Il Piatto: Hakan Ilhan Gives Italian Classics a Value-Oriented Spin at BLM Plaza


Il Piatto, a mecca for Italian classics in a classy, midtown setting, is restaurateur Hakan Ilhan’s latest offering to restaurant-goers looking for value. (His Georgetown spot is Brasserie Liberté.) The spacious dining room, formerly fine-dining Mirabelle, with its leather-lined booths, mirrored bar and arty, custom chandelier, works well for family celebrations, business meetings and get-togethers with friends. A spacious outdoor terrace, overlooking Black Lives Matter Plaza, boasts a unique White House view that draws drop-ins and tourists. There’s also a 45-seat private dining room for receptions and events. Best of all, Ilhan says, the menu has a “price point” designed for “comfort.”

Executive Chef Lina Nicolai (ex-Al Crostino) brings her Neapolitan heritage to the kitchen. Cooking was such a part of her family’s life in Naples that there were “couches in the kitchen.” Her grandmother’s vibrant tomato sauce anchors pasta, eggplant parmesan and chicken and veal dishes on the menu. It’s made by simmering imported San Marzano tomatoes (a “perfect” ingredient) and little else for “just the right amount of time” (not too long). Meaty white fish is baked in parchment with assorted shellfish. Careful timing ensures that the “flavors taste like the ocean.” Another family favorite on the menu uses truffle oil to lend an “earthiness” to a pork-flavored, creamy pasta sauce. “Keeping the classics classic” is the chef’s mantra. She wants her fresh-tasting food to “pop in your mouth.”

General Manager Paul Zaiontz, an industry veteran, looks forward to hosting guests on the “close to the White House” patio with its unique view for drinks and all-day fare. Summer cocktails trend Italian with Negroni, Godfather, Milano Mule and more. Zaiontz is especially proud of the house-made limoncello. It’s a five-day process, and the spirited result is used in refreshing drinks. Another highlight is an Aperol brunch special: “Spritz Kits” that include a bottle of Prosecco along with carafes of Aperol and sparkling water for $35.95. Happy hour at the bar is also a deal, he says, and it runs from 2:30 to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, featuring hearty snacks like meatballs, risotto fritters, calamari and burrata. In sum, Zaiontz is enthusiastic about the restaurant’s value: “A family of four can dine here for less than $150 with drinks.” He expects to host a lot of celebrations at Il Piatto, 900 16th St. NW (Black Lives Matter Plaza).

The bar at Il Piatto (formerly Mirabelle). Photo by Rey Lopez, courtesy Il Piatto.

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