By Stefanie Gans and Rina Rapuano
Falls Church | Italian | $$
Katherine and Gabe Thompson ignored the adage. Cliches are for the boring and the uninspired, not the power couple who left New York working for Michelin three-star chefs and their own family of celebrated Italian restaurants.
Native Arlingtonian Katherine did, in fact, come home again, and she set up shop in neighboring Falls Church. Thompson Italian is a welcome back gift to us all. The vibe feels effortlessly cool with white subway tiles behind the bar, brass light fixtures, warm jewel tones, unironic wallpaper accents and a quirky jumbo print of a Moka pot. The food is good, comforting, unfussy: like you showed up unexpectedly at Alison Roman’s house and she already had a few things going. There are hearty meatballs with pops of spice—the Thompsons quickly point out that this is not an Italian restaurant, but their version of modern American cuisine with Italian inspiration—as well as housemade ricotta plated with a mix-and-match salad of crisp nectarines, tangles of arugula and pistachios dressed in a snappy vinaigrette. All the pastas are made by Gabe’s kitchen, and the gemelli proves that in its chewy bite, tossed in a Diablo-like sauce with heat thanks to Calabrian chiles. Gnocchi are dense, and can stand up to the lamb ragu that’s equal parts humble and dazzling.
Katherine’s tutelage in high-end pastry shines here with composed desserts like the chocolate hazelnut torta, a frilly, fancy and delicious sweet that makes sure diners remember it’s why we let talent leave and learn, as long as they come back. // 124 N. Washington St., Falls Church