Southeast Waterfront pioneer Osteria Morini celebrates its 10-year milestone this week in a big way, with an all-night happy hour, pasta class, throwback dishes, and a pig roast finale on its actual birthday (Sunday, November 19) with help from its inaugural executive chef Matt Adler. And looking forward, the powerhouse Italian enterprise out of NYC has plans to grow for the first time in D.C.
Corporate executive chef Bill Dorrler, who oversees kitchen operations at D.C.’s Osteria Morini (301 Water Street SE) and the original in SoHo, tells Eater its 4-year-old Mt. Vernon Triangle siblings — Nicoletta Italian Kitchen and adjoining coffee bar Brew’d — will rebrand to Bar Morini and Caffe Morini, respectively, some time in early 2024 (901 4th Street NW).
“During the success we’ve had here in 10 years, we’re constantly getting together to decide how we can keep evolving Morini,” he says. “We’re lucky we have other properties where we can do that.”
Bar Morini, situated at the foot of D.C. Bar’s headquarters, plans to cater to more of an after-work and late-night crowd. “Bringing over nuances of what we do here [at Osteria Morini], but with a twist, and accentuate the bar,” he says. The retooled cafe component plans to swing “more Italian,” he adds. The existing pizza program will stay in place, joined by a parade of Morini’s pastas and other familiar features like its terracotta-patterned plate ware and splashes of orange. Its seasonal waterfront kiosk in Navy Yard (Nicoletta Pizzeria) is staying in place, and Dorrler has plans to expand the outdoor activation around D.C. and NYC.
Osteria Morini, which is part of the same Altamarea Group that includes Central Park’s recently revived Italian seafood spot Marea (and counts U2 frontman Bono as a regular), specializes in hyper-regional dishes from Emilia-Romagna. The northern Italian region is synonymous with cuisine staples such as prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano, mortadella, balsamic vinegar, and pastas like tortellini, tortelloni, and lasagne alla Bolognese.
Some of D.C.’s top culinary talent have led the kitchen at Osteria Morini at some point, starting with its first executive chef Matt Adler (who now runs Caruso’s Grocery) and Benjamin Pflaumer, who went on to work at Michelin-starred Masseria and Vermilion in Old Town. “It’s almost like a family tree in this area,” says Dorrler.
Adler will “put his whites back on” to step in and serve this Sunday’s outdoor brunch near its orange umbrella-dotted patio (TBA whether he’ll take a pie in the face like he did during one anniversary party years ago).
Osteria Morini’s 2013 opening helped activate The Yards, Forest City’s then-fledgling waterfront development in Navy Yard. Now the neighborhood is home to a Michelin-rated restaurant (Albi), fellow pioneers still going strong (Shilling Canning Company, Bluejacket), and of course, some that didn’t pan out (Hatoba, Bammy’s).
This weekend, Osteria Morini goes into the vault to bring back nostalgic classics from its early days. That includes tortellini en brodo — a “labor of love” that’s as Emilia-Romagna as it gets (and served year-round in NYC), he says.
Another blast from the past is the sharable grigliata mista platter, a meaty smorgasbord of rotating butcher’s cuts with “simple local veggies as the condiment,” he says. This weekend features skirt steak, fennel sausage, and pork ribs with marinated peppers.
The idea is to get customer feedback and potentially put the retro items back on the D.C. menu going forward. “Sometimes we get caught up in innovation but we forget about the classics,” he says.
Its basket of dearly missed homemade focaccia resurfaced this summer and is now here to stay, he reports, served with basil pesto, olivada, red pepper crema. “We can use it to make sandwiches again for lunch and croutons for the Caesar salad,” he says.
Its week-long anniversary party — a la Roman Games — will culminate in a “Sunday funday, all-day celebration. We’re going to have as big of a cake we can possibly make,” he says.
Here is the rest of the week’s events; book reservations and tickets online.
- Tuesday, November 14: In partnership with Tre Monti Vineyards, Osteria Morini hosts a five-course wine dinner curated by executive chef Kristopher Jimenez. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. ($105)
- Wednesday, November 15: Pasta-making class with Jimenez and a goodie bag filled with Morini merch. 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. ($125)
- Thursday, November 16: Campari Night features negronis and spritzes at Aperitivo Hour prices starting at $7. 4 p.m. to close
- Friday, November 17 to Sunday, November 19: Morini Throwbacks menu
- Sunday, November 19: All-you-can-eat Morini Pig Roast Brunch ($36) featuring marbled potatoes, grilled corn and an herb-marinated suckling pig. Starting at 11:30 a.m., with the last seating at 2:30 p.m. A 10-year anniversary party (5 p.m. to close) features live music and a Morini birthday cake.