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Fio’s Washington, D.C. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia may be a fan of AV Ristorante’s generous portions of old-fashioned Italian cooking, but that may be because he hasn’t been to Fio’s. Carved into a space deep within the Woodner apartment building in Mount Pleasant, the traditional Italian fare at Fio’s is one of Washington’s secret treasures. To reach the restaurant, you must pass the apartment building’s security guard, post office, video store, and a lounge decorated with a 1950s futuristic flair. Hidden on the left, behind the granite pillar, is Fio’s. If you arrive early enough in the evening, the fragrance of pine-scented floor cleaner will likely be the first thing you notice. Don’t let it stop you. Your eyes meet the bronze fig tree, the low ceilings, the linoleum floors, the oilcloth-covered tables, and the walls lined with tchotchkes and pictures from Fio’s native Abruzzo. Fio and his sister, Maria, run the kitchen. Jane, Fio’s wife, runs the dining room. It’s a warm, family-run place, and diners of all stripes feel at home there. But the glory of Fio’s is the food. The homemade pasta is always terrific. So is the veal. The pizza is a kid-pleaser. And the zabaglione, made to order, is heaven. A few dishes from the regular menu deserve special mention, however. In the appetizer category, the lightly grilled squid with parsley-infused olive oil and toast is improbably tender, although it usually requires a sprinkling of salt. The fried zucchini, served with lemon wedges, is light, crisp, and never greasy. In winter, do not pass up the chickpeas with chestnuts and rosemary. Like the best Italian cooking, this appetizer is simple, but the flavors and textures blend harmoniously in this elegant version of comfort food. Among the entrees, the osso buco is always a winner. Dripping off the bone with a rich and savory sauce, the veal shanks served with a side of sauteed peppers and mushrooms are nothing short of decadent. The entrees that outshine the rest, however, are the pasta with porcini, the fried fish, and the wild boar. Both the fettuccine sauced with butter and sliced porcini and the ravioli stuffed with the mushrooms have the power to reduce a lively conversation into a dialogue of mmm’s and ooh’s. The mushrooms are intensely fragrant, and the butter simply enhances their earthy goodness, giving the dish a silky gloss. I prefer the fettuccine to the ravioli. There’s something about being able to see the smooth, firm slices of the fungus itself that adds to their flavor. And if wide, glossy pappardelle noodles were offered instead of fettuccine, that would be even better. The fish and the wild boar are offered as specials. On a recent visit, both were available, and it was an almost painful choice. We ordered the boar. Like a cross between supermarket pork and slightly gamier lamb, the boar roared with flavor. Fio says he cooks it with “just some salt and pepper and white wine.” Yeah, right. The overall effect of the rosemary-scented meat was complex and deeply flavorful. The fried fish, usually smelt, is just plain old fried fish with lemons on the side. No fancy batters, nothing fussy. But frying with a light touch is a dying art, and Fio (or Maria) seems to be among the last masters. Also excellent is the polenta topped with either roast quail or homemade rabbit sausage. It’s not all exotica, however. The restaurant offers the whole gamut of traditional Italian standards, from spaghetti carbonara and saltimbocca to the trinity of parmigiana — chicken, eggplant, or veal. There is a wine list of mostly good, mostly Italian wines, but the house wine is perfectly adequate and available by the half or whole carafe. No matter what you order or how much, it’s impossible to empty your wallet at Fio’s. A typical dinner of appetizer, entree, dessert, house wine, tax, and tip runs about $30 a person. And you will have leftovers. Restaurant: Fio’s Location: 3636 16th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Reservations: (202)-667-3040, open Tuesday through Sunday, 5 p.m. to 10:45 p.m.

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