Inside Washington, D.C.'s Massive New Tri-Level Italian Food Emporium
The Wharf in Washington D.C. is home to a beautiful new trattoria with an outdoor terrace that overlooks the historic fish market. It’s also home to a new café selling portable cones of fritto misto and housemade pastries, a market specializing in hard-to-find Italian groceries, an amaro library, offering nearly 100 different vintage and contemporary amari, and a rooftop bar with sweeping views of the Potomac River. They’re all part of Officina—Italian for workshop—chef Nicholas Stefanelli’s expansive “culinary collective.” The one-stop emporium is not just for Italian-food lovers; it’s for devotees of Italian culture.
The chef and owner of the city’s Michelin-starred Masseria has wanted to open this place for nearly 20 years, when he first encountered the combination butcher shops and restaurants in Puglia.
“I just fell in love with what that was,” says Stefanelli. Though the original concept was a lot smaller in scope, Officina is Stefanelli’s most ambitious project to date, spanning 14,000 square feet over three floors. On the ground floor, a café serving Roman-style pizzas, Italian street foods, and pastries like rum-soaked Neapolitan cake and cannoli shares space with Mercato—a market selling imported and specialty groceries and fresh pastas, with a wine shop and a butcher counter component.
The 75-seat trattoria occupying the second floor specializes in rustic pasta dishes like amatriciana and carbonara, along with fish and fresh cuts of meat from the in-house butcher. Also on floor two: Salotto, which houses the first and only amaro library in the District.
“We were building a third bar, and I just didn't want all the places to be the same,” says Stefanelli. “We wanted to give a real experience that’s part of Italian gastronomy. You can do aperitivos or cocktails or comparative tastings, or just sit and drink. It’s really beautiful— leather, wood—it gave that bar its own identity.” Among the bottles available are Capitoline vermouth and Donna Rosa rabarbaro, both crafted in small-batches in D.C.
The third floor houses a private event space, and on the open-year-round rooftop, Terraza offers aperitivo, cocktails, cheese and charcuterie boards, and a champagne bar—all with the backdrop of panoramic Potomac river views. On a recommendation from his architect Jose Toha, Stefanelli looked to Italian film La Grande Bellezza for inspiration.
“It takes place on these beautiful rooftops in Rome—effortless gardens where all these great conversations are happening,” Stefanelli explains. “[Toha] said, ‘You want a plush place you can hang out, watch the planes take off, drink some wine, engage in a conversation.’ And that’s what the Terraza is.”
In the nearly 20 years Stefanelli has been cooking in Washington, D.C., the chef has witnessed firsthand the culinary revitalization here. “Now, people are living in the city, going out, neighborhoods are developing,” he says. “It allows for a lot more diversity and options, and everyone is wanting more. There’s a really great energy here right now.”
With the café open daily from 7 a.m. to midnight, and the Trattoria, Salotto, and rooftop Terrazza open until 11 p.m., there’s something for everyone all day long.
“You can have coffee in the morning in the cafe, you can shop for groceries and steaks and bottles of wine in the market, you can go on a date in the trattoria, or you can smoke a cigar and hang out and drink a bottle of champagne on the roof,” says Stefanelli. “That’s the beauty of the space.”
Officina, 1120 Maine Ave SW. (202) 747-5222.