Biber dolma (herb-seasoned rice stuffed bell pepper, red pepper infusion, pomegranate molasses, lemon air) is on the left, and jazra mutabal (roasted carrots, labneh, olive oil, pistachio) is on the right. These are just two of the Middle Eastern dishes that ala serves. Credit: Fun Food Group

Ala, a popular Mediterranean restaurant in Dupont Circle, will open a second outpost in October in Bethesda: the Fairmont Avenue space that was long home to Positano Ristorante, which closed in Bethesda May 2021 amid a family legal dispute.

The menu at 4948 Fairmont Ave. will be similar to ala Dupont Circle at 1320 19th St. NW in Washington, D.C.

The restaurant is owned by husband-and-wife duo Celal and Deniz Gulluoglu, who live in Cabin John. Deniz Gulluoglu primarily runs the day-to-day operations of the restaurant.

Celal Gulluoglu said that ala is distinctive from any other Mediterranean restaurant in the area that Bethesda residents may visit.

“It’s something different than what they’re used to,” he said.

Also, in an email statement, the restaurant said that: “The menu celebrates the flavor and history of the Levantine cooking it has become synonymous for, but with a fine dining touch.”


The menu features classic Mediterranean dishes, like hummus, falafel and kebabs, but also offers less well-known fare, like biber dolma (herb-seasoned-rice stuffed bell pepper, red pepper infusion, pomegranate molasses, lemon air), manti (Turkish mini bean dumpling, tomato sauce, labneh, fried mint) and akhtubut (grilled octopus, cauliflower puree, za’atar, pomegranate).

Celal Gulluoglu also touted the restaurant’s popular weekend brunches, featuring bottomless mimosas, bloody marys and a three-course meal.

The eatery will feature both patio and rooftop seating, with 170 seats in total.


Ala’s executive chef is Ercan Sahn, a Turkish native and an internationally trained chef. He has worked in numerous locations around the globe, including Dubai, Turkey and Cyprus.

Most recently, Sahn worked with highly respected D.C. chef Fabio Trabbochi at Del Mar, a Michelin star restaurant at the Wharf.

Sahn will be overseeing the menu at the Bethesda location.


Ala’s operators are very aware of the space they are filling. As an homage to late Positano owner Luigi Traettino, ala will serve “Luigi’s Lasagna.”

Luigi and Angela Traettino opened Positano in 1977 on Norfolk Avenue before moving to Fairmont Avenue two years later. After Luigi’s death in 2016, Angela Traettino signed the deed to the restaurant property over to Jimmy Traettino in 2017.

Two months later, Angela Traettino sued Jimmy Traettino in the Montgomery County Circuit Court, alleging fraud, misappropriation of funds, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty, according to court records.


The appellate court ordered that the case be remanded to Circuit Court, with instructions to deed the property back to Angela Traettino. Ultimately, Circuit Court Judge Jill Cummins issued a 90-day eviction order in February 2021, forcing Jimmy Traettino to close Positano in May of that year.

Some of the old wounds from this dispute haven’t healed.

Asked for his reaction to the latest development, Jimmy Traettino responded with an email that reads as a biblical warning: “In the Book of Proverbs 23:10-11, Solomon, the pinnacle of Israel’s wise men, wrote for all transgressors to consider ‘Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless: For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.’”