Falling in love with Georgetown’s Il Canale.
By Donna Drejza
The minute you walk in the door at Il Canale in Georgetown, you spy the gigantic Igloo-shaped pizza oven. Made by Acunto in Italy, the oven is wood-fired 800 to 900 degrees, making the thin-crust pizza that is the hallmark of the restaurant.
When I was given a chance to get near it, I had a new respect for the brave pizza makers.
Il Canale’s Sicilian-born owner, Joe Farruggio, is passionate about everything, especially his pizza. He is the only Washingtonian certified by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana; besides technique, they dictate Italian ingredients such as the special double-zero flour, imported salt and San Marzano tomatoes.
Considered by many to be Washington’s best authentic gourmet “thin crust” pizza, I tried one, taking a bite with a knife and fork — it’s tender and gooey with a mouth-watering taste of creamy buffalo mozzarella, peppery arugula and sweet basil. Try the Boscaiola or the Calabrese with sweet salami, roasted bell peppers and fresh basil. Prices range from $12-$18.
When asked if most of his clients are tourists, Mr. Farruggio says 20 percent to 30 percent are Italians. “This is where Italians go to eat Italian,” he says.
But it’s not just about the pizza.
Il Canale offers home-made pasta ($15-$23), grilled salmon ($22), Mediterranean sea bass cooked in parchment ($24) and more. Appetizers include “create your own” antipasto platters, calamari, mussels and meatballs. Five salads with mixtures of arugula, buffalo mozzarella, spinach and bacon range from $13 to $14. There are also family-style dishes such as “stella” made with mozzarella, prosciutto di Parma and padano on focaccia ($20).
With the exception of the Veuve Clicquot ($120), all wines are Italian, with many served by the quartino ($14-$18), a nifty little 8-oz. carafe that keeps diners from suffering the dreaded “under-pour.” Full-size bottles of white wines run from $45 for friulano to $79 for a Krueth chardonnay, while reds range from $50 for the Lacryma Christi to $145 for the Mastrojanni brunello di Montalcino. House wines from Sicily run $40 per bottle.
End your meal with any of the house-made desserts, like tiramisu and cannoli, or indulge in a dish of gelato straight from the Old Country.
A lively ambiance fills the dining space indoors. Interiors by Barbara Hawthorn are understated mid-summer night browns and greys, suggestive of much more expensive restaurants with truffle lights, draped tables, Bel Air wicker chairs and Chilewich Green-label certified finishes. The “Rhapsodies of Color” art by Bill Armstrong add the verve. A 105-seat addition is planned for the former Cannon’s seafood market next door.
If you seek a little more quiet, ask to be seated outdoors. Besides the romantic rooftop, there are café tables with blue Peroni umbrellas to transport you to another country — you can even bring your dog.
Il Canale, 1063 31st Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20007. 202-337-4444. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.