A first taste of La Collina, a new Italian restaurant in Eastern Market that began offering a short “preview” menu for takeout last week, brings Pixar movies to mind. On the surface, dishes like generously cheesy garlic bread or spaghetti and meatballs are simple enough to appeal to a kid. But encountering freshly extruded al dente pasta and springy meatballs chock full of fennel flavor to cut through all that beef and pork fat should make the adults in the room happy.
La Collina’s osteria-style preview menu is available for pickup or delivery from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. Along with the cheesy bread, coated with a base layer of garlic oil that asserts itself from underneath three cheeses and a sprinkling of chile flakes, a collection of antipasti includes a classic chopped salad full of chickpeas, salami, castelvetrano olives, provolone, pepperoncini, and a red wine vinaigrette. For now, the only pastas are the spaghetti and meatballs, a Calabrian chile and guanciale amatriciana with what appear to be squiggly, conical campanelle, and dressed-down fusilli on a section of “little plates” clearly intended for children. For dessert, there’s a chocolate hazelnut mousse dressed with hazelnut pralines, dots of lemon curd, olive oil and sea salt.
The restaurant boasts a monochromatic dining room (let’s call it sand dune khaki) full of communal tables, artsy light fixtures, and a mozzarella bar where, eventually, customers will be able to watch antipasti being plated.
The restaurant is part of a larger, three-piece enterprise (747 C Street SE) that includes the Duck and the Peach — a California-meets-New England restaurant and daytime cafe that started selling cinnamon rolls and glossy chickens from its top-of-the-line Rotisol rotisserie oven just before New Year’s Eve — and the Wells, a handsome gin bar that will open last, whenever indoor dining restrictions ease to a more manageable level.
Hollis Wells Silverman, who’s made her biggest culinary contributions behind the scenes, is the managing partner. She was previously the chief operating officer for José Andrés’s ThinkFoodGroup and a consultant for chefs like Fabio Trabocchi. She helped bring Andrés’s Mercado Little Spain to life in New York City and says her specialty grew into helping chefs manage hospitality groups that own restaurants on a national (or international) scale.
Silverman got her start in restaurants working for San Francisco chef Traci Des Jardins. She enlisted Douglas Keane, a James Beard award-winner who ran two-Michelin-starred Cyrus in in Northern California for seven years, to consult on the D.C. restaurants. Jim Diecchio, who helped open Iron Gate and was a culinary director for celebrity chef Vivian Howard’s North Carolina restaurants, leads Silverman’s kitchens in D.C.