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If you stick to pizza at 2 Amys, you’re not doing it wrong. There’s no incorrect way to enjoy a meal at one of D.C.’s long-standing treasures, open since 2001. But you might be missing out.
Over the past couple of years, Chef Peter Pastan has been ramping up offerings at the wine bar in the back of the restaurant, which he calls “Serenity Now.” You might remember the phrase from several Seinfeld episodes.
Pastan posts each evening’s offerings on the restaurant’s website by 6 p.m. Recent favorites have included artichokes braised with olives, pine nuts, and lemon served with sheep’s milk ricotta ($9); braised baby fava beans with amys crème fraîche ($9); and a pork belly and prune terrine ($8). On Wednesday and Saturday nights, the porchetta is a must-order.
“We’ve been doing a lot more lately,” Pastan says. “A lot of it is just from getting bored. We also really like food here.”
Pastan is known as a man of few words. “This whole story-telling thing, I’ve always had problems with,” he says. “I don’t really think chefs are storytellers. I think they just cook food … You can explain to me that this dish has this aroma that reminds you of being back in your garden with your grandmother, but I don’t have that experience when I eat it. I’d rather just have a tasty dish of food.”
Heard. But you can get Pastan going if you ask him about anchovies. The Serenity Now special menu currently boasts a selection of the briny little stinkers from three distinct regions: Sicily, Cantabria, and L’Escala.
“I have a serious anchovy thing,” Pastan says. “I’ve taken my family on an anchovy vacation before. We went to Sicily to go to Sciacca six or seven years ago where there are eight or nine anchovy factories.”
2 Amys serves the anchovies with bread and butter. Pastan also suggests two menu hacks. He likes to have the anchovies with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. Better yet, he recommends plopping a cold plump anchovy on top of warm pizza for contrast.
Pastan is participating in all of the hot food trends other chefs are quick to chest-thump about. He’s buying whole dairy cows and using all parts of the animal, for example. “I was a little nervous when we got the first one in but they’re really beautiful,” Pastan says.
The fat is especially tasty. “We’re getting our third one in next week.” He makes tartare and carpaccio, grills the heart and serves it with onion rings, poaches the tongue and dresses it in tonnato sauce, portions off steaks, and forms hundreds of meatballs.
Food friendly wines wash down anchovies and other savory snacks available at the wine bar. While the wine list has intriguing selections, including trendy orange wines and other natural wines, Pastan points people to 2 Amys’ extensive chianti list.
“I’ve always been really into chiantis because the wines are great. They’re super cheap, and the clones there are really interesting,” he says. The list includes selections from myriad towns, all with distinct terroirs.
“We’re trying to get people interested in chianti as a serious wine,” he says. Chianti is still trying to shake its stigma as a starter wine. “We really only serve wines here from Rome and south, but people kept coming in asking for chianti. So now if you want to drink a chianti, you’re going to drink a serious chianti.”
You can get anchovies and some sliced meat and cheeses at Serenity Now during lunch service, but the full menu is only available during dinner.
2 Amys, 3715 Macomb St. NW; (202) 885-5700; 2amysdc.com