This week in DC I had a girls happy hour at Graffiato in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The cozy Italian-inspired spot has a long bar where four of us arrived around 6 and were able to all get seats at the bar. The menu is reasonably priced and perfect for sharing. It features small plates, locally cured meats, artisanal pizzas, and pastas with seasonal ingredients. The happy hour is a steal. It is from 4-7 pm in the bar and has $5 drink specials and “bites” for $3, $4, and $5.

The highlight of our meal was meeting Mike Isabella himself, the Chef/Owner of Graffiato. Mike was very charming and kidded with us “Well we opened in 2011, what took you so long to get here!?”. The food was phenomenal and I truly wish I had come sooner! Mike is an Italian-American from New Jersey who is most famous for appearing on Season Six of Top Chef and he was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars. Chef Isabella was named FOOD & WINE’S The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic winner for 2012.

We started out by each trying a different cocktail. The Graffiato Market Punch ($5) had gin, grapefruit and other fruit juices and my Brown Derby ($5) was with bourbon, grapefruit, and honey. They were both light and flavorful. We also ordered the house flatbread that is served with their famous pepperoni sauce ($5). We sat right in front of the brick oven so we had a perfect view of them churning out their flatbreads and pizza. After our cocktails, we moved onto the cheese plate which included 5 different varieties of cheese and some crispy light cranberry raisin thins. For only $19, the cheese platter was the most bang for your buck.

We ordered one of the crostinis to munch on that had avocado and crumbled prosciutto. The combination of the smooth avocado and the cured meat was wonderful. We also ordered the calamari bagel bites. They were a “bites” take on their famous pizza with fried calamari on top but were a bit dry. I think on the pizza would have been a better option.

The two entrees we ordered to share were by far the best thing we ate. Just when we were getting full and raving about how delicious our bites and cheese were, the entrees blew us away. Our waitress suggested the brussels sprouts ($8) that had pancetta, maple yogurt, and crumbled hard boiled eggs. It was a very rich, hearty dish that melted in your mouth. The pappardelle pasta with wild mushroom, eggplant, fennel ($12) was by far my favorite thing I ate. I cannot remember the last time I had a pasta dish that delicious. When we come back again, I will most definitely get a main course and have less to munch on beforehand.

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