It is no accident that Tadich Grill is nestled comfortably between the U.S. Capitol and the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue NW – a location that beckons to K Street big-wigs and politicians alike. Tadich President Gerard Centioli says parking the restaurant at the “heart of the political district was a natural fit” and General Manager Ron Robbins tells us that on any given day powerful people are shuffling in for lunch or post-work drinks. He casually spouts off the names of Attorney General Loretta Lynch, The Carlyle Group’s David Rubenstein and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.
Not bad for a restaurant that’s only been open six months. Robbins thinks its quick success can be attributed to his competent and diligent staff. Each Tadich server has been in town long enough not to be intimidated or even fazed by powerful diners. “When we did our hiring process, we made it a point of hiring only professionals… people who have been in D.C. and in the business for a long time.”
Robbins, a self-proclaimed Washington political geek, recognizes even the most obscure faces among the District’s elite and is confident that kind of service will make Tadich Grill a Washington establishment for years to come.
By way of spreading the word, he adds that “the best marketing is what you do inside the four walls and how well you take care of people.”
It also helps that Tadich’s name precedes it. It is the second outpost for the ICON group, which runs the original Tadich Grill in San Francisco – a restaurant that has been on the food scene for a cool 167 years, making it the third oldest in the country.
Despite its age, Tadich Grill has evolved to keep up with the times while maintaining traditional elements that make it timeless. Rich Honduran mahogany, semi-private booths and Sinatra crooning overhead create the feeling that you’ve stepped into another era.
Ambiance and service aside, Tadich’s signature cioppino is reason enough to stop in for lunch or dinner. The Italian seafood stew originated on San Francisco’s docks in the 1800s when fishermen, many of them Italian immigrants, would ask their buddies what they were “chippin in” to the communal stew that fed crews after a long day at sea. Add a warbled Italian accent and the name cioppino was born.
At Tadich, the dish’s preparation is classic – fresh fish and tomato- based broth spiced to perfection. Each spoonful dazzles, offering a different kind of seafood and balanced flavor in every bite. If any broth is left over, it must be mopped up with Tadich’s signature sourdough bread, shipped daily from San Francisco’s Boudin Bakery.
Robbins expects power players to continue trickling in, especially as this year’s election ramps up, but he and his team aren’t daunted, “Once they’re in, they’re just people,” he says. Centioli feels compelled to mention that Tadich doesn’t lean left or right, “One of the great things about dining is that it’s a bipartisan experience.” And it’s true: cioppino is definitely something everyone can agree on.
WHAT TO ORDER:
Cioppino: A heaping bowl of stewed tomatoes, scallops, shrimp, clams, mussels, bay shrimp, whitefish and crab, served with crusty bread.
Broiled Lump Crab Cakes: With garlicky spinach, shoestring potatoes and Old Bay-spiked butter.
Bread Pudding: Baked brioche scraps smothered in a Bourbon and caramel sauce.
1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW Washington, DC 20004 202-638-1849 www.icon.com ($25 – $42)
This article appeared in the May issue of Washington Life: