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A contemporary Italian restaurant from Chef Luigi Diotaiuti quietly opened in Foggy Bottom (2013 I St. NW) a little over a month ago. “After 40 years of a career, I learned that it’s always better to open with the low profile,” Diotaiuti says, explaining that it helps a restaurant iron out the details before guests pour through the doors. Now the chef, who sometimes wears a chef coat adorned with buttons in the shape of bowtie pasta, is ready to shout about Aperto’s opening from the rooftops.
Diotaiuti’s first restaurant, Al Tiramisu, has long been a staple in the city’s Italian dining scene, and the chef has built his reputation cooking Italian food inspired by his hometown of Basilicata, Italy. “Tiramisu has been my baby,” he says. “It’s been where all my last drops of my passion and my sweat … has been put.” But after 20 years, the chef finally decided it was time to open a second eatery.
There was a very specific set of criteria guiding his search. “I always wanted to have a private room or a place where I can do culture events,” he says. An open kitchen and a spacious outdoor patio were also essential. Then he found the former Primi Piatti space. “It’s like going back to the future,” the chef says because he worked at the restaurant for two years before opening Al Tiramisu.
While Diotaiuti wants Aperto to be as welcoming and dependable as Al Tiramisu, there will be some significant differences on the menu, and the new restaurant also hopes to pack its calendar with events, serving as a cultural center of sorts. In the venue’s two private rooms, Diotaiuti hopes to host not only cooking classes and wine dinners, but also more academic lessons about history and geography as they relate to Italian culture and cuisine. Think PowerPoint slides.
In the food and drink realm, the contrasts between Aperto and its predecessor are both culinary and structural. “Al Tiramisu is like the classic trattoria in downtown in Italy,” Diotaiuti says. Aperto is positioning itself as a trendier, more happening spot to attract the coveted millennial demographic.
Diotaiuti hopes one of the biggest draws will be the cocktail menu. Instead of sticking to wine, Aperto offers mixed drinks, including some made with Diotaiuti’s home-made limoncello, amaro, grappa, and vermouth.
There’s also a three-course express lunch ($33) that caters to the office crowd with a soup or salad, an entrée, and tiramisu. Regular pasta dishes and entrées on the lunch menu range from $14 to $29. For dinner, they run from $20 to $45.
Since opening Aperto, Diotaiuti has been thrilled to have the freedom to change up his cooking. “The people we have at Tiramisu, they’re used to the tastes, and it would be harsh for me to change it, to update it,” he says. “Now, I can express myself completely.”
In addition to a slate of pasta, risotto and gnocchi dishes, Aperto’s menu includes a crudo offering that changes daily, a selection of house-cured meats and cheeses, a porchetta sandwich, and grilled octopus with chickpea purée, fried parsley, and garlic and chile pepper-infused olive oil.
The restaurant serves lunch Mondays-Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dinner is from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. They plan to launch weekend brunch soon.
Aperto, 2013 I St. NW; (202) 223-3600; apertodc.com