I had a chat the other day with Richard Troiani, one of the partners in Varro, the 1,600 square-foot Italian bar opening this fall in the Packard Building at the corner of 12th and Pine.
One of the questions I had for him was: Aren’t there already a lot of Italian restaurants on Capitol Hill?
Yes, agreed Troiani, who closed his eponymous downtown eatery last September. But his new spot distinguishes itself from Spinasse, Anchovies and Olives, Osteria La Spiga, and Tidbit Bistro (to name just a few) in three ways:
1. Concept: Varro is modeled after Troiani’s favorite way to eat in Italy: At casual bars—he compares them to Spain’s tapas bars—that are open all day and into the night. He says such places are always full of neighborhood people who pop in for an espresso in the morning (Varro will serve Lavazza coffees) and come back later for some lunch, and then again in the evening for a beer and a snack. You can stop by for cocktails or eat a full dinner. “It’s all good,” if you will.
From a conceptual standpoint, then, Varro resembles Oddfellows more than it does Spinasse. It’s just the food is Italian.
2. Decor: In contrast to all the sparsely appointed restaurants popping up around the town, Varro will be an elaborately decorated affair with lots of color and a collage of images from 1950s-60s Italy—that highly stylized, highly decadent era immortalized in the movie La Dolce Vita.
3. Price: Troiani has a Class-two commercial hood system in the kitchen. The upshot of this is that he’s making most of the food in a 1,100-degree wood-burning pizza oven. Look for rustically (and, given that oven, quickly) prepared proteins like chicken paillard and roasted prawns with peppers. His menu will include five or six pastas and a Calabrese sausage and peppers sandwich.
Varro’s dinner menu prices top out at $17.