Multiple times each night at L’Ardente, a sparkling party trick will shoot out of a dessert and cause the entire dining room draped with Missoni curtains to immediately stop and stare.
Since opening last October, chef David Deshaies’s “glam Italian” restaurant at the shiny new Capitol Crossing development has blown through 22 cases of sparklers, lighting up a whopping 5,300 glitzy dessert toppers to date. The complimentary offering, available per request, commemorates all kinds of special occasions customers may be there for — birthdays, graduations, engagements, anniversaries, a new job, you name it.
“It’s something you might see in flashier cities like Vegas or Miami, but not a lot in D.C. Coming out of COVID, we wanted to make the energy at L’Ardente feel very much like a celebratory restaurant,” a rep tells Eater.
The Eater 38 restaurant that’s up for a Rammy for Best New Restaurant also draws notice for its 40-layer lasagna, airy pizzas cooked in a gold-plated oven, decadent espresso martinis, impressive pop art collection, and scene-y clientele (the Obamas recently did date night in one of its jewel-toned booths). No celebrity guests have asked for the sparklers just yet, per a rep.
While Deshaies also serves the theatrical showstopper alongside desserts at Central and Unconventional Diner, his newest D.C. restaurant seems to be the most popular place to spot a sparkler on any given night. On Fridays and Saturdays at L’Ardente, about 10 to 15 party starters parade around the soaring dining room before landing at their final destination. On other nights, about four to five fiery finales occur. Patrons can note the post-dinner request in Resy or just ask their server mid-meal at the table. Do some folks fake a special occasion just to join in on the fun? Of course.
“We definitely sometimes sense a ‘wink-wink, nudge-nudge’ if someone sees one and also wants one at their table. We’re happy to do that for people who are actually celebrating,” per L’Ardente’s rep.
Part of the Instagrammable magic is how tall and long the light show lasts (nearly a full minute). Sparklers stick out of the 13-layer chocolate cake or the bread pudding, but any dessert from pastry chef Manabu Inoue will do. For the seasonal soft serve or tiramisu, which comes encased in a chocolate sphere and also set alight, there’s no real way to spike the sparkler right into the sweet. So it’s attached to a separate plate with a chocolate tag spelling out the cause behind the celebratory affair. Some savory dishes also feature flair with help from a metallic gold spear:
For its first Fourth of July in D.C., L’Ardente is going all out with a three-course wine dinner filled with luxe courses like chilled lobster and stuffed soft shell crab ($200). And its rooftop conservatory on the 13th floor hosts a fireworks viewing party overlooking D.C.’s skyline ($90), complete with wines, bubbles, a Chandon cart, and nine types of dessert bites. Both L’Ardente festivities are sold out, but there’s a wait list for the rooftop party.