When the space formerly occupied by a non-chemical dry cleaner became available a few doors down from I’m Eddie Cano in Chevy Chase, D.C., Carolyn and Massimo Papetti, the wife-and-husband owners of that Italian restaurant, checked out the property. The diminutive, narrow space—it’s only 684 square feet—had no rear exit, which meant that D.C. code wouldn’t allow indoor seating. Still, Carolyn was drawn to it and came up with a workaround: a stand-up coffee bar like those common in Massimo’s native Italy, where people stop in for a quick coffee or to socialize with friends or grab a gelato after dinner. (The Papettis met and married in Rome, where Carolyn earned her MBA through St. John’s University, started a company providing custom tours and became a certified sommelier.)
Italian Bar, which doesn’t take cash or tips, opened in May, offering coffee drinks (they use Italy’s Lavazza coffee and a Lavazza espresso machine), pastries, savory snacks, cocktails and gelato. In addition to hot and cold brew and the usual espresso drinks ($2.75 to $4.50), such as lattes, cappuccinos and macchiatos, Italian Bar offers a shakerato—hot espresso is shaken with sugar and ice and served on the rocks or straight up, creating a layer of foam on the top. Among the pastries ($3.25 to $3.75) are plain, chocolate or pistachio-filled cornetti (croissants) and ciambelle (doughnuts). Savories include tramezzini (tea sandwiches with, say, smoked salmon or prosciutto, $3.95); Roman pizza rosso, thin-crusted pizza spread with tomato sauce ($4.25); and pizza bianco ripieno (think grilled cheese made with pizza dough and fillings, $6.75).
On tap, Italian Bar offers two beers ($8), prosecco ($8), pinot grigio ($9) and, for $13, an Aperol Spritz and a Negroni Sbagliato, which subs sparkling wine for gin in a classic Negroni. “We have a full bar, but I’m deterring martinis and the like because we don’t have the glassware,” Carolyn says. “But if we have it, we will make it.” Interesting libations include the sgroppino (lemon sorbet, vodka and prosecco, $13) and frullato, a fruit and milk smoothie ($5.99).
The Papettis invested in a $50,000 Carpigiani gelato machine and a $10,000 blast freezer to make gelato in-house. Carolyn took an intensive gelato-making course in Miami and learned to crank out fanciful, swirly-topped containers for the display case with such flavors as stracciatella (chocolate-flecked vanilla); spagnola (vanilla with cherries and chocolate chips); coffee; pistachio; and hazelnut (two flavors for $4.95; three for $5.95; $9.95 per pint). “Margarita Vasquez, a cook [from I’m Eddie Cano], usually makes the gelato and is much better at it than I am,” Carolyn says, noting that as the soft gelato comes out of the machine, the idea is to mound it attractively but delicately, not pack it into the container, leaving as much air as possible in the gelato to maintain
Designer Esther Konrad helped Carolyn breathe life into the space. “It turned out prettier than I thought,” Carolyn says. “The deep blue color of the walls and the bar, the pressed copper ceiling, the Roman brick floor…it feels very Italian, a little gritty. Like Rome.”
Italian Bar, 5008 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., italianbardc.com
Restaurant comings & goings
Alexandria, Virginia-based Neighborhood Restaurant Group announced that in the fall it plans to turn two-thirds of Owen’s
Ordinary in North Bethesda’s Pike & Rose development into an
outpost of Caruso’s Grocery, an Italian restaurant on Capitol Hill.
Washington, D.C.-based Seven Restaurant Group, which owns Seven Reasons and Imperfecto restaurants, also plans a fall opening for a Latin American restaurant called Joy by Seven Reasons. The new concept will take over the Chevy Chase space that housed Little Beet Table, which closed in March.
The owners of the D.C.-based French bistro Nina May plan to open a seafood-centric restaurant called Opal in the former Capital Crab space in Chevy Chase, D.C., in the fall.
A 2023 opening is expected for Solaire Social, a 13,000-square foot, 11-vendor food hall on the ground floor of the Solaire 8200 apartment building in Silver Spring.
In Bethesda, Saphire Cafe and Philz Coffee closed in June, as did Sno Bots, a snow cream and bubble tea shop in Rockville, and Lewi Cafe in Silver Spring.
There were several closures in July. Rockville-based CAVA closed the Gaithersburg location of Zoe’s Kitchen, and the burger chain BGR closed its rio Gaithersburg outpost. In Bethesda, Silver Spring-based Moorenko’s ice cream shop closed its Westfield Montgomery mall kiosk, and Brickside Food & Drink closed after a nine-year run. Not Your Average Joe’s restaurant and bar closed its Gaithersburg location. In Wheaton, Max’s Kosher Kitchen closed after 28 years; the owners hope to relocate to Kemp Mill shopping center.
The Rockville location of Woodside Deli closed in August after a 12-year run (the Silver Spring location closed in 2019).
Florida-based restaurant and sports bar chain Miller’s Ale House announced plans to close its Rockville location on Sept. 25.
This story appears in the September/October 2022 issue of Bethesda Magazine.