The foot of Adams Morgan gets a big culinary kick this month with the anticipated arrival of Alfresco Tap & Grill on Thursday, April 20.
The airy neighborhood newcomer, from the family behind local hitmakers Cactus Cantina and nearby Lauriol Plaza, plates pizza, pasta, eggplant parm, and steak frites at the hillside corner of 18th and California Streets NW (2009 18th Street NW).
Managing partner Cindy Sanchez and husband Jaime Sanchez brought on chef Israel Bartoli to oversee the American-centric menu, marking a big cuisine pivot from the restaurateurs’ tried-and-true collection of Mexican eateries.
Bartoli has cooked in the city for more than a decade, with stops at tapas spot La Tasca, half-smoke standby Ben’s Next Door, and Wagshal’s deli. Hailing from Castilla La Mancha, Spain, Bartoli’s father is Spanish and his mother is Italian and raised in France. His broad background results in a menu that jumps from arugula-stuffed prosciutto rolls finished with shaved parmesan and a balsamic drizzle to classic bistro burgers.
“Growing up in Spain, with a French mother and Italian grandmother, we would spend hours at the kitchen table, going back and forth on which dishes were best. Prosciutto versus jamón serrano was particularly brutal,” he says.
Bartoli’s upbringing shines in apps like a fried fritura mixta and shrimp scampi, and he nods to the D.C. area with crab croquettes in an Old Bay remoulade. Other starters include French onion soup and roasted beets with a creamy goat cheese brulee.
Mains include a Sriracha-spiked Angus burger, Chianti-braised short rib, and classic steak frites in a bearnaise sauce. Pastas like a primavera join pizzas made with imported Italian flour. Pies are finished in a specialty two-tiered oven with a stone top and wood-fired bottom. Tables are covered with checkered wax paper that resemble an old-school Italian restaurant.
Herbs grown on the roof support the restaurant’s culinary efforts. There are also plenty of gluten-free and vegetarian options, including meat-free Impossible burgers. Lunch and dinner items range from $8.50 to $27.95 and weekend brunch runs $11.30 to $22.60.
Given the restaurant’s bonanza of outdoor space, Alfresco is all about frozen drinks. That includes “transforming a classic Italian cocktail—the Negroni—into a summer treat,” says Bartoli. Lauriol lovers will delight in slushy margaritas made famous at the Mexican restaurant down the street.
On tap, there’s up to eight beers, two wines, two cocktails, and one nonalcoholic beverage.
The bar also slings a martini limoncello—a white martini featuring lemon Citron vodka and turmeric syrup—and a “Power Mojito” made with kale and kiwi. Weekday happy hour (3 p.m. to 6 p.m.) will include $5 beers and wines, $6 cocktails, and $5-and-up apps.
Mammoth floor-to-ceiling glass windows and a retractable rooftop pergola let in generous natural light. Alfresco stays true to its name, boasting 212 outdoor seats (and 123 inside). Sun-drenched seating areas include an interior courtyard, 18th Street-facing patio where Belgian drum chandeliers act as both a source of light and heat, and patio along California Street with cozy wicker chairs overlooking tennis courts and a soccer field.
“We just want people to show up and hang out. [It’s] a neighborhood vibe,” says night manager Sophia Bond.
Daily hours start at 11:30 a.m. (and 11 a.m. on Sundays) until 10 p.m. on Friday, 11 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 p.m. on Sunday, with delivery and takeout options available.