D.C. and Baltimore have very different food scenes. I wouldn’t say either one is necessarily better than the other, rather I’d say they’re just starkly different. Baltimore’s food scene lacks the diversity that D.C.’s food scene has, while in contrast, I’d say that the best places in Baltimore outshine the places I’ve eaten at in D.C.
Due to the geography of Baltimore it’s harder to find a good concentration of diverse eating options throughout the city, the fun thing about D.C. is the enormous amount of variety that can be found at almost every corner, . I’m new to the DC eating scene, but slowly I’m getting around to try some of the phenomenal restaurants that D.C. has to offer. Adams Morgan is an area that’s rich in quality food and I recently visited Rosario which is apart of the restaurant family that brought you Smoke & Barrel. Rosario is a newer restaurant that specializes in Sicilian/Italian American fare, it’s founded by Chef Logan McGear. The restaurant’s namesake was Chef McGear’s mentor Sicilian Chef Rosario who died several years ago.
I was brought to Rosario not knowing what to expect since I’m a DC novice, but I was pleasantly surprised by the entire meal. The menu is brief compared to many other Italian restaurants, but there are plenty of delicious options for everyone.
The antipasti has such options as calimari, polenta, cacio e pepe, roasted garlic, and you get the drift lots of delicious things. We ordered the cacio e pepe,polenta, and roasted garlic. Good decision.
The star appetizer was the cacio e pepe which is like a sophisticated mac & cheese. Everything about it was perfect, the ratio of Parmesan to butter and black pepper was just right. I could just sit in a tub of this stuff and eat my way out. Moving on to the next dish, we tried the polenta. Good polenta can be hard to find but the polenta here is flavorful, crispy, and gushy on the inside. The oyster mushrooms, truffle, and butter make this an appetizer that is cozy and to die for.
Next up was the roasted garlic which is a rare find on menus, most folks might steer clear of garlic as an appetizer but in my family roasted garlic is a green light to chow down. When you roast garlic all the sweet and savory notes come out, they then incorporate into the cooking fat to yield an amazing creation. This roasted garlic bulb is no different, but I must say bread is a must with this. What’s even more amazing about this dish is the fried cambozola cheese that’s paired with it, cambozola is a blue cheese esque creamy cheese that is very rich but perfect with a piece of warm bread and these roasted garlic bulbs.
After the appetizers came the Primi, which if you’ve ever traveled to Italy you’ll know that the Primi is always more than enough for your main course. The Primi or pasta dishes at Rosario are modern takes on some favorite Italian classics. We ordered the duck confit carbonara and the rigatoni arrabiata. The duck confit carbonara was decadent as it was filled filled with delicious hunks of duck to go along with the delicious array of fresh pecorino and lemon. While the carbonara was very decadent it still felt light unlike most carbonaras you’ll get state side which are often just creamy globs of nothingness. The rigatoni arabbiata (arabbiata means angry in Italian and it’s intended to be spicy) was well crafted, the vodka sauce, pancetta, and chili flakes worked well together to create a well balanced classic Italian dish that was just spicy enough to make you feel like a angry Italian.
The star of the show though was the chicken Parmesan, as it walked into our lives as if it was Tony Soprano himself on a plate. Chicken Parmesan is like the General Tso’s chicken of Italian food. It’s chicken, it’s fried, it’s delicious, and it’s not really traditionally eaten in Italy. Chicken parm is an offshoot of eggplant parm which was eaten in Italy, the substitution of chicken came when Italian immigrants came stateside and saw that American diners preferred meat over eggplant (the meat was probably also more plentiful). When we saw this dish on the menu we had to try it because we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see a high end take on this classic comfort food. This dish is a home-run and it’s also way too big, it’s enough for two people easily. The chicken is lightly breaded with a tender crust and served over a bed of pomodoro pasta. I don’t have a problem with the size because I love leftovers but some folks might so you’ve been warned.
All in all Rosario is a great addition to the Adams Morgan dining scene. With friendly service, a cozy ambiance, and reasonable pricing I don’t see why this place wont become a fixture in the D.C. eating scene for years to come.
Parking: None, park on the street, there’s a garage nearby.
Pricing: Reasonable, nothing outrageous.
Service: Friendly and attentive.
Food Quality: Excellent, must have dishes are the chicken parm and cacio e pepe.
Ambiance: Energetic but not noisy. They have street seating which is prime people watching real estate.