A Lazy Sunday: Italian eateries invite diners to gather around a fuss-free family feast

Sunday is a day of rest in many countries, but not in Italy. That’s when families gather in the kitchen to prepare epic dinners that bring generations together. For those who crave a feast — but not the intense provisioning, cooking and cleaning necessary to create such large meals — a host of local Italian restaurants salute the Sunday mealtime tradition with special menus that highlight Roma classics. And it’s even more fun when you bring your friends and family. “People can be loud and pass food around,” says Carmine’s chef Terry Natas. “The idea is to relax and enjoy yourself.”

PS 7

Chef-owner Peter Smith recently got his hands on a cookbook handwritten by his great-grandmother. “She was Italian, but my grandmother [her daughter-in-law] was German,” he says. “This was her saying, ‘You’re marrying into this family, so this is what you need to know how to cook.’” These recipes are the foundation for the restaurant’s Sunday-styled dinners that happen every other Thursday. (The next one is Feb. 23.) Dishes include creamy linguini carbonara dotted with chunks of pancetta ($12.50) and deep-fried arancini rice balls filled with a melted mélange of mozzarella and ricotta dotted with micro slivers of salami ($6.50).

PS 7, 777 I St. NW; 202-742-8550. (Gallery Place)

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Round For Glory: Roll up a few homemade meatballs to bring spicy style to your next party

Step away from the Chef Boyardee can and stop humming “On Top of Spaghetti” already. The meatball — the comfort food classic common to cuisines as disparate as Afghani (lamb kofte kebabs) and Andalusian (saffron albondigas) — has rolled back into style at restaurants and at parties.

And while making your own meaty orbs takes time, the process isn’t difficult, and it yields a crowd-pleasing party food. “Everyone loves a good meatball,” says Casa Nonna executive chef Amy Brandwein (1250 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-629-2505). “They’re simple but also very complicated.”

To begin, you’ll need to start pressing the flesh, so to speak. Basically, a meatball involves finely ground meat, which boasts a consistency that mixes well with spices and forms easily into rounds.

The type of meat you choose can be based on what you like or the type of cuisine: Pork is nice in Asian meatballs; lamb lends a pungent earthiness to Mediterranean versions; and a combination of beef, veal and pork works well for Italian-style polpette.

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Photo courtesy of jshj on Flickr.

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Summer Steals: Dining Deals Set to Expire

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While stores are busy pushing notebooks and Halloween candy, local restaurants haven’t forgotten that August is still summer. Some of the District’s coolest eateries have ongoing seasonal specials: chilling cocktails, summery salads and decadent desserts. But you’d better act quickly, because these deals — like that bag of trick-or-treat candy you buy in September — will be gone too soon.

1789
1226 36th St. NW; 202-965-1789, 1789restaurant.com. (Foggy Bottom)
Georgetown isn’t renowned as a bargain destination, but 1789 might change that reputation with its summer dinner deal. For $40, guests get an ever-changing three-course menu, which might include entrees such as black grouper with smoked Manila clams and desserts such as cherry pie, above. Fine Print: Available Sundays through Thursdays. Download a coupon from 1789′s website or just mention the deal to your server. Expires Sept. 15.

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Warning! Glucose Overload: District Eateries Take on the Donut

20110106-donuts-250Whether you’re having them for breakfast or a late-night dessert, there’s something so satisfying about doughnuts that they are sometimes hard to eat because you’re grinning so widely. Now, thanks to area restaurants, smile from sunrise till sundown with fresh spins on these beloved circular treats.

One of the tastiest twists on the standard doughnut are the beignets at the Korean-Cajun fusion joint Mokomandy out in Sterling, Va. Executive chef Daniel Stevens makes the classic unique: “It’s a much cakier, yeastier flavor than you’d get from your typical Cafe du Monde-style beignet.”

Each piping-hot order comes with an ever-changing array of dipping sauces that have included pumpkin butter, dulce de leche, blackberry coulis and quince-hibiscus sauce. Stevens says the Louisiana favorite is the eatery’s best-selling dessert by far. “I see a lot of people make their ‘wow’ face after the first bite,” he says.

Find out the other best places around the District to go nuts for donuts.

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