It’s opening night in Falls Church for the new family-friendly restaurant from Gabe and Katherine Thompson, a couple of veteran chefs who honed their skills cooking Italian food at some of Manhattan’s finest restaurants.
Thompson Italian, their first D.C. area venture, will serve dinner in its modern digs (124 N. Washington Street) every night but Tuesday. A straightforward, one-page menu is split into starters, salads, pastas, fish and meat, and sides. Look for one or two specials every night, like a large steak or whole fish.
Gabe Thompson’s experience opening RPM Italian helped solidify local purveyors for Thompson Italian (24-hour braised local lamb goes into ricotta gnocchi). The chef says he always has “an overabundance of salads” that include produce like watermelon, stone fruit, and cherry tomatoes.
Hot and cold apps include spicy pork meatballs, house focaccia garlic bread dunked in marinara sauce; burrata (roasted peppers, almonds, aged balsamic, basil, calabrian oregano); and grilled octopus (olives, celery, fregola, chorizo, and lemon). Italian ricotta salata helps accent a side of spicy corn and a roasted mushroom starter with pancetta. Right now sides include eggplant caponata, summer squash, and charred broccoli.
Back in 2007, the Thompsons were part of the opening team at Dell’anima in the West Village. They went on to become chef-partners at a trio of popular Italian restaurants across the city (L’Artusi, Anfora, and now-closed L’Apicio). Before that, Gabe Thompson was at Le Bernardin, and Katherine Thompson, a pastry chef, was at Per Se.
For their namesake restaurant, the Thompsons’ young children polled classmates to curate a separate, kid-approved menu. Pizza sticks, chicken tenders, and make-your-own pastas —like butter sauce-drenched rigatoni handmade by their dad — all made the cut. There’s a gluten-free pasta option for children and adults with dietary restrictions.
Opening the restaurant represents a cooking reunion for the couple.
“I am excited to work with Katherine again,” Gabe Thompson says. “It’s been a long five years of her being at home with our kids.”
Katherine Thompson, who parlayed her front-of-house role Del Posto into a job in its pastry department years ago, describes her preferred desserts style as “pretty simple and classic” — not complicated. The opening lineup of six desserts includes her famed olive oil cake, which is still on the menu at L’Artusi.
Finales also include mascarpone cheesecake with local peaches and amaretti; summer berry pavlova with local blueberries, blackberries, and raspberry cream; and seven flavors of gelato and sorbet.
“I find what I want at the end of the meal is a really simple slice of cake or really well-made scoop of ice cream,” she says.
Chocolate lovers can turn to the chocolate budino with vanilla cream and chocolate wafer crumbs. Affogato (vanilla gelato, espresso, biscotti) gets a boozy upgrade with a shot of amaro for $4.
Thompson Italian netted a big-name general manager from D.C. Kristen “KC” Hamilton, formerly at Michelin-starred Rose’s Luxury and Little Pearl, also spearheads the beverage program. The Falls Church resident plans to keep the price point accessible, offering 16 wines by the glass for $9 to $14 and keeping most bottles under $40, with a big focus on Italian and biodynamic grapes.
A “Tequila and Watermelon Situation” is filled with Corazón blanco tequila, watermelon, lemon, lime, and mint. Draft lines are dedicated to prosecco and four local beers.
Thompson Italian is open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., and the owners expect to roll out lunch and brunch service before year’s end.
The authors of Downtown Italian wanted to celebrate the restaurant’s family theme with the simple name, Thompson Italian.
“No knew how to pronounce” their NYC Italian restaurants, Katherine Thompson says. Plus, neither she nor her husband are actually Italian.
“We are putting our twist on Italian food and aren’t 100-percent traditional,” she says. “We like to break the rules and make things spicy or acidic sometimes and make it our own.”