Luke Chesek, left, and Silk play a game of bocce on the upstairs court in Vendetta.
The Capecchi was a fast favorite, layering a double shot of Jameson Irish whiskey with McClure’s pure maple syrup, a dash of walnut liqueur and a squeeze of lemon.
“It’s subtle right?” the barkeep asked after my first draw of the citrus-spiked cooler. Englert bills this one as perhaps their most “unusual” drink, but it’s stiff enough to satisfy regular whiskey drinkers looking for a break from the neat routine.
The absolutely lovely Linden Court — combining Kentucky bourbon, herbal liqueur, Madeira and orange bitters — has an almost gourmet coffee feel to it, the bourbon and the amaro bonding into a forceful brew while vanilla sweetens every well-textured sip.
Negronis proved exceptionally tart; orange juice and bitters produce a grapefruit-like pucker, vermouth battles to smooth things out. Meanwhile, junipery English gin rolls around on the back of the tongue.
The biggest surprise was the Monza. Whereas most rum-based beverages smack of pure sugar cane, the accompanying amaretto cloaks this experience in soothing almond notes. Mind you, a hint of spice still swims to the surface every few sips, but it’s a far cry from the cloyingly coconut monstrosities heavy-handed barkeeps have shoved in front of rum drinkers since time immemorial.
According to Englert, the bar actually does amazingly well with Bellinis, fashioned here from prosecco and marinated pear. But both he and one of the bartenders billed the Linden Court as another popular creation.
Per Englert, staff has had to ease some guests into the pleasures of the house made limoncello.
“You have to warn the customers not to underestimate the wallop one of these not-so-mellow shots can pack,” he shared.
And they’re all excited to unveil new creations once seasons start to drastically change. “Hopefully we can start setting things afire now that the colder weather has arrived,” Englert said.
Keeping Things Light
Rather than hop on the family-style bandwagon, Vendetta is sticking with smaller portions and rotating mezze.
Daily specials range from glossy, marinated olives to bite-sized bunches of pickled green beans to seared swordfish filets flanked by pickled carrots and lentil salad.
The main attractions haven’t changed much (a long-standing sausage and peppers dish has been scaled down to a peperonata appetizer plate, chopped sausage optional) since the restaurant opened, although the chefs certainly have; Englert confirmed that opening toque James Figueroa-Perez departed after two months to take a cooking gig in his native Puerto Rico, effectively handing control of the kitchen over to Lawrence Semanyk, who Englert says lived three years abroad in Naples, Italy.
“He loves his family traditional red sauces and smoking his own meats and fishes,” Englert said of Semanyk’s culinary passions.
Englert swears by the signature gnocchi (bathed in walnut pesto) and meaty Napoletano pasta, bolstered as it is by house-smoked brisket, meatballs, sausage and meat sauce. But, at least in our case, the heavy stuff never stuck out as vividly as simpler productions.
An order of broccoli rabe arrabiata was breathtakingly fiery, the tender, oil-slicked greens plainly studded with red pepper flakes and chunks of sauteed garlic.
Visitors get their first look at the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which opened to the public on Monday, Oct. 6, 2014. The new memorial is located off Independence Ave. SW between the Rayburn House Office Building and HHS. Buy photo here.