May 30, 2024 - Food and Drink

Sneak peek: All-day Italian gem to open in Navy Yard

Focaccia open-faced sandwiches topped with mortadella or prosciutto and arugula and cheese

Homemade focaccia sandwiches at all-day Ama. Photo courtesy of Giada Paolini

Ama, a casually chic Italian restaurant from D.C. hospitality vets, opens near Navy Yard on June 4.

Why it matters: The neighborhood haunt stands out from a wave of new Italians with all-day service, bountiful aperitivo, and cooking from lesser-seen regions in the north and south.

Dig in: Chef Johanna Hellrigl won fans for globetrotting fare at Doi Moi and Mercy Me. Now, she and husband/bar talent Micah Wilder (Chaplin's, Zeppelin) are homing in on her Italian heritage and upbringing with an intimate family restaurant.

  • Ama's promises a warm welcome with a big bar, window bancone (counter) for leaning with espresso or spritzes, and space for walk-ins — plus a host stand that can dole out bellinis to waiting customers.
Three people lean against a counter on the patio of a restaurant with an orange awning
Chef Johanna (center) and Wilder (right) at the bancone. Photo courtesy of Giada Paolini

Context: Hellrigl's late father hailed from South Tyrol, a mountainous province up north, while her mother is from Liguria on the Italian Riviera. She grew up visiting family in both areas while her father ran a prominent Italian restaurant in Manhattan.

  • Diners will find dishes from both regions on the menu. It leans on Liguria's lighter flavors in summer and hearty dishes from the Dolomites in winter.

🥐 On your plate: Mornings and afternoons bring Caffè Vergnano espressos, homemade pastries, and showstopper open-face sandwiches on Genovese focaccia.

  • The thinner style, which Hellrigl learned from her childhood favorite bakery in Santa Margherita, comes layered with combinations like mortadella, crescenza cheese, and pesto, or buffalo mozzarella and semi-secci tomatoes.
The dining room at Ama with yellow curtains and mirrors above wooden tables
Ama goes for a homey vibe. Photo courtesy of Giada Paolini

At night, Ama feels more like a trattoria with plenty of antipasti, vegetable dishes, homemade pastas, and seasonal secondi like rabbit stew with Ligurian olives or salt-baked fish.

🍝 Between the lines: Hellrigl is excited about some lesser-seen pastas, like Ligurian ravioli filled with wild foraged greens, walnuts, and cheese. Or Tyroleian-style dumplings with speck and tangy kraut.

🍷 In your glass: Wilder says the bar program has big "apothecary vibes." No processed sugar, lots of holistic ingredients like chestnut honey or nettles. Also, a vintage Italian seltzer wand to add fizz. "The entire program is built on the purity of water, bubbles, and temperature," he tells Axios.

  • Look for unique sips like a vintage Negroni with 1980s Campari, or frozen gin martinis with wild herb-infused vermouth.
A counter with pastries (left) and snacks with a red drink
Ama runs mornings (left) through aperitivo hour. Photo courtesy of Giada Paolini

If you go: Ama. 885 New Jersey Ave., SE. Caffè opens at 9am, Tuesday through Saturday.

  • Aperitivo and snacks run from 4pm to 6pm, and dinner starts at 5pm with limited reservations via Resy and walk-ins.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify new hour changes and that Andrew Limberg is no longer involved in the project.

avatar

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Washington D.C..

More Washington D.C. stories