This news has been reported in many other places, but Esquire finally posted the 20 Best New Restaurants feature online, where we can read what John Mariani had to say about Bibiana, Ashok Bajaj‘s sleek new Italian operation.
Bibiana is the lone representative from the District, and like last year’s D.C. pick (and the two locals from the 2007 list), the eatery was/is handled by the same public relations team, which makes me think Mariani isn’t doing much legwork in each city before making his selections. But at least this year’s Washington representative hasn’t generated the same controversy as Mariani’s decision to pick Barton Seaver as chef of the year in 2009.
Interestingly enough, Bibiana didn’t make Tom Sietsema‘s Dining Guide for 2010, nor mine (although I do really dig chef Nicholas Stefanelli‘s grilled sardines). Bibiana also couldn’t fare any better than 99th place on the Washingtonian‘s Best 100 Restaurants list for 2010.
Nonetheless, Mariani marches ahead. Here’s what he had to say about Bibiana:
There was a time when the idea of an Indian restaurateur opening a true Italian ristorante — in Washington, D. C., of all places — seemed about as likely as Stuart Smalley getting elected to the Senate. Even if that restaurateur were the great Ashok Bajaj, proprietor of power haunts the Oval Room and Rasika, one of America’s finest Indian restaurants. But now we have Senator Al Franken, and — thanks to Bajaj’s ambition, the wider availability of great Italian ingredients, and an ascendant chef named Nicholas Stefanelli — we have Bibiana. Stefanelli has worked at Galileo in D. C. and at Fiamma in New York, and his food has helped make Bibiana the best Italian restaurant to open in the capital in years, as true to tradition as it is stylish on its own. The secret to all good cooking is care, and that’s what Stefanelli delivers, whether in the form of grilled Mediterranean sardines or cavatelli grano arso (burned grain) with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe, and chile. And the prices are fair, which allows the lobbyists to splurge a little on the highly splurgable wine list.
Y&H Nation, what do you think of the place?