Welcome to Behind the Line: your all-access pass to the top kitchens in the game.
Washington, D.C. is currently going through a massive culinary growth period, with more diverse dining options than ever. Nicholas Stefanelli, chef and owner of Masseria, offers warm hospitality while celebrating big, harmonious flavors and fine Italian cooking.
The Washingtonian calls Masseria “One of Washington’s sexiest spaces,” and chef Nicholas is happy about that:
“We wanted to design something that was more than a restaurant- we wanted to sell an experience too. Part of that was the space, and diner’s ability to come in and have a cocktail in the courtyard, dinner in the dining room, and then a cigar and after-dinner drinks in the garden.”
The inspiration? When he was 19, Chef traveled to Italy to explore fashion schools, but instead, fell in love with the food culture. As soon as he returned stateside he enrolled in culinary school, where he focused on Puglia, the region that creates Italy’s “heel” and the birthplace of his ancestors. Fascinated by the “masseria”— a farm/country house in Puglia — Chef Nicholas created his homage, Masseria.
The menu rotates daily and evolves with the seasons; however, there are a few dishes that have remained unchanged since Masseria’s opening one year ago. First, the Burrata Pugliese with Black Opal Osetra caviar and Wianno oysters; second, Beef Tripe with Lobster ‘Brodetto,’ which Chef Nicholas describes as a “mix of poverty and luxury;” and lastly, the Linguini with House Spicy XO Sauce, which is his Italian riff on aglio olio peperoncino (with extra virgin olive oil and Calabrese chilis cooked down with dried scallops and ginger).
It’s worth noting that Masseria’s cheese program is 100% Italian and lives on a cart that moves around the dining room. You’ll finish off your dinner with a cigar and a cognac in the garden, just like the chef intended. A one-way ticket to paradise, sans packing and transport.
So where does Chef Nicholas go after a long day in paradise? As a chef, he doesn’t have much time for dining, but when he has a moment, he goes to chef Eric Ziebold’s Metier, Compass Rose (for their late-night menu), and New Big Wong, a Chinese restaurant, where chef Nicholas says you’ll see a lot of chefs and culinary people eating at 2-3am after service wraps up; and last but not least, the classic, Old Ebbitt Grill.