In mid-June (yes, yes – I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted!), a group of our friends joined Chris and me down on the Potomac to see The Hermione. This amazing ship is a perfect replica of the tall ship that the Marquis de Lafayette sailed from France to let General George Washington know that “significant” arms and aid were on the way in the fight against the Brits.
In order to appropriately prep for the viewing of this historic specimen, the crew started the warm summer outing with cold brews and app’ies at the new Blackwall Hitch (BWH). Located at 5 Cameron Street, near the Torpedo Factory, BWH is the second restaurant in this chain. The first is in Annapolis, MD. Named for the famous knot used to moor tall ships, the Alexandria location is a funky space with 3 bars, great outdoor seating (assuming its not 97+ degrees with 4,000% humidity) and a casual, communal atmosphere.
Serving over 20 brews (standard and craft) on tap, our gang sampled a variety of seasonal selections and old favorites. The braised short rib tacos were the best of the appetizers we tried, which also included the calamari and fried green tomatoes. The only downside of the experience was an incorrect tab. We were charged regular prices when we where there during happy hour. Regrettably (and unforgettably), it took 25 minutes and two managers to resolve this simple oversight.
We ambled from BWH over to the river to view the beautiful Hermione. Twenty years ago, a small group dreamed of reconstructing an exact replica of General Lafayette’s 18th-century ship. Today, the majestic vessel is the largest and most authentically built Tall Ship in the last 150 years. The new Hermione’s journey started from the mouth of the River Charente, in Port des Barques, where Lafayette boarded on March 10th, 1780. She arrived in Alexandria on June 10th.
After soaking in the grandeur and beauty of the ship, we moved on to dinner and to meet the new Italian in town. Well, not literally. You see, Carluccio’s now occupies 100 King Street, a hexed spot of realty that hasn’t been able to keep a restaurant tenant for more than about 8 months for the last 8 years.
Carluccio’s is a big deal. First started in England, this famous Italian restaurant brings authentic Sicilian to Alexandria’s shoreline. As noted on the restaurant’s website: “Acclaimed European cook. Award-winning writer. TV personality. Our founder, Antonio Carluccio, has been celebrated by his nation receiving a Commendatore OMRI (the equivalent of a British knighthood) by the President of Italy for services to Italian gastronomy and was also awarded an honorary OBE from Queen Elizabeth II. Not bad for a boy from Salerno, Italy. His lifelong passion for authentic food and drink has established him as the Godfather of Italian cooking, and has helped us export our love of Italian cuisine.”
Our group of 5 was seated fairly quickly (10 minutes) without a reservation upstairs near the open kitchen. The restaurant has a nice ambience with brisk service. The food was good. In particular, the prosciutto was super fresh and delectable. Each dish that came out of the kitchen was generously topped with extra virgin olive oil – a process that worked with some and was decidedly too much with others. Chris and I had shared the Spaghetti alle Vongole in Bianco which was very good – the clams were tender and the wine broth very flavorful. Our friends ordered other pasta dishes like Puttanesca and Carbonara and everyone enjoyed their meals.
We decided it’s a great place to go on a cold winter’s night for the fresh pasta and the ambience. This assumes, of course, that the restaurant survives the aforementioned 100 King St. curse!