Philotimo’s Menu Romps Across Greece With Creative Takes On Regional Dishes

In one of the most highly anticipated restaurant launches of the past two years, Michelin-starred chef Nick Stefanelli’s Philotimo finally made its debut at Downtown’s new Midtown Center with its upscale Greek prix fixe dining experience. First announced back in 2018, the long-awaited January 22 debut followed pandemic-related delays.

At Philotimo (1100 15th Street NW), which joins lauded Italian eateries Officina and Masseria in Stefanelli’s portfolio, he’s cultivating his fine-dining skill on the fertile terrain of his Greek ancestry.

The restaurant’s name recalls the Greek words “filos,” meaning friend, and “timi,” meaning honor, for a rough translation of “honor your friends.” Stefanelli, however, notes that in Greek culture, the term conveys hospitality and a sense of caring for and connecting with friends, family, neighbors, and community.

Stefanelli sees the five-course prix-fixe menu ($ 108 per person) as an opportunity for “diners to take a journey in their own way,” making an adventure of the menu of sophisticated dishes tying together various Grecian corners — from lush northern craggy peaks to desert, sun-baked islets — that Stefanelli encountered on his visits there. It’s an invitation more than a list.

Mantia, veal-stuffed dumplings, brown butter, yogurt with shaved black truffle.

A Philotimo cook shaves black truffles over mantia: veal-stuffed dumplings, brown butter, and yogurt.
Rey Lopez

In the warmly lit, 68-seat restaurant, a first course takes “something simple and elevate[s]”It, Stefanelli says. Loukoumades, honey-glazed fried dough balls in Greece, become a savory dish when stuffed with taramasalata (a creamy roe spread) and dressed in a dollop of Golden Osetra Caviar. Other appetizers include stuffed grape leaves and artisanal breads.

After that, guests choose three courses from among four buckets: pasta (zymariká), meat (kréas), fish (psári), and vegetable (lahanika). A Highland highlight from the pasta course includes mantia, veal-stuffed dumplings cloaked in an umami-rich brown butter sauce with the option of adding shaved black truffles. The fish course showcases klakavia, a classic Greek soup starring turbot: a delicate, elegant, and highly sought-after fish that swims in Mediterranean waters. The meat course features Shenandoah Valley lamb slow-cooked in olive oil, lemon, spinach and sunchokes, similar to the Greek dish rnaki lemonato. The vegetable dishes are sweepingly broad and creatively prepared, including a mushroom confit in extra virgin olive oil with small, black Throuba olives, feta, and oregano.

Squab with Acquerello rice, lemon, egg, dill, baby romaine. & Nbsp;

A squab dish called uni Magiritsa includes an aged risotto-style rice known as acquerello.
Rey Lopez

To finish, the pastry team bakes up a selection of desserts for the table to share. The dessert course includes honey-laced baklava and karidopita, a walnut cake kissed with cinnamon, clove, and honey.

The understated, shimmering dining areas evoke elegant transitions of the Greek landscape. “I wanted it to feel organic, using natural colors and elements, but also present a feel of a specific place and time in Greece,” notes Stefanelli.

A roaring hearth acts as centerpiece, utilized as both a dining room anchor and culinary workhorse for everything from root vegetables to octopus. Natural linen banquettes, light wood, and nautical chandeliers surround the hearth. The intimate bar seats 10; there is also a private dining room accessed by private elevator. In the warmer months, an al fresco patio beckons.

Daurade with fava, red onion, Swiss chard at Philotimo.

Daurade is served with favas, red onions, and Swiss chard at Philotimo.
Rey Lopez

The restaurant is more than three years in the making, Stefanelli notes, the product of an initial visit to the Greek wine country. Stefanelli, whose ancestry is both Greek and Italian, wanted to “start telling the other side of [his] family through food and wine. ” Through his journeys, he cultivated relationships with various artisan beekeepers, olive grove cultivators, sea salt collectors, cheesemakers, and others across Greece from whom he sources products for the restaurant.

While Stefanelli had hoped to open in less than a year, pandemic-related delays took their toll. “Navigating the delays was frustrating, as we could not control anything,” he says. Yet the delays had a silver lining: Stefanelli became “more purpose-driven” and more comfortable making adjustments. Once-lively downtown blocks are still sleepy, he notes. “We’ll have to think hard about how to expand in phases as Downtown comes back to life.”

Interior at Philotimo with large windows, hanging fixtures, and neutral colors

Interior at Philotimo
Rey Lopez

Per the drinks, “sourcing is paramount,” Stefanelli notes. Spirits like ouzo and raki are difficult to import, as are Greek wines, but he will take specific care that drinks reflect the Greek dishes. While the wine library will boast upwards of 5,000 bottles, crafting the cellar may take years. The collection’s focus is on Greek vintages, showcasing the depth of the regions and their terroir. He has also recruited a bartender from Masseria to craft a specific non-alcoholic drink program. “Two of the top 50 cocktail bars in the world are in Athens,” says Stefanelli, “and I want to channel that into our bar.”

The debut of an all-day coffee shop serving sturdy black Greek coffee and pastries in the morning before transitioning to mezze, street food like souvlaki and dips, as well as wine and cocktails has been shelved until the spring.

For now, Philotimo is open for dinner from Tuesday through Thursday from 6 pm to 10 pm and until 11 pm on Fridays. Sunday hours are 5 pm to 11 pm The restaurant is closed on Sunday and Monday. Reservations are available through the restaurant’s website and on Tock.

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