Al Tiramisu, the most authentic Italian restaurant in the nation’s capital, launches a year-long 15th  anniversary celebration, starting with complimentary Prosecco (sparkling Italian wine) with dinner the week of March 3-10 and culminating later in the year with a multicourse 15th anniversary feast with wine pairings for winners of a contest drawing.

Reprising its roots, chef/owner Luigi Diotaiuti originally cooked up a celebratory first anniversary dinner from the Italian film “The Big Night” that was so popular he had to add another night.

“Al Tiramisu is my life—it’s who I am,” smiles Chef Luigi whose delightful Italian accent and charming, playful style sets the restaurant’s tone. It’s warm, cozy, and joyful. Witness the Jester logo, Al Tiramisu’s name (translation “cheer me up”), the “buona sera” greeting, and its cheerful, sunny yellow interior.  ”I want people to have great food AND a great time. When people leave happy, I know that what I’m doing in life touches people,” adds Diotaiuti. He has a huge scrapbook of handwritten notes from happy customers.

Al Tiramisu is like taking a trip to Italy without leaving Washington DC. The most distinctive food is imported from Italy—a large selection of whole fish such as Branzini, buffalo mozzarella, sardines, Parma ham, porcini mushrooms, octopus, white and black truffles.  Pasta is made on site. “Ragu is made as we did back home— we grind fine first cut meat. We focus on quality, not quantity,” he emphasizes, “which we can do in a small space.”

Surrounded by pasta and decadent desserts daily, how does Diotaiuti remain slim? Like a poster child for First Lady Michelle Obama’s healthy eating and exercise “Let’s Move” campaign, Diotaiuti not only jogs regularly but also runs marathons—10 full marathons and 14 half marathons to date. As part of his goal to run marathons on every continent, he ran in China, is heading to the outback of Australia this summer, and then Africa.

Diotaiuti also keeps growing by training in topnotch kitchens in Italy and Paris and perfecting family recipes. Chef Luigi is also a certified Sommelier from the Association of Italian Sommeliers. The restaurant offers 14 different Italian wines by the glass.

Celebrities and well-knowns have dined at Al Tiramisu.  ”George Clooney—who is fun and real and also brought mom and dad—has probably come about 20 times,” says the chef/owner. Others include Harrison Ford, Placido Domingo, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, Demi Moore, Bill Cosby, Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Steve Case, Wolf Blitzer, and Pele. Magic Johnson and David Letterman also ordered carry out.

While many other restaurants unfortunately shuttered, Al Tiramisu has weathered tough challenges—the decline of business and tourist travel following 9/11, a lengthy economic downturn, plus two years of disruptive P Street construction in front of the restaurant. “Loyal customers simply came more often and told friends to ensure the restaurant’s survival. We owe our success to our customers,” says Diotaiuti.  

Expect to see combined celebrations of the 15th anniversary and the 150th anniversary of the birth of Italy as a United Republic. “15/150—there’s just a ‘zero’ difference between us,” chuckles Diotaiuti.  Check the website http://www.altiramisu.com and Facebook for updates on monthly events.

Al Tiramisu, 2014 P St. NW, Washington, DC 20036.  Reservations: 202-467-4466. Valet parking seven nights a week 6-10 PM.

For further information:  Rozanne Weissman, 202-904-4490 RozanneDC@gmail.com