Western Market food hall in Foggy Bottom is best known as a spot for GW students and their visiting parents, International Monetary Fund types, and downtown office workers to grab quick meals from more than a dozen well-curated vendors, including Roaming Rooster, Bandoola Bowl, and Arepa Zone. The latest additions to the lineup just might start drawing in foot traffic from across the city.
Tigerella is a two-for-one all-day concept by the Ellē team that operates on opposing corners at the eastern end of the revitalized 19th-century market building. On one side: a slender coffee shop with grab ’n’ go bites open for breakfast and lunch and seating for 10; on the other: an Italian-ish sit-down restaurant offering lunch and dinner with about 45 seats between those inside the restaurant, in the food hall, and out on the patio. (Both are currently only open during the week but will open for weekend service in October.)
Partners Nick Pimentel, Lizzy Evelyn, and former Ellē chef Brad Deboy head the ventures, while executive chef Vincent Falcone, a former sous chef at Rose’s Luxury, oversees the kitchen. Drawing on his Italian heritage for inspiration, Falcone wants to replicate Ellē’s focus on “super light, fresh, acidic flavors” along with ferments and hyper seasonal ingredients, not to mention killer breads and fantastic pastries. The team took the name Tigerella from a variety of heirloom tomato.
The project didn’t happen by design; the team was approached by Western Market’s development team. Initially, it didn’t seem like a good fit. Pimentel had zero interest in operating a restaurant in that part of D.C.; zero interest in being a food hall. Eventually, he was won over to the idea and the venture became an invigorating challenge. “How do we bring that neighborhood vibe of Room 11, Bad Saint, and Ellē to downtown?” he asked himself.
Brick walls, triangular patterned flooring, thrift shop chic floral accented plates, and marble-topped bars give the restaurant side a retro feel that separates it from the modern stalls that populate most of Western Market. The open kitchen offers diners a live view of the creative process. The first element they see when they walk in is an electric deck bread oven, where head baker Andrew Myers bakes off breads and laminated pastries and where they cook off individual pizzas made with flours from Migrash Farms.
The six-inch round ’zas are served in vintage Pizza Hut personal pizza pans sourced from a collector in New York state. Instead of brushing the tins with mayonnaise—the secret behind red-roofed pizzeria’s golden crusts—Falcone uses garlic butter to similar effect. A mixture of mozzarella and provolone is spread edge to edge in the style of Detroit pizza, so it frizzles where it hits the pan. When I take my first bite, the crust nails the three Cs: crispy, crunchy, caramelized. They’re intense pizzas; come hungry.
Aside from pepperoni and plain, there is one unconventional option: the pickle pizza. Because, of course, these guys are going to bring their love of ferments into the equation. A creamy garlic sauce gets topped with mozzarella, provolone, and plenty of giardiniera, fermented mustard seeds, and fermented hot honey. When it comes out of the oven, it’s finished with bread and butter-pickled patty pan squash.
This is just the beginning of the team’s pizza adventures. Next year, on the 1300 block of G Street NW, they plan to open a New York-style pizzeria utilizing flours milled on the premises.
All pastas are made using the Arcobaleno AEX30 extruder positioned in the window to give passersby an enticing peek at the process. A standout is the bigoli, a thick strand noodle Falcone refers to as “bucatini without the hole.” A nest-like tangle comes with an oniony tomato sauce inspired by a recipe from Italian cookbook author Marcella Hazan and a dollop of house-made ricotta.
Don’t overlook the sandwiches, including a Reuben made with pastrami—“because we all think it’s better than corned beef,” Falcone says, throwing down a gauntlet at purists—and pepped up with fermented mustard seeds and sauerkraut. There are also snacks and small plates. My favorite: a peach and heirloom tomato salad Falcone calls “a snapshot of the season.” Generous chunks of the two fruits come with shaved pecorino, fermented tomato water, basil oil, fermented tomato powder, and opal basil. It’s a rush of end-of-the-summer joy.
A sizable sweets section at the end, deftly overseen by pastry chef Stephanie Milne, is packed with beguiling options: plum crostata crowned with whipped sour cream, chocolate enrobed cannoli, and tender olive oil cake. At the coffee shop, she turns out a cascade of further temptations, such as Sichuan spice twists and cookies spotted with rich puddles of chocolate.
Offering locally roasted Pause Coffee, the cafe side specializes in grab ’n’ go bites, including salads, square slices of Nonna-style pizza, and Roman-style sandwiches on focaccia (which could do with less olive oil on top), including one piled with wavy ribbons of prosciutto, pickled sweet peppers, and roasted garlic mayo, and an indulgent muffuletta packed with provolone and mortadella along with punchy olive salad and giardiniera to kind of, sort of, offset all the richness.
Behind the counter, a split flap board—like those at train stations announcing destination and departure times—rotates between the offerings and the most metal coffee shop sign I’ve ever seen: “WE LOVE SLAYER! THE ESPRESSO MACHINE AND THE BAND.”
As I walk away with an oat milk cappuccino in hand, I think, “I love Tigerella. The coffee shop and the restaurant.”
Their techniques are tight; flavors pop; dishes comfort. And they’ve succeeded in bringing their neighborhood vibe to Western Market—no small feat. They’re the kind of spots you should go out of your way to enjoy.
Tigerella, 2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; tigerelladc.com