Classic Tables: Obelisk

Still standing tall after 23 years

With small tables spread out across a converted rowhouse dining room, Obelisk is the city's missing link to a rustic Italian trattoria.

More than 20 years after opening, chef Peter Pastan remains dedicated to his food. He hasn't expanded on the restaurant's mere 30-something seats or even created a website, but his kitchen is at the forefront of excellent Italian cuisine in D.C.

Pastan changes his offerings nightly for the five-course prix fixe meal ($70), presented on handwritten menus.

Dinner starts with a barrage of mixed small plates. During a recent meal, the items included plump Burrata cheese bathed in grassy olive oil, and salty, rich stewed octopus that tasted like a trip to the Adriatic.

The appetizers feature Pastan's house-made pastas, including golden nuggets of gnocchi with Gorgonzola, and peppery arugula ravioli topped with Iberico ham.

The kitchen is remarkably precise with meat. Grilled lamb chops were served a perfect medium-rare, tempered by a pile of slightly bitter sautéed chicory.

The cheese plate blends Italian and American varieties. Diners who already feel overindulged should finish the meal with petits fours and request that dessert, like a pear strudel or fudgy chocolate hazelnut cake, be boxed to eat the next day.

Obelisk, 2029 P St. NW; 202-872-1180