I’m Eddie Cano – DC

This weekend was Mother’s Day weekend.  I was lucky enough to get to see my mom this year, as she and my dad came to visit me.  They were back home for actual Mother’s Day, but we got to spend a nice Friday and Saturday together.  I always want to show my family some good food when they come to visit, but especially since it was Mother’s Day weekend, I wanted a restaurant that I thought my mom would just love.  She is such a great mom to me and my three siblings, and she deserves to be pampered with great food.

On Friday night, Chris joined the three of us for a lovely dinner at I’m Eddie Cano, a restaurant that just opened last fall in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Northwest DC.  The name is a spin on the Italian pronunciation of “americano.”  The theme of the restaurant is the collision of the two sides of Italian cuisine: the old world cooking in Italy (Italiano) and the new world cooking from the Italian diaspora (Americano).

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For example, as Italiano dishes, you can find things like bruschetta, cacio e pepe, and eggplant parmigiana, while Americano dishes include garlic bread, spaghetti and meatballs, and chicken parmesan.  If I am being perfectly honest, there isn’t an item on the menu that I wouldn’t want to try.

When Chris had first brought up going to this restaurant, I knew it would be perfect for me.  I used to think I was only into Italian American food, because that is what I grew up eating in my family.  Italian food for me was spaghetti with homemade meatballs, lasagna, chicken parmesan, wedding soup, baked rigatoni, and even the occasional spaghetti pie.  I never even heard of things like risotto until I met Chris in college, because that is just not what we made as Italian Americans.

Mostly through my friendship with Chris, I have expanded my taste for Italian food to include more of the traditional Italian dishes and sauces, like risotto, bolognese, pesto, and all the different preparations and styles of pasta that were different than the spaghetti and meatballs I grew up eating.

What I have learned is that both types of Italian cuisine are amazing in their own right, so why shouldn’t I celebrate both?  Even my own Italian cooking is starting to look more like Old World meets New World.  So, I was very much looking forward to this dinner.

If I had to guess, I would say the restaurant is trying to embody 1960s/1970s Italy with the layout and decor, but with a modern spin.  The restaurant is well-designed and is a cute visual, down to the huge mural along the side wall, which made for a great photo opp for my parents.

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From looking around, I could tell that this restaurant was set up in the style of small/shared plates.  Living in DC, Chris and I are used to shared plates restaurants.  In fact, even when a restaurant is not set up in that style, Chris and I still make it “shared plates.”  We are very open about sharing food.  That is part of the culture in DC and also a representation of our friendship.

My mom said all the food was delicious, but she did joke with me yesterday that she didn’t have to share her meal with anyone when she went out for Mother’s Day with my dad and sister.  My dad had explained to her that this was a popular style of dining in DC; they are just not used to that in Western PA.

To get the full experience at this restaurant, I highly recommend ordering a balance of dishes between the Americano and the Italiano.  From the Americano side, we ordered: Nonna’s Meatballs; fried zucchini; and the orecchiette with fennel sausage, broccoli rabe, and peperoncino.  On the Italiano side, we ordered: arancini (from the specials); cacio e pepe; gnocchi alla sorrentina with pomodoro sauce and buffalo mozzarella; and the eggplant parmigiana.

The arancini (aka risotto balls) were crispy on the outside, with a creamy and flavorful risotto on the inside.  The dipping sauce was a nice touch, though I would have totally ate these on their own.

The fried zucchini was on another level from any other fried zucchini I have ever tried.  I have never seen fried zucchini with such thin pieces of zucchini.  These were so light and crisp, almost like they took zucchini noodles and cut them into smaller pieces and then breaded and fried them.  This dish absolutely made me want to make some friend zucchini straws.

We had these two dishes come out as the first course, while everything else came out as a second course.  In this second course, we of course had pasta, but we also got to compare a meat dish with a vegetable dish (the meatballs vs. the eggplant parmigiana).

The meatballs were some of the best I have ever had, and looking back at the menu, I understand why.  Their meatballs used the “holy trinity” of Italian cooking (veal, beef, and pork).  I use the holy trinity when I make meatloaf, but I typically stick to a beef and pork mixture when I make meatballs.  Adding the veal and pork is how Italians make such succulent and juicy meatballs.  I will never make a plain beef meatball, because they dry out so easily.  I highly recommend coming to this restaurant to try their meatballs.  This is how meatballs should taste.  They were moist and juicy, with a great balance of flavors in the sauce.

I did also appreciate the eggplant parmesan.  I will admit that the eggplant was cooked a little more than I would have liked, making it almost too mushy.  I prefer eggplant with a bit more texture to it, but the flavors were still good.

As for pastas, we tried three very different types.  My favorite dish of the night was the cacio e pepe.  I cannot stop thinking about how delicious and creamy this pasta is made with just a few simple ingredients.  The pasta was cooked to a perfect al dente.  I am absolutely planning on making some cacio e pepe soon.  I think we all found that to be the best dish of the night.

The gnocchi were so light and fluffy.  You didn’t even have to chew these gnocchi because they just melt in your mouth.  The gnocchi became one with my tongue in pure bliss.  I love light gnocchi just as much as I love a more dense ones.  My dad said that when he eats gnocchi, he wants them to sink into your stomach.  He is referring to a good, dense potato gnocchi like the recipe passed down in our family.  That is my favorite style of gnocchi, but there is just something to be said about light ricotta gnocchi, or as I call them tiny clouds of heaven.

The dish that surprised me the most was the orecchiette, though I am a huge orecchiette fan.  The name means “little ears” in English, and this is such a fun and delicious type of pasta.  Due to its thickness in comparison to other pastas, there is a slight chewiness to orecchiette, and these were cooked to perfect chewiness.  This pasta was brought to life through the flavors of the fennel sausage and broccoli rabe.  Every bite just burst with flavor.  I wasn’t expecting so much out of this dish, but it was delicious.

The moral of this post is that you should absolutely get yourself to I’m Eddie Cano if you are in the DC area.  The meal was well worth it.  I love the style of this restaurant, as I got to try so many more dishes than if they served individual entrees.  I felt wholly satisfied with this constructed meal.  I doubt I will make it back to this restaurant before I leave, but I would absolutely go back on a visit.  I have nothing but high praises for this restaurant.  I sincerely hope this restaurant does well.

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