Chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s Italian artistry pops up in Georgetown at Officina in Via Umbria’s Wisconsin Avenue location. Curbside, a floral bower invites sit-down dining on specialty pastas and classic entrées, as well as midday pizzas, panini and salads. Inside are curated wine treasures, prepared specialties, imported cheeses, house-crafted salumi, butchered meats, freshly baked breads, pastry and imported pantry items for carryout, pickup and delivery.
Chef de cuisine Niko Cezar offers a compact dinner menu of seasonal antipasti, pastas and main dishes like steak with salsa verde and fish “acqua pazza” — in crazy water. Hard-to-make gnocchi is a perennial hit. Desserts, cocktails, wines by the glass and after-dinner drinks are offered at the streatery, and diners can be served any bottle from the shop (with corkage).
The airy front room sports a few widely spaced dining tables. Now, the familiar, faded blue Piaggio Ape mini-truck, still front and center, stages wine specials. Resident sommelier Dawn Trabing, who selects these “last bottle” values, is happy to talk about them or about the treasures lining the left wall. These include house-made cocktails in take-home bottles, rare amari and small-production Italian vintages sold only to restaurants, not to retail stores. More wine gems — Champagnes and Burgundies from small producers — line the walls of a small dining room that can be booked for private dinners.
Picnic baskets are inspired by display cases filled with ripe, imported cheeses, like truffled pecorino, an Italian burrata that oozes cream or a blue cheese made softly seductive with buffalo milk. House-crafted sausages and cured meats, as well as classic antipasti like eggplant alla Norma and the colorful vegetable medley called giardiniera, are also on parade.
Officina’s bakery at the Wharf delivers daily breads, crostini and a crumb-crusted, blueberry lemon pie, as well as classic tiramisù and gelato. All this — and more — are available either for grab-n-go or for eating on the spot. Shoppers can also stock up on imported pastas, beans, grains, vinegars and olive oils, like the one used in-house: Keros from Greece.
“Creativity,” says Stefanelli, chef and owner of Masseria at Union Market, is key to survival these days. One example he cites is “figuring out how to construct that [arbor-like] barrier while traffic was whizzing by.” Right now, the challenge is building out the second floor of Via Umbria for indoor dining.