Often, hotel restaurants get a bad reputation that is sorely undeserved. There are many truly great restaurants that adjoin hotels that often get forgotten when thinking about fine cuisine – Blue Duck Tavern in Foggy Bottom springs to mind immediately. SOCCi, short for South of Crystal City Italian, is a new addition to that list of great restaurants in unusual locations.
Nestled in the lobby of the gorgeous newly-constructed Renaissance Arlington Capital View hotel, SOCCi boasts a 96-seat dining room serving chef David Creamer’s fresh, inspired take on classic Italian cuisine.
The concept of SOCCi is simple: Italian dishes inspired by Chef Creamer’s Sicillian grandmother, but with a modern simplicity. According to Chef Creamer, 90-95% of all components will be made in-house and from scratch, and the majority of dishes will be made from no more than five ingredients.
Even though SOCCi is a hotel restaurant in one of the Marriott chain of hotels, they resisted the urge to use hotel-type ingredients, instead choosing to source as many ingredients as possible from within 200 miles of the restaurant. SOCCi gets its some of its vegetables and herbs from The Berkshire and Hummingbird Farms in Virginia and has its bread baked at Firehook Bakery. Although SOCCi goes out of its way to source ingredients locally, they also don’t hesitate to obtain certain ingredients direct from Italy, such as the oregano, which adds to the authenticity of their flavors.
The focus the SOCCi puts on details is what separates it from other Italian restaurants. From the hand-crushed tomatoes they put in their sauces to the lighted bathroom faucets that change color to tell the user the exact temperature of the water to the custom-installed Woodstone pizza oven to the Illy coffees, clearly a lot of thought was put into everything.
Although the patrons of the hotel will be some of SOCCi’s main clients, the restaurant also aims to become a community fixture in the rapidly expanding Potomac Yard area. Chef Creamer envisions a place where the neighborhood can come for a drink, or to have Sunday brunch on the pet-friendly patio. Community is also a theme of the restaurant, with several communal tables and large, sharable portions. In addition, tucked into the back is an intimate 12 person chef’s tasting room, that I hope to experience on a future visit.
Many times, new places put way too much focus on trendy concept and sleek decor: not so with SOCCi. The design elements of the restaurant are certainly impressive, but the real star of the show is the absolutely delicious food. I am a huge fan of simple food, and Chef Creamer has done an incredible job of taking a few flavors and combining them to perfectly accentuate each other.
I started my meal with Burrata, a fresh Italian cheese similar to Mozzarella, topped with tomato and basil, that was so delicious I forgot to even take a picture of it. With an incredibly light, creamy texture and saltiness that was perfectly balanced by the sweet, ripe tomatoes and basil topping, the Burrata was an exquisite way to start the meal.
For main courses, I had to sample the pizza and pasta, the two backbones of Italian fare. The pasta, tagliatelle, was cooked al dente, tossed with a marvelous tomato sauce, and served with veal meatballs. One of the things I liked the best about the pasta was that it was not completely drowned in sauce, instead, each noodle was just lightly coated, allowing the actual taste of the freshly-made pasta to shine through. Additionally, the pasta is available in both full and half portions, a benefit if you are watching your wallet or waistline, or are just indecisive.
If you try nothing else at SOCCi, go with the pizza. Perfectly sized for one, and a real value at $12 or so each, the pizzas are the star of Chef Creamer’s menu. The Woodstone oven uses high heat to cook each pizza in 7-8 minutes, and leaves the inside of the crust soft while baking the outside crisp. I sampled the egg pizza – an interesting combination of breakfast tastes in a non-breakfast setting – topped with scrambled eggs, bacon, and artichokes. The other topping combinations looked to be just as good.
The server, who, as an aside, was excellent, recommended the Panettone French Toast for dessert. For those who don’t know, Panettone is a sweet Italian holiday bread, made with candied oranges and raisins. The French Toast, dipped in egg and fried, and topped with coffee ice cream and powdered sugar, was a delightful way to end the meal
SOCCi is located in the first level of the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel at 2800 S. Potomac Avenue, Arlington, VA 22202. The closest Metro station is National Airport (Blue/Yellow Line). For more information call (703) 413-1300.