Cacio e pepe is an always-popular pasta order traditionally comprised of spaghetti, pecorino Romano, and black pepper. And now a new Italian restaurant in Old Town has found a way to translate the crowd-pleasing plate into cocktail format.
Three years after impressing Falls Church with spicy meatballs and expertly made pastas at Thompson Italian, culinary power couple Gabe and Katherine Thompson expanded their chic namesake restaurant to Old Town in January (1024 King Street, Alexandria, Virginia).
About 300 “cacio e pepe” gimlets have been sold since opening, Thompson Italian Alexandria’s general manager Mel Haynes-Dunphy tells Eater. “Once one person in the party gives it a try and loves it, more cautious palates are inclined to try it as well,” adds Haynes-Dunphy.
The uniquely savory sipper—available in Old Town only—is the brainchild of head bartender Ossylyn Trigueros, who likes to work with ingredients the kitchen already has on hand. (She’s also behind its olive oil martini, which is available at both locations and nods to the famed olive oil cake from its James Beard-nominated pastry chef Katherine Thompson.)
Cacio e pepe reimagined in a glass ($17) features Richmond’s Cirrus vodka infused with Parmigiano-Reggiano, lime juice, and pink peppercorn dust.
Trigueros says the idea to do a cacio e pepe cocktail came about when a Falls Church guest requested an off-menu takeout order of the classic pasta. She immediately started thinking about how she could come up with a liquid counterpart for Old Town’s bar. Parmesan is one of the most-used cheeses in the restaurant, and it just took a matter of time for Trigueros to perfect the infusion process and finishing touches.
“There is a common thread between a lot of the dishes and the cocktail program, and this was no different,” says Haynes-Dunphy.
Essential pizza parlor Stellina was at the forefront of playing with the pasta, debuting in the Union Market district in 2019 with a creative cacio e pepe pie that remains a best seller across its three locations today.
Thompson Italian Old Town now offers another offbeat take on cacio e pepe that kids can try, too: