Floriana is one of those places that I’ve walked past a thousand times, but never had the time nor the inclination to venture inside. That is, until this past Saturday night, when one of Floriana’s owners contacted me about trying out the restaurant. (Note: I paid for my own meal. Only drinks were comped, which I will not include in this review–though I will say that the sangria was delicious.)
Floriana has occupied its prime location on Dupont Circle’s 17th St. since 1979. For 31 years, Floriana’s handmade pastas and rustic Italian cuisine has built a loyal following, especially among the neighborhood’s gay community. The restaurant emphasizes its cozy and intimate ambiance, where regulars and newcomers alike are made to feel like they’re eating in someone’s house. Run by Floriana and her son and daughter-in-law, the restaurant is truly a family affair, with menu items even named after family members.
I was a big fan of the ambiance, especially the outdoor patio. It was inviting and pleasant, despite the muggy heat, and I loved the white twinkle lights strewn through the trees above. And on a busy, often flamboyant, corner of 17th St., the patio is an excellent spot for people watching and taking in the night scene.
I wish I could say I was as enthused about the food. We started off with the beet down salad ($9) and the shrimp and avocado appetizer ($12). The beet down consisted of roasted red and golden beets and Asian pears tossed with a honey ginger vinaigrette. I enjoyed the beets, but I found the pears lost a lot of their crunch from the dressing. I also wish the presentation had been a bit less rustic–perhaps a garnish on the plate would have helped. Otherwise, what arrives at the table really is a beet down–a haphazard pile of what could be, with a little more fine-tuning, a composed and elegant salad.
The shrimp and avocado appetizer was refreshing on a hot summer day. I liked the creamy ripeness of the avocado paired with the shrimp. And while I initially found the aioli on top to be too heavy, it eventually grew on me and brought all of the components of the dish together.
For our entrees, we ordered the two pastas that Floriana handmakes: tortelloni mignon ($19) and ravioli di zucca ($16). The tortelloni mignon are tortellini-shaped pasta stuffed with herb seasoned beef tenderloin, topped off with a cream tomato sauce. This was by far my favorite pasta dish out of the two; it reminded me of Chef Boyardee ravioli, but with better and fresher ingredients (and clearly, not out of a can). However, I’m not sure it was good enough to justify the $19 price tag, especially considering the on-the-small-side portion.
The ravioli di zucca was also tasty: pockets of handmade ravioli filled with pureed butternut squash and cheese, served with a sage butter sauce. I appreciated that the ravioli weren’t swimming in butter and cheese, as I’ve been dismayed to find at other restaurants. But at the same time, the pasta tasted a bit dry and could have used a tad more sauce. The flavor of the butternut squash also seemed muted.
Everything considered, my meal at Floriana was decent. I’m a fan of the location and warm atmosphere; both the patio and the interior are adorable. It’s a great option if you’re in Dupont and looking for a homey spot to people watch and have a drink. But otherwise, judging only from the limited part of the menu I sampled, I’d head elsewhere for Italian food.
1602 17th St. NW
Washington, DC 20009