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You’d never know the economy’s in recession by stepping foot into the new Ristorante Posto on 14th Street NW, in the space formerly occupied by Viridian. A friend and I had to wait 30 minutes for a two-top on a Tuesday night, which gave us plenty of time to admire the transformation of the main dining room from a cold colorless, museum-like space to an inviting, wood-accented area. It’s still noisy as hell in there, but, hey, losing your voice is part of the restaurant experience these days.

Our meal started off rocky, mostly because of an experienced waiter who left us holding our menus (long after we had ordered) and eating our basil-deficient margherita pizza with no wine (because he never took our drinks order). He eventually found his footing, though, and proved to be a cordial server, one with a penchant to overuse the word, “excellent,” even when I’d say that the food was merely “hitting the spot.” (One of my stock responses for server inquiries.)

The most interesting thing about our meal at Posto was chef de cuisine Matteo Venini‘s inclusion of diced cardoons in his otherwise average tagliatelle with pheasant ragu. My friend asked me what cardoons are. For the life of me, I couldn’t remember, if I ever knew at all. I said I didn’t know. 

This morning, I grabbed my handy Field Guide to Produce and started reading up on cardoons, which look like celery but are a close relative to the artichoke. According to the guide, cardoons are rare in the United States. The guide goes on to say: “You are likely to find cardoons in December in areas with large Italian populations, because cardoons are a traditional part of Christmas dinner, and they are in season in the fall and winter.”

So there you have it: Cardoons are Posto’s little nod to the holidays. I love that no one made a fuss over this, whether on the menu or at the table.

Photo by Flickr user tvol.