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Artfully arranged dishes at detail-oriented Bresca.
Rey Lopez/Bresca

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Bresca’s Success Lies in All the Little Details

The thrilling modern American restaurant uses precision to please

Six months after opening D.C.’s dining Sensation of the Year, founder Ryan Ratino continues to savor sending out jaw-dropping dishes each night at Bresca. But he’s fairly certain he could really blow people’s minds in an even more intimate setting.

“We always have the aspiration to do something more and evolve,” Ratino says, citing a desire to push the envelope every time he steps into the kitchen.

While he’s in no rush to start another restaurant so soon after carving out a space for himself along the bustling 14th Street corridor, Ratino floated the idea of one day opening something smaller than the 60-seat Bresca. The kind of place where he could personally choreograph every single bite of food served to customers.

“To me the most gratifying moment is to see guests’ faces light up with their meal,” Ratino says. “Being able to execute a unique experience … that to me and my team is priceless.”

Chef Ryan Ratino is opening Jônt above Bresca
Bresca founder Ryan Ratino at his debut restaurant.
Rey Lopez/Bresca

The Rammy Award-winning chef tells Eater the restaurant does 200-plus covers a night on weekends. He says patrons love to weigh in on the seasonally inspired menu items — ”The sea urchin linguine has definitely been a favorite, so expect to see a comeback every now and then,” Ratino says of a top performer from the opening menu — and the distinctive decor.

Customers remain fascinated by the live moss growing across a wall at Bresca.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

“Guests love the whimsical touches throughout the restaurant — like the animal paintings, the fish heads and, of course, the iconic moss wall,” he says.

According to Ratino, diners have snapped endless pictures of the quirky serving vessels — particularly a bee-shaped cocktail glass — vintage china, and other crockery he’s procured from around the world. What’s most surprising is that not a single piece has wandered off — yet.

Various pieces of Ratino’s china collection.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

“Nothing has gone missing,” he’s happy to report. In fact, Ratino says he’s currently working with designers to create new china patterns and serving plates for the stylish restaurant.

A stone-filled glass bowl holds oysters crowned with sea urchin at Bresca.
Rey Lopez/Bresca

Something Ratino worked on last year that is expected to pay dividends moving forward is the rooftop garden and patio he shares with neighboring Cuban cafe Colada Shop. He says he is looking forward to hosting semi-regular events on the roof, including cocktail parties featuring canapes and Champagne, once warm weather moves in for good.

The sun-splashed, open air patio split between Bresca and Colada Shop.
Rey Lopez/Colada Shop

“D.C. loves roofs, so I think it’s a good thing for us,” Ratino says.

The gardening enthusiast has about three dozen new plantings in mind for the additional flower beds he recently installed up above. In an ideal world, he’d like to be making strawberry preserves and vinegars in the coming months which he could then use to lighten up heavier dishes in the fall. But given the lingering cold, Ratino says he’ll settle for as many edible flowers and fragrant herbs as he can get.

Ratino’s gardening beds line the rooftop patio above Bresca and Colada Shop.
Rey Lopez/Colada Shop

“If we can sustain our own garnish, I’m really happy,” he says of his modest goals.

Down below, Ratino is mixing things up with culinary techniques old and new. He’s been flash freezing a cake batter dessert with liquid nitrogen right at customer’s tables for a while now. His latest obsession: devising a way to incorporate the traditional duck press gourmet supplier D’Artagnan loaned him into dinner service. The culinary tool squeezes every last drop of jus out of whole roasted ducks or any corresponding duck parts compressed inside it — a unique experience Ratino wants to share with D.C. diners.

“Wheeling around a cart with a duck press on it in a 60-seat restaurant can be a little intimidating,” Ratino says of the close quarters involved. “We’re gonna force ourselves to figure it out.”

The compact dining room at Bresca.
Rey Lopez/Eater DC

And just like that, he’s on to the next challenge.

BRESCA

1906 14th Street Northwest, , DC 20009 (202) 518-7926 Visit Website
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