Located between the Foggy Bottom and Dupont Circle neighborhoods, i Ricchi purports to offer an authentic Tuscan village getaway in the lower levels of a downtown corporate plaza. When we stepped through the doors, we were greeted by an army of formal-wear clad men and women, smiling and holding doors open.
The interior of the restaurant was cozy and bright, if stuck in a lackluster state of 90's decor. Our server greeted us, told us about some of the specials (i.e. pointed out the most expensive things on the menu) and brought us a basket of fresh breads. Our favorite was the focaccia with sun-dried tomatoes baked into the warm crust.
Now, I'm not normally fussy about prices. Some people spend their money on clothes, or cars, or furnishings or video games. Angela and I spend our money on food and that's what makes us happy. But, as I perused the menu, the thought of starter salads priced at $19 forced me to start sinking into an adolescent state - suddenly I was eighteen again and calculating how many hours I'd have to work at the video store at six bucks an hour to pay for this meal. Surely, I could just order an appetizer and a water. I'll just ask for a second basket of bread - that's complimentary, right?
I snapped out of my funk long enough to agree to split an appetizer.
We opted for the Panzotti Fiorentini (a half portion of which is shown above). The homemade roasted veal and spinach stuffed pasta "pockets" are laced with besciamella and Florentine tomato sauce. Our server split the pasta onto separate plates for us table-side. While I understand the canons of fine dining, I never cease to be annoyed when the waitstaff portions food for me like this. In this particular instance, splitting the small serving of pasta almost seemed like a fool's errand as I finished both of my bites in ten seconds. That's right, both of them. As in two bites. As in, we just paid $17 dollars for that? (Math enthusiasts, if I were eighteen and still employed at a video store at a wage of six dollars an hour, that would be nearly three hours of monotonous summer employment for just a few bites of mediocre pasta. This is of course, not taking into account the taxes being deducted from my bi-weekly paycheck).
Angela found more to enjoy in the small portion of veal-stuffed pasta than I, but I was too distracted by skepticism to appreciate it. I remained unimpressed as I glanced around the room, surveying the bloated staff-to-patron ratio and attempting to recall just how many fancy suits comprised the gauntlet of staff members we passed through on our way to the host stand (the answer being 7). I'm all for more people being employed, but was I getting shorted on veal pockets to pay Johnny-Be-Formal (and about six of his friends) an hourly wage to stand by the door and greet people?
For my entree, I ordered another pasta dish, praying to the Tuscan Gods that it would sate my hunger better than the veal. The beet gnocchi dish (above) - while still overpriced - was at least a slightly heartier portion. The pasta was very heavy, but I've made enough gnocchi seen Angela make enough gnocchi in my day to know the difficulties in creating the pasta, let alone in adding and ricing additional ingredients (in this case, the beets) into the potato mix. I found the beets a well-executed twist on an already impressive dish. But I still was bitter enough that I wanted nothing more than to dislike it.
Angela went for the Prime Rib (above), which was plated atop an au jus alongside roasted potatoes and carrots. The Prime Rib was an impressively thick cut of meat, but I know I've had much better Prime Rib than the slice or two she cut for me, and she - in a very Un-Angela-like move - only finished about half of it. Her dinner seemed pretty representative of a menu that was full of over-priced 'classics'.
The food gets an unenthusiastic passing grade, but nothing tasted that good to me in the context of the absurd pricing scheme. Certainly, there's folk out there who appreciate the frills of a place like i Ricchi, but for my tastes, I prefer a more modern, evolving approach that favors food, flavor and atmosphere over... well... stuffiness and old-school pretension.