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To illustrate a larger point, I want to let you in on a small, behind-the-scenes spat between me and Frank Morales, the chef at Rustico. For a while now, Morales has been pissed at me for an online review I posted in January, around the time of Obama’s inauguration, which dissed the chef’s sincere-but-sloppy effort to produce a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza. Now, I don’t take it personally that Morales holds a grudge—at least not much. Mostly what I glean from the situation is that Morales takes extreme pride in his regular work—and hated being called out for a specialty pie that’s difficult to create under the best of circumstances, let alone under the heat of a quickie special-event menu. His anger is understandable, and frankly, Morales’ passion is what makes Rustico such a delight to frequent on those days when there’s no culinary pressure to suck up to a new president. Since taking over the job, Morales has run with Rustico’s beer-forward concept, creating smart, chef-driven versions of the fatty pub fare that pairs so well with suds. He and beer director Greg Engert have, in a very short time, created the model by which all gastropubs should be judged.827 Slaters Lane, Alexandria, (703) 224-5051
Next up: Sea Side Crab House