The Dish: sea scallops with pan ratatouille
The Location: Lia’s, 4435 Willard Ave., Chevy Chase, (240) 223-5427
The Price: $18.95 (lunch), $19.95 (dinner)
The Skinny: Geoff Tracy—that’s Chef Geoff to you—opened Lia’s in late July, the first restaurant in his three-eats operation to speak with an Italian accent. District native and former Chef Geoff toque Jerome Sharpe—“not even [born] in the Italian section of D.C.,” says Tracy—is the executive chef here, and he’s already flashing some serious chops. Sharpe’s cooking is not exactly the heavy-red-sauce, smash-mouth, South Philly kind of Italian; it’s more like Frank Sinatra trying to conceal his roots under a swell of Nelson Riddle strings. Take Sharpe’s sea scallops entrée. At first blush, there’s nothing overtly Italian about it: four plump, pristine scallops squatting on a lumpy bed of pan ratatouille, a diced vegetable dish that originally hails from Provence. But then you notice the small, pan-fried bits of prosciutto and the oil-drizzled red sauce that reminds you of Naples, where the sailors used to gobble down gallons of marinara on their return to port. Then you take a bite, and everything comes together in perfect harmony—the pillowy, caramelized scallops contrasting with the salty pork and garlicky, al dente summer squashes and garden fruits. The dish is a forceful reminder that simple can still mean delicious.