Hey guys! Today we’ve got another post written by my amazing husband Tom. In fact, expect to see more posts from him in the future as he’s now an official contributor to Bad Sentences!
We’ve really enjoyed exploring the neighborhood gems near our apartment and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the volume of quality eateries in Petworth. Places like Himitsu and Ruta del Vino both highly impressed and left us eager to go back for more. However, what has stood out to me the most has been the lack of pretentiousness found in so many of these places in Petworth, something that is all too rare in some of the trendier areas of the district. A perfect embodiment of this is Little Coco’s.
As soon as you walk up to Little Coco’s you get the feeling of a friendly and cozy neighborhood restaurant without any of the long lines or stuffiness that you’d expect from a place with 4.5 stars on Yelp. The patio out front is lined with hanging lights and draws you in from afar – you cannot resist sitting down to enjoy a drink out there. We had our dog with us and it was 70 degrees out when we went, so the patio was a no-brainer.
We were in no rush so we thoroughly combed through the drink menu, I went with an IPA and Kacy opted for the light and refreshing Coco’s Draft Gimlet (only $6!). The menu had a nice variety of cocktails, beers, and wines. An extra surprise came when we learned about their extensive selection of Amaro – an Italian liqueur that is commonly drunk as an after-dinner digestif. It’s always fun to try different types of booze and learn something new. More on the Amaro later.
For whatever reason, we had not been craving Italian food for quite a while. Being half Italian, I have had my fair share of pasta and meatballs and have been finding myself craving less familiar flavors that are common in Asian and Latin American cuisine. But sometimes you need a reminder of why you loved something so much in the first place. This is what I experienced at Little Coco’s, it was like catching up with an old friend that I hadn’t seen in years. My affinity for Italian food would be revived and restored in full force.
To fit with the perfect weather, we were looking to keep things on the lighter side. We started with a few items off of the “aperitivo” section of the menu, including the Venetian tuna carpaccio. The tuna was razor-thin and had a perfect amount of seasoning on it. The pecorino and aioli added some depth without overpowering the fresh tuna.
The fried green tomatoes were a highlight of the meal. The accompaniment of tomato jam, ricotta salata, chili honey, and pickled ramps made this unlike any other FGT’s we’ve had before. The hints of sweetness from the jam and honey were just perfect and had me wiping the bottom of the plate clean.
We also opted for the charred Caesar with a caraway caesar dressing atop charred romaine. This was a good, not great salad. The touches of char were nice and added some flavor to the lettuce plus the caraway dressing was more interesting than regular caesar. Although a solid dish, it was the weakest of the meal for us. Something we’ll skip on our next visit but nothing to deter from our overall enjoyment of the night.
Despite having a selection of pastas and pizzas (even a fried pizza!) that seemed to be very popular with the surrounding diners, I was looking for some of the less familiar Italian offerings: fresh seafood, herbs, veggies, etc. Our waiter gave a mouth-watering description of the Pan-Fried Branzino and we were sold. The perfectly fried fish had a thin layer of crispy skin around it and sat on top of a bowl of gnocchi, lobster, and sunchoke finished off with a pea shoot salad. This was such a great dish that included all of the elements I have come to love in some of the less traditional Italian dishes. It was rich and savory without being heavy. It was also delicate yet full of flavor with the pleasant surprise of the tender lobster.
We ended our meal with a brief discussion with our server on Amaro and the vast selection they had there. We opted to each try one of the entry-level options, one for $4 and one for $6. I can’t remember the names of them but they were both quite good and a perfect way to end a meal. We’re looking forward to trying more of them and learning more about the liqueur in future visits.
Don’t get me wrong, I still LOVE pasta and pizza and I am very excited to go back and try as many of the more traditional options as possible – did I already mention the fried pizza? But Little Coco’s proved a point that a truly great Italian restaurant is so much more than red sauce and bread. I look forward to enjoying many more meals and warm nights on the patio here as summer approaches.