May 13, 2024 - Food and Drink

Taste Test: $7 martinis at Cucina Morini

A martini (left) and woman in a red dress sitting by a bar

The Morini Martini (left) and bar space. Photo: Anna Spiegel

In the era of $22 cocktails, we had to try Cucina Morini's $7 martinis — poured all night at the new Italian restaurant's aperitivo bar in Mt. Vernon Triangle.

Dig in: The tiny 'tini lounge channels Italy with a standing-room-only bar, plus a few places to perch.

  • The $7 drink menu, offered Tuesday through Sunday starting at 5pm, includes classic dirties, "espress-oh!" martinis, DIYs with Bombay gin or Skyy vodka, and a house martini with capers and dill.
  • To eat: $6 snacks include homemade chips with onion dip or marinated olives.

What to try: The Morini Martini. New York-based Altamarea Group bar director Kelly Verado tells Axios she wanted to riff on a dirty — dirty riffs are all the rage in NYC — and she was inspired by lox bagels (sans salmon).

  • The Vesper-style drink mixes vodka and gin, though you can opt for one spirit, plus homemade dill-infused bianco vermouth, caper brine, and white pepper.

Thought bubble: Having just visited Sicily, the martini took me back. It's bracing and briny, as if the Ionian Sea had a signature cocktail.

A plate of anchovies (left) and table of pastas on blue plates
Stracciatella with anchovies (left) and sampling of pastas (clockwise from top) including alla norma, with seafood, gramigna with pork sausage, and pasta with clams. Photo: Anna Spiegel

Between the lines: Go early. No surprise, $7 martinis are popular. "We're flying through them," says Verado.

  • Last Friday the tiny bar sold around 300 martinis, plus more in the restaurant.

The intrigue: The lounge drinks are half an ounce smaller than the full versions in the dining room. It's $14 for the Morini Martini there, still not bad.

Zoom in: Cheap drinks are getting buzz, but chef Matt Adler's menu is the star.

  • I loved the Sicilian-style dishes like citrusy crudos, homemade stracciatella cheese with anchovies and salsa verde, sfincone (tomato bread), and eggplant pasta alla norma — plus you can get any pasta in a full or half portion, ideal for sampling or saving.

If you go: Cucina Morini (901 4th St. NW) opens at 5pm and is closed on Mondays.

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