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Tosca Ristorante Washington, D.C. Diners at the new Tosca Ristorante should know they are in for a hearty meal the minute they see the fork. Or should we say spork? A bit fancier than the sporks of our grade school days, the utensil has a rounded cup at the base of its prongs — all the better for capturing sauces, juices, pur�es, and savoring every bite. The upscale trattoria, which opened April 20 on F and 11th streets, is a welcome addition to the dingy stretch between Metro Center and the MCI Center. Just blocks from the Warner, Ford, and Shakespeare theaters, Tosca seems destined to become a favorite stop for theatergoers in search of an early meal or late-night spot of espresso. For the most part, Tosca serves up pleasing, if rather routine, northern Italian fare. But the menu also has enough inspiration to warrant a return visit — sweet-and-sour marinade on a delicate smoked trout appetizer; amaretti cookies crumbled in the filling of its signature ravioli; tiramisu served warm in a martini glass. On our first visit we started with the tangy sweet-and-sour trout and a plate of plump duck sausage served over saut�ed chard and carmelized onions. The sausage was moist and juicy, bursting with flavors of fennel and coriander. Next, we tackled the pasta course. Lacking the fortitude to devour a plate of thick noodles swimming in butter and cheese without immediately retiring for an afternoon nap, we ordered the Scapinasch ravioli to share. We could not have been more delighted with the oversized pillows of ricotta floating in a rich pool of butter and sage — or with our decision to save room for the main course. The waiter was even kind enough to split the pasta in the kitchen and bring it out on two plates. Tosca’s entree selection seemed heavy on the meat and lacking on seafood until our waiter informed us that the kitchen would simply grill scallops, tuna, sea bass, salmon, and rockfish and serve it up with a mixed green salad. Foolishly, we opted for the more elaborate seafood selection, pan-seared salmon in an asparagus pur�e. The salmon was succulent, but the green asparagus puddle was too salty to enjoy. On a return visit, we stuck with the grilled sea bass and savored every flaky forkful. (Or should we say sporkful?) For those seeking more filling fare, the lamb stew with braised fennel and potato pur�e was the best sort of comfort food: warm, gusty, and palpably fresh. Lunch entrees range from $13 to $18.50; dinner entrees start at $20. At dinner Tosca also offers a $75 tasting menu — course after course of whatever Chef Cesare Lanfranconi dreams up in the kitchen. Before opening Tosca, Lanfranconi served as executive chef at Galileo, so putting ourselves in his hands was tempting, but we decided to stick with the menu. On this visit, we were less enchanted by our pasta choice. The buckwheat tagliatelle tossed with Swiss chard, potato, sage, cow cheese, and roasted garlic sounded enticing, but the ingredients did not work together and the texture was gummy. The veal chop entree, served with a mushroom sauce, garlicky greens, and mashed potatoes, was tender and hearty — a great match for a bold Super Tuscan or Cabernet. While Tosca’s wine list boasts an extensive selection of Italian wines, the cellar itself is more humble. We struck out twice on our requests, with the waiter regretfully informing us they did not have our selection, until we finally accepted a bottle at his suggestion. Aside from the sundae-style tiramisu, desserts at Tosca seem to be an afterthought. We recommend sticking with the espresso. Dark, rich, and silky in the Italian tradition, it may be the one thing than can clear a diner’s head after a meal at Tosca. Restaurant: Tosca Ristorante Location: 1112 F St., N.W., Washington, D.C. Reservations: (202) 367-1990 Price range: Lunch entrees range from $13 to $18.50; dinner entrees start at $20. Vanessa Blum is a reporter at Legal Times , and Phillip Dub� is an attorney at Washington, D.C.’s Covington & Burling.

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