honey are included, and it is easy to go crazy before your first appetizer even arrives.
I always get the Carciofi alla Giudea as an appetizer, and after pushing my rave reviews on Kerry and Kristine, this time was no different. These artichokes are fried to perfection, and served with a tangy green sauce that tastes faintly like anchovies (so I am obviously a fan). The crispy vegetables and the tart sauce are a great combination. We also ordered the Capasante Scottate. The seared scallops were perfectly cooked, and the artichoke cream sauce was brightened by the lemon zest.
We were starting to fill up after these dishes, but I was looking forward to our two shared entrees, especially the Agnello Stufato Non Stufato. As soon as I saw that they had pulled seared lamb, my heart fluttered. Kerry and Kristine were also eager to try this dish, and luckily it did not disappoint. The lamb was so incredibly tender, and fell apart as soon as the fork pierced it. The white asparagus was sliced so that it resembled al dente noodles and the grilled, slightly smokey, cherry tomatoes seemed impossibly plump and juicy. We also ordered the Orichiette (small round pasta) dish, which included their housemade pasta, along with housemade sausage, tomatoes and Barilotto di Bufala (buffalo milk ricotta). The hearty pasta dish was rich, warm, flavorful (although my heart was definitely rolling around the plate with the seared lamb). We all agreed that every thing we had ordered was a hit.
Our friendly and knowledgeable waiter returned to our table with a beautiful tiramisu, topped with a candle for Kerry. It was an incredibly thoughtful touch, and even though we were stuffed, we dug into the creamy and delicious dessert. This definitely was a perfectly sweet note to end a fantastic birthday dinner. Such a wonderful friend deserves to be celebrated, and I’m glad we picked Lupo Verde for such an impressive meal.