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Union Station Now Has a Half-Italian, Half-Indian Restaurant Nearby

Duet just opened in the former Toscana Cafe space

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Mac and cheese chicken balls for Duet’s happy hour.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

The owner behind a critically acclaimed pair of Indian restaurants opened Duet today, bringing Northeast a half-Italian, half-Indian restaurant that serves pizzas, curries, butter chicken, panini, and sangrias.

The new two-story eatery (601 2nd Street NE) replaces Italian mainstay Toscana Cafe, which closed last summer after nearly a decade of feeding travelers from nearby Union Station.

Owner Atul Bhola is keeping its longtime Italian theme alive while also importing hit Indian dishes from his Masala Art locations in Tenleytown and Southwest. He stresses the menu isn’t fusion. “We have two clear-cut menus,” he says.

However, there are a couple pizzas that mix the two cuisines: a Duet with chicken tikka and a New Delhi with keema (spiced meat) balls.

The Italian side calls for bruschetta, calamari, and Tuscan shrimp and scallop pasta. The Indian side boasts chicken kebabs, stuffed Indian baby eggplant, and lamb and chicken biryani. Popular orders at Masala Art, like samosas, machhi fry (fried fish), and pita pockets stuffed with lamb and chicken, are part of the new menu.

Dinner Menu by on Scribd

Bhola originally wanted to open Duet in the fall, but he ran into some delays while extending the kitchen’s hood space.

The patio will be open year round with the aid of heat lamps and its own rolling bar cart. Bhola says he’s working with the ANC to hopefully get the OK to host live music and turn up TV volume.

“It’s a great atmosphere for happy hour,” he says.

Sliders and fried mac and cheese-with-chicken balls are exclusive to its happy hour menu, with bites priced $4-$12 (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.). There are also $10 pizzas.

The renovation was largely cosmetic, which included giving the walls a fresh paint job, adding new furniture, and upgrading the wood flooring across the two-level townhome. He’s also awaiting a shipment of artifacts sourced from India to add ambiance across the 30-seat space upstairs.

“I wanted something in a neighborhood that was up-and-coming and a place where there was lunch and dinner business,” he told Eater last summer.

Duet makes vats of Masala’s hit Manhattans, made with bourbon, infused beer, and cinnamon.

Lunch is served from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner is 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Tube-shaped far far sticks, made of potato and tapioca starch, act as an alternative to chips.
Tierney Plumb/Eater D.C.
Toscana Cafe largely stuck with beer and wine, but Duet is fully utilizing the liquor license.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
Shelving that used to stock glassware upstairs now houses liquor bottles.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
The first level of Duet is dedicated to its compact kitchen.
Tierney Plumb/Eater DC
The dining room at Duet
Tierney Plumb/Eater D.C.