A semi-regular look at D.C. eateries that critics too often ignore

Though it’s rarely short on customers, Sorriso in Cleveland Park doesn’t generate a ton of buzz, which is a shame. The food is good, the prices are reasonable, and the family that runs the place has won over a bevy of regulars and others hankering for Italian standards done well.

Family patriarch Pietro Polles is the owner and chef. His wife Rose Marie is the host and son Stefano works the pizza oven and the line. Even the house wine, served at $7 per glass regardless if its red or white, comes from the family’s Italian vineyard. Sometimes, when you’re sitting at the bar, you might be lucky enough to catch a heated father-son exchange. Cosi autentici!

I’m a big fan of the linguini con vongole o cozze, married with plump clams and a bite of hot pepper. I’ve also enjoyed the pillowy ravioli with bright spring vegetables and dollop of creamy ricotta. In cooler months, I love the earthy osso bucco, or a hearty bolognese. But I’ll rarely pass on the pizza, even if it’s just a first course. Stefano learned to make a proper pie at Scuola Italiana Pizzaioli outside of Venice, then apprenticed at a pizzeria in Tuscany owned by pizza master Danilo Pagano. And it shows. His chewy crust is evenly blistered, the result of a wood burning oven with a rotating floor for even heat.

Last November, Stefano also learned to make gelato in a week long course near Bologna. His delicious pistachio gelato coupled with a piping hot espresso (my companions usually go for grappa) stands out among my favorite dessert pairings in the District.

Like the comfort food that pervades so many restaurant menus these days, the fare at Sorriso is simple home cooking from what’s home to the Polles. It’s why my own parents request we eat there every time they visit. And it’s why it resonates with neighborhood folks, who keep it in their dining loop.

Sorriso, 3518 Connecticut Avenue NW, (202) 537-4800

Photo courtesy of Sorriso