What’s Cooking, Neighbor?
Anthony Lombardo , 1789 Restaurant
From its opening in 1960 in a Federalperiod house near Georgetown University, 1789 Restaurant has always been known for excellent lamb. “When I came on, it was the first thing I noticed,” says Anthony Lombardo, who was appointed executive chef in 2011. (We got together for a chat at his favorite table, number 26 in the Manassas Room.) “It’s a signature dish by popular demand. So, I sourced the best lamb I could find, from a small Mennonite farm in Cumberland, Maryland.”
His seasonal American menu, with entrée headings of Sustainable Seafood and Humanely Farmed Animals as well as details of origin for the farm-goods purveyors, leaves no doubt of his locavore leanings and eco-consciousness. “You won’t see tuna or Chilean sea bass on our menu,” he says. “We’re looking at the big picture, the future of agriculture.”
Lombardo developed a love of the land and cooking from an early age. Growing up in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights, his family enjoyed weekend drives for seasonal produce sold at roadside stands. “In summer, it was Michigan corn every night for two months,” he fondly remembers. On yearly fishing trips to Canada, teenage Anthony learned how to properly fillet and cook the catch of the day. At extended family gatherings of this Italian clan, it was his aunt Mary who “always destroyed everybody” with homemade angel hair pasta topped with fresh tomatoes and basil from her garden. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., in 2004, Lombardo was off to a four-month Slow Food program in central Italy, where he worked in a butcher shop taking apart whole animals. He credits Luciano DelSignore, owner of the renowned Bacco Ristorante in Southfield, Mich., for his kitchen management skills. “He was my career mentor, who taught me how to run an efficient, effective restaurant.”
Such expertise serves him well at fine-dining 1789, the crown jewel of Clyde’s Restaurant Group. Expanded over the years to four townhouses, there are six dining rooms, decorated with early American antiques and historical prints. Tables are set with fine linens and giltedged Limoges china. Gas lights flicker. The restaurant’s numerical name honors the year when the land was first purchased by Archbishop John Carroll (Georgetown University’s founding father), the village of Georgetown was incorporated and the Constitution of the United States was adopted.
“We have customers who have come for their wedding anniversary for 30 years. They come for Christmas, for birthdays,” says the chef. “They have their favorite tables and servers.” A recent trend is the growing number of same-sex couples who choose the 55-seat Middleburg Room for their wedding receptions.
“That’s really cool,” he says. For Restaurant Week 2014 (Jan. 13-19), chef Lombardo’s menu includes a choice of starters – Brussels sprout salad, pork terrine or oyster stew – and entrées – lamb shoulder with bone marrow grits, teres major beefsteak with roasted maitake mushrooms or scallops with oxtail ragu. For dessert, pastry chef Ryan Westover offers carrot cake with purple carrot sherbet or an ice cream sundae.
Calling his Brussels sprout appetizer “a nice, healthy, hearty winter salad,” Lombardo says, “It’s not cooked to death with bacon and oil, but rather the raw sprouts are shaved, saving the vitamins and minerals.”
Brussels Sprout Salad Serves 4
Ingredients: 1 pound Brussels sprouts, shaved thinly 1 1/2 cups toasted pine nuts 3/4 cup shaved pecorino Toscano cheese 1 head Belgian endive, julienned For the dressing: 4 tablespoons grain mustard 3 tablespoons lemon juice 10 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Salt and pepper to taste
Directions: Combine all ingredients
What’s Cooking, Neighbor? visits with wine, food and entertaining professionals who work in the Georgetown area. Georgetowner dining columnist Walter Nicholls is the food critic for Arlington Magazine and a former staff writer for The Washington Post Food section.