Markets, restaurants and cafes have opened inaugural locations at The Wharf over the past year, but a new space opened Monday rolls all of those concepts into one.
Officina is a cafe, market, upscale restaurant and private dining space all under one roof – with a rooftop bar to top it all off. The tri-level space on the Southwest waterfront pays homage to Michelin-star Chef Nick Stefanelli’s Italian roots with rooftop terraces and a hearty stock of homemade pastas and local wines.
Claudia Roselli, a manager at Officina, said Stefanelli intended to give patrons the full experience of a traditional Italian market with the new full-fledged eatery.
“Everything is supposed to be an experience,” Roselli said. “A crazy culinary workshop that you can go to all the different floors and have something different every time.”
Officina, which translates to “workshop” in Italian, is a more traditional and affordable experience than the restauranteur’s fine-dining space, Masseria. The new restaurant at 1120 Maine Ave. SW has been in the works for seven years, he said.
Visitors can step into the cafe and market on the lower level order from the full menu starting at 8 a.m. or sip on drinks from 4 p.m. until its 10 p.m. closing.
The cafe is dominated by a large, wrap-around bar, where you can order cocktails or traditional Italian espresso. The cafe menu includes small bites, like arancini ($5), or a Sicilian rice fritter, sandwiches, like pollo milanese ($12) with chicken, sage and brown butter mayonnaise, as well as salads and vegetables, like fried artichokes ($9) with parsley and lemon and a pizza of the day ($6).
For those with a sweet tooth, the cafe offers baked goods like an authentic Sicilian cannoli ($3.50), filled with creamy ricotta and studded with dark chocolate chunks, along with daily flavors of gelato ($7-9). In addition to the full menu, this level has grab-and-go sandwiches and pastries for those looking for a quick bite.
The market on the same floor takes after a traditional Italian market, and includes a butchery that cures meats in-house, along with a bakery, cheesemonger and pasta counter – with fresh pastas made daily. The market houses a stock of imported Italian selections of wine, beer and dry goods like cookies and pasta and other items made there are used in the restaurant upstairs with ingredients from the Shenandoah Valley, Baltimore and Pennsylvania.
The second floor features a trattoria, an upscale restaurant with simple, elegant dishes. To start, the menu features salumeria (3 for $19), meats and sausages dry-aged in-house and mozzarella ($14) followed by antipasti, with Italian appetizers like calamari with saffron cream ($15) or figs with ricotta ($6).
For the main course, scoop up housemade pastas like paccheri ($18), with cauliflower, pine nuts, golden raisins and pecorino romano, or a classic tagliatelle bolognese ($24), made with veal, pork rogu and sausage. Officina’s selection of fish ($27 to $39) and local meats spans all price points, from pollo alle mattone ($29) to the costatta, 60-day dry-aged ribeye ($68 to $145).
For adventurous eaters, the menu also features what it calls “quinto quarto”, or “the 5th quarter” – dishes made with innards and intestines, such as sweetbreads with lemon, olive oil and fennel pollen ($18).
The barbabietole ($10) salad features roasted beets with red onion and orange, while carciofi alla giudia ($12) plates fried artichokes with parsley and lemon.
“The sides are not just vegetables on a plate, they’re actually their own composed dishes as well,” Roselli said.
The second floor also houses a small bar dedicated to the Italian liqueur amaro. The “amaro library” showcases more than 150 selections of the bitter, herbal liqueur, with some dating back to the 1930s. The library has a lounge area across from a 5-seat bar where the full trattoria menu can be ordered.
If cocktails are more your style, head to the year-round rooftop bar and keep warm sitting next to fire pits. Mimicking the terraces of southern Italy, the rooftop boasts a view of The Wharf that overlooks the water and fish markets. The bar becomes 21+ after 10 p.m. and stays open until 2 a.m. on weekdays and 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
On every level of Officina, you can select from more than 450 bottles of Italian wine and 75 different sparkling wines from all over the world.
“We just want people to have a great experience from the beginning to the end, and kind of learn, and indulge in what is the Italian culture and Italian food,” Roselli said.