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Spaghetti Nero at RPM Italian on K Street

FEATURES

Black Is the New Black

By Nevin Martell

Photography by Greg Powers

09.25.17

By using ink from squid and cuttlefish, chefs are creating arrestingly beautiful jet-black pastas around town.

Spaghetti Nero
“I try things that are safe, and they don’t work,” says RPM Italian’s chef-partner Doug Psaltis. He’s being coy. “Then I try a dish with black spaghetti, and it’s a home run.” In fact, it’s the second-best-selling dish at the restaurant. The housemade pasta gets its obsidian color from cuttlefish ink. The tangle of black strands comes coronated with king crab legs amped up with toasted chile flakes. Lemon zest, parsley and red rounds of Fresno chiles finish off the fan favorite, which was inspired by the culinary traditions of the Amalfi Coast. $23, 650 K St. NW, 202.204.4480

Stir-Fried Squid Ink Noodles
These short, flat noodles at The Source serve as the vehicle for a fantastic medley of flavors. Bright-red rings of bird’s-eye chile peppers add a piquant punch; preserved lemon puree incorporates a surprising sweetness; and strips of toothsome calamari bring a briny undertone. On top, discover what executive chef Russell Smith calls Chinese gremolata made with fried herbs—cilantro, Thai basil and garlic—to add a satisfying crunchy component. Smith’s goal was to “keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves.” Mission accomplished. $12, 575 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, 202.637.6100

Bucatini Nero
Squid ink isn’t just incorporated into this pasta to transform its color. “It has an aromatic component,” says Osteria Morini executive chef Benjamin Pflaumer. “It’s that salty [beachlike] scent that adds an extra layer of depth.” The noodles are tossed with squid and scallops, providing a taste of the ocean’s bounty. A stewed Calabrian spread featuring eggplant, garlic and five types of chiles adds a healthy hit of heat. The dish is finished off with freshly shaved bottarga, which amplifies the overall brininess of the seaworthy stunner. $24, 301 Water St. SE, Ste. 109, 202.484.0660