Dreaming of comfortable, yet upscale Italian comfort food in downtown DC, owners Kaiser and Michael Gill opened Noelia Italian Kitchen in mid-July. The food, while not as dreamy, elicits that same comfort and warmth of home that is Italian cooking.
The safety of Italian dining draws families and young professionals alike to try to these “comfort dishes with a twist,” owner Michael Gill said.
The menu has no shortage of the traditional, Italian comfort dishes we all know and love, including Lasagna Bolognese and Pollo Alla Parmigina. “We have a good variety so everybody has a choice. We have comfort food, our Chicken Parmesan and Gnocchi, and dishes such as our Duck or Veal Ravioli for people who want a little more upscale [experience],” Gill said.
Each dish has a unique spin on it, which makes it all the more appetizing. The purposeful plating with layered textures and colors of ingredients such as the basil pesto and balsamic glaze atop mozzarella and tomato in the Caprese di Bufala made the dish more dynamic and visually appealing. The Gnocchi de Ricotta represents the concept of comfort and ease in each small pillow of pasta packed with flavors of potato, ricotta, and mozzarella, balanced with a fresh tomato sauce poured over top. Flavors of the gnocchi dish, while apparent and well done, were muddled together due to the overpowering tomato sauce. The choice of ravioli dishes- veal or eggplant with hints of spinach and tomato- highlights the simplicity and tradition of flavors in Italian cooking.
The layout of the restaurant resembles a blank canvas. While potentially more appropriate for a casual restaurant, store, or lobby of an office building, the open floor-to-ceiling window front persuades passersby to come check out what’s inside. At first glance, the spacious lounge and dining area filled with contrasts of white leather chairs and dark wood floors and tables, evokes a modern, formal yet rustic style.
The additional ambiance ends there due to the less than dim lighting that you would usually find at an Italian restaurant matched with the high ceilings and lackluster lounge area consisting of a few white leather couches in the corner. Filling with energy on a busy Saturday night, the space alludes to the communal aspect of traditional Italian cooking and somewhat makes up for the lack of ambiance.
The idea of Noelia Italian Kitchen encourages you to dine as you are, whether you’re wearing a suit or shorts and a t-shirt. The ambiance, or lack thereof, may require a sweater, Monday thru Thursday, but come the weekend the dishes welcome you into the comfort of modern Italian cuisine.
Photo: Noelia Italian Kitchen