Sampino's Towne Foods
By Brianna Nathan
When you think of options for a great Italian dinner around downtown, I bet a few common culprits come to mind – Il Fornaio, Biba and the like. Well, it’s time to add Sampino’s Towne Foods (1607 F Street) (Facebook) to the list. Tucked away on 16th and F, a few doors down from 16th Street Donuts, this daytime deli turns into a hot spot for family-style dining on Friday nights.
Dinners at Sampino’s are by reservation only and fill up well in advance. When we walked through the door, we saw a long table stretching the length of the room. Antipasti platters and baskets of bread lined the table, where guests were starting to take their seats. My date and I were seated next to a retired couple, who shared with us stories of growing up on the East Coast. By the end of the dinner, you’ll have not only gotten a crash course in classic Italian fare, but will also know your neighbors a little better. Sampino’s offers a wine list filled with many gems imported from Italy – don’t be afraid to branch out a little and try something new! You won’t go wrong, as they provide excellent recommendations. You can also bring a bottle of your own, for a modest corkage fee.
You’d better come hungry, as the food is both excellent and plentiful. We started with a rich Cipollini onion soup, followed by a stellar risotto with asparagus and zucchini. I was a little intimidated by the timbale, an Italian staple combining meatballs, penne, eggs, salami, mushroom, marinara and cheese, wrapped in puff pastry. Once I tried a bite, I was sold. It may just be my new favorite Italian dish. My date ordered the lobster ravioli and was thrilled – sheets of fresh lobster-filled pasta were swathed in a lemon-cream sauce and finished with tobiko. How could you go wrong? I ordered the braciole of beef and was likewise delighted. The beef was tender, and the serrano and fontina with which it was stuffed meshed perfectly with the red wine sauce accompanying it. Our entrée was followed by a salad of beautifully ripe strawberries and baby spinach, and the entire meal was capped off with fresh coconut and pineapple gelato – the perfect ending to a delicious meal.
The entire dinner has an intimate, familial vibe, from the seating arrangement to the service itself. You’ll feel like the owners have opened their home to you – and you’ll never want to leave.
Sampino’s Towne Foods
1607 F St
Roughly $50 per person, plus tip and wine
*They post monthly menus on FB – go take a look!