A popular Washington, D.C. Italian American restaurant will expand its operations into Montgomery County.
Caruso’s Grocery started in May 2021 in Capitol Hill and will now expand the business to Maryland with a location at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda. The Italian American is a collaboration by chef Matt Adler and Michael Babin, Neighborhood Restaurant Group founder.
Neighborhood Restaurant Group is an Alexandria-based hospitality company comprised of a collection of businesses in the Washington, D.C. area that started 25 years ago.
“Being a great neighbor is really important for use being responsible operators contributing to the life of the neighborhood, making it a little richer,” Babin said. “That’s important and I think we hope when people go to Caruso’s that they’re able to relax and that they find a little refuge from whatever’s going on in their daily lives.”
Caruso’s Grocery’s second location will be in a portion of Owen’s Tavern and Garden, which is also part of Neighborhood Restaurant Group. When looking to expand the restaurant, Babin said they saw potential in North Bethesda.
“Looking at the Caruso’s experience and what that has brought to the neighborhood when we first stepped on Capitol Hill, we just really felt like there’s a little bit of a void maybe for a place in this neighborhood and the community that we think is really growing,” Babin said. “It just seemed like a good fit.”
The food industry has always been a big part of both Adler and Babin’s lives. Alder grew up watching and helping his father run an Italian American neighborhood restaurant in New York called Scoozi.
“I never had a job working in the fall or summer camp or anything. It’s really always been in the restaurant or hospitality industry in some way or another,” Alder said. “I didn’t necessarily have a passion for the food side of it at the beginning, more so kind of fell into the culture of restaurants with my dad taking me to work and that being my first job. I really just enjoyed the energy, the fast-paced environment.”
Babin grew up watching his grandmother run a grocery store in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which shared the same name as the restaurant.
“[Caruso’s Grocery] was my grandma and my great uncle’s neighborhood grocery story with a butcher counter,” Babin said. “It was just the neighborhood store that was much beloved in a very blue-collar neighborhood in Baton Rouge with a lot of immigrant families.”
Some popular Caruso’s Grocery menu items include its chicken parmesan, Caesar salad, fried calamari and tiramisu, Adler said.
Caruso’s Grocery at Pike & Rose will be open 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 5 to 10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays. Adler said they opened reservations Sunday morning and are already expecting over 200 guests its opening week.
“We were quite surprised and very fortunate,” Adler said. “We’re closing the books for the weekend shortly. I’m going to reserve some tables for walk-in guests, which we always try to do, part of trying to ensure that we are accessible. We’re very excited that our customer base is as excited as we are.”
The Pike & Rose location will have more seating that the Washington, D.C. location with 105 seats in North Bethesda compared to 67 seats in Capitol Hill.
Alder said he and Babin aim to continue to expand the Caruso’s Grocery brand.
“We were laser focused on having a great restaurant delivering a great experience with a focus on value, customer service experience and that’s what we’re focused on with the second one,” he said. “We think and we hope that we have something here that can work in multiple markets. We think we’ll probably expand at some point but right now, today and for the foreseeable future, we’re focused on making the Pike & Rose location as great as our first one.”