- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Little miracles continue to appear on the reinvented 14th Street Northwest corridor bridging Dupont and Logan circles. Posto has been offering the neighborhood first-rate Italian food at moderate prices since December.

No reservations, but there's no stinting on the food or the service, and no mystery because Posto is the little sister of the elegant Tosca downtown. The menu at Posto was designed by Tosca's executive chef, Massimo Fabbri, and is carried out with eclat by chef de cuisine Matteo Venini.

What comes to the table at Posto is beautifully prepared and presented, from excellent pizzas with delicious chewy crusts to a delectable rhubarb-and-celery cobbler. Almost everything in between gets high marks.

Appetizers shine. One of the best is a dish of smooth, creamy polenta topped with a rich tomato sauce and chunks of lightly spiced Italian sausage. Another irresistible starter is a dice of marinated scallops mixed with bits of cucumber and mint in a lemony dressing with a little watercress salad on the side. The scallops are elegantly served on three tasting spoons.

A recent soup of the day was a smooth cream-free puree of cauliflower topped with several small garlicky shrimp. The shrimp add a touch of the unusual and work well with the cauliflower.

Abundant choices are available to begin the meal, aside from the pizzas and platters of cured meats or cheeses. A room-temperature salad of grilled octopus, to name one, is a combination of tasty and tender octopus diced with chickpeas, frisee lettuce and potatoes. Fewer chickpeas and more octopus would have made it even better.

A simple salad of romaine hearts is topped with lovely, creamy buffalo mozzarella and a few halved grape tomatoes, decorated with a quail egg. Or you could combine some of the chilled appetizers into a delicious salad plate: cucumbers and red onions, beets with a pistachio dressing, or English peas. The same could be done with warm sides to make a vegetable plate.

The half-dozen pastas include a dish of tortelli filled with a subtle combination of pureed ricotta, cauliflower, broccoli and walnuts and topped with a creamy Parmesan sauce. It's a true delight.

Spaghetti comes with a sauce of slightly chewy shrimp, tender pieces of scallops, slices of artichokes and crisp prosciutto in a good, light tomato sauce.

Not quite as successful is a dish of cavatelli, long, thin oval-shaped pasta resembling gnocchi, sauced with a light green pesto made of arugula, potatoes and olives. The pasta was unpleasantly doughy, and the best thing about the sauce was the delicate color.

Main courses are limited to roasted scallops, pan-seared salmon, a beef strip loin, braised veal cheeks, a small chicken and a traditional stew of clams, calamari, shrimp, green beans and garlic in white wine.

Desserts are not the usual run of the mill. Joining the rhubarb-and-celery cobbler is a superb mascarpone mousse with smooth coffee gelato and a shot of thick, dark chocolate sauce; mixed berry soup; a chocolate semifreddo with chocolate candied fennel and anise graham crackers; and banana strudel.

The strudel dough was a bit weary, lacking crispness, but the citrus-olive oil semifreddo accompanying it was a creamy delight.

Posto is Italian for “the place,” or “the spot.” Posto hits it.

RESTAURANT: Posto, 1515 14th St. NW, 202/332-8613

HOURS: Dinner only. Monday through Thursday 5:30 to 10:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 11:30 p.m., Sunday 5 to 10 p.m.

PRICES: Starters including pizzas $8 to $14; pastas $15 to $17; main courses $18 to $22; desserts $8

CREDIT CARDS: All major cards

PARKING: Metered street parking; $10 in lot next door

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

METRO: Dupont Circle

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