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Restaurant reviews in Tyson's and surrounding area... mostly

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Carluccio's Caffe, Restaurant & Italian Market - Old Town, Alexandria, VA

100 King Street
Alexandria, VA
Tel: (703) 566-5293

The first Carluccio's restaurant has finally arrived in the U.S. and it's right here in the popular Northern Virginia destination of Old Town, Alexandria!

Antonio Carluccio is a well-known restauranteur with franchises around Europe (mostly UK) and the Middle East. His brand new U.S. restaurant Carluccio's Caffe, Restaurant and Italian Market debuted here nearly four months ago, in June 2015, offering the type of simple wholesome Italian food that Carluccio himself refers to as mof mof - Minimum of Fuss, Maximum of Flavor.  Originally from the Italian Amalfi Coast, Antonio Carluccio, has traveled extensively throughout Italy, visiting hundreds of wineries and individual food artisans. As explained to us by the wonderfully congenial Director of Operations of U.S., who himself hails from Calabria, all the delicacies, such as jams, pastas, cookies, cheeses, cured meats, olives and olive oils used in food preparation and available on the market shelves were hand-selected by Carluccio himself and imported directly from the artisans who make them.  In other words, there is no large distribution center from where Carluccio procures his products - each item comes directly from its birth place... in limited quantities. Once this batch is gone, it's gone.

Antonio Carluccio is quite a personality! From their website: Who is Antonio Carluccio? Acclaimed European cook. Award-winning writer. TV personality. Our founder, Antonio Carluccio, has been celebrated by his nation receiving a Commendatore OMRI (the equivalent of a British knighthood) by the President of Italy for services to Italian gastronomy and was also awarded an honorary OBE from Queen Elizabeth II.

The restaurant is elegant, beautiful, and spacious. Its contemporary architecture and decor style is very easy on the eye, simple and inviting.  There is ample lighting both in the upstairs more formal dining room, as well as on the first floor for more casual dining.

Chef Alfio Celia clearly is a master of presentation. Amazing attention to detail for each dish and the food composition on each table, where plates complement one another to create a visual symphony.  Bellissimo! It is no wonder he was one of 16 Top Chefs Chosen to Compete in The Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament in 2015.

Oh, and by the way, everything goes great with a delicious Mimosa!

As its name suggest (no, Caffe is not a misspelling of Cafe!), Carluccio places a heavy emphasis on the importance of good quality coffee and the coffee culture, as it is done in Italy. Delivered on a small coffee tray with a glass of water, like in Italy.

We came to Carluccio's to try out its newly-launched breakfast and brunch menu, particularly appropriate in September - National Breakfast Month!

We were treated to a bread basket with several kinds of bread, our favorite being the walnut cranberry bread, and two jams - one fig and one clementine. The Fig Jam was delicious, but the Clementine Jam was out-out-of-this-world! We will definitely be coming back to pick up some of the Clementine Jam in Carluccio's market to bring home. It's worth a trip to the restaurant just for the Clementine Jam! Delizioso!

The fruit bowl came with a side of plain white yogurt. All the pieces were plump and fresh, great start to a morning meal!

One of our favorite features of Carluccio's is the open kitchen upstairs, where Chef Alfio's staff churns out their mouthwatering dishes.

Over our brunch, we were lucky to have a great conversation with Sebastiano Legato, Director of U.S. Operations at Carluccio's. No one is more perfect for this job than Sebastiano, who is just as passionate about Carluccio's approach to simple Italian food as he is about Italian food in general. Anything you want to know about how Italians eat and drink, he will relay personal experiences with many interesting details. He will tell you everything about Italian Coffee Etiquette, too, in a most friendly and knowledgeable way.

The Eggs Benedict in Carluccio's includes two poached eggs with a thick cut of roasted Italian ham, topped with hollandaise sauce on a toasted Italian bread. $9.00

Eggs Florentine is two poached eggs and steamed spinach topped with hollandaise sauce on a toasted Italian bread. $10.00

Ketchup available upon request, even though, let's face it, that's not a typical Italian way to eat eggs.

The Colazione consists of scrambled eggs, grilled smoky pancetta (ham), sauteed mushrooms, tomato and a slice of toasted Italian bread. $10.00

Finally, for delicious dessert, a sampling of sweets imported from Italy.

Despite being new to the area (and to the U.S.), Carluccio's is quite busy on a typical Saturday morning, so reservations are DEFINITELY recommended.

Our brunch was more than wonderful, it was mof mof! Indeed simple and indeed flavorful. We will definitely be back for lunch and dinner to try the food that looked so great in the plates carried by this waiter!

The delicious baked goods in Carluccio's are not baked on premises, but they come from local bakeries, including Lyon in DC and LeoNora in Arlington, which makes the phenomenal croissants.

DO YOURSELF A FAVOR: Pick up a Banana Nuts Bread to take home with you on your way out. Thank us later. We know you will. Yumm. We would have taken a picture of it to show you.... but it's all gone.... 

We loved the atmosphere and the food at Carluccio's. We will definitely be back! In fact, sign up for the restaurant's mailing list and you will receive special offers, such as, for example, a free bottle of red wine with two adult entrees, which is good through the end of September 2015!  What's not to love about that!  And here is our favorite song to enjoy and get into the mood for a true Italian feast!

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