by Borderstan.com April 25, 2013 at 8:00 am 2 Comments

"Ghibellina"

Last touches are being put on Ghibellina at 1610 14th Street NW. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Ari Gejdenson is getting ready to open Ghibellina, a Tuscan trattoria and gastro pub. After almost a year of work on the restaurant space, it will soon be ready at 1610 14th Street. The place has gone through a long process of remodeling and restoration to bring back something special. The last touches seem to be going on right now as the front sign went up this week.

"Ghibellina"

Gejdenson excited to be a part of the neighborhood. (Luis Gomez Photos)

Gejdenson is the owner of AquaAl2 as well as Ghibellina, and he hopes to open the doors at the beginning of May. We spoke to Gejdenson to get an update on the progress.

The first level of Ghibellina, where the trattoria and pizzeria are located, will be open at the beginning of May. There’s still with no exact date, but you can watch Gejdenson helping with the wood details of the place .

The restaurant will have a seating capacity for a little under a 100 customers. Wood and stone create a warm space inside as the light from the windows facing 14th Street floods the room. Gejdenson is putting his effort on getting this first stage of Ghibellina ready before finishing the second level and basement.

Tuscan Trattoria Food

Ghibellina will feature Tuscan trattoria food — Ribollita and Bisteca a la Florentina are some of the dishes to be served, along with pizza. Jonathan Copeland will be the executive chef, coming from Palena in Cleveland Park and Franny’s in Brooklyn.

As for the bar menu Gejdenson explains, “In Italy, they don’t really do a traditional happy hour, but feature aperitivos. We’d like to stay in keeping with this style. So during happy hour, we will do aperitivos, bringing complementary small bites out from the kitchen.  Beers will be available in imperial pints, just as they are in Europe.  We’ll also feature 10 oz. pours.”

As Gejdenson gets ready to share authentic Tuscan cuisine, he is excited to be coming to the neighborhood. Fortunately for all of us, May is just a few days away.

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by Borderstan.com September 13, 2012 at 12:00 pm 2,432 7 Comments

"italian"

Food and development combine to change  the 14th Street corridor. Next up: Italian.(Luis Gomez Photos)

From Luis Gomez. Catch his photos at One Photograph A Day. Follow him on Twitter @LuisGomezPhotos.

The Italians are coming. Among the many restaurants due to open on 14th Street NW, at least eight of them have an Italian-based cuisine and two of them will bring Mediterranean flavor to the area. A mid-afternoon stroll along 14th from south of Rhode Island Avenue north to Florida Avenue shows not only how the corridor is changing, but also how many of these new restaurants are preparing their spaces.

The 14th Street corridor has become a hub of fine dining and it’s about to become a lot more Italianno.

Here a list of where we hope to be eating in the coming months. Many of them are still under construction and with no official name or opening date.

One Italian restaurant already on the strip is Posto at 1515 14th Street NW. The Mediterranean flavor will be brought to the corridor by Barcelona Wine at 1622 14th Street and Kapnos by Mike Isabella at 2201 14th Street.

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by Borderstan.com June 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm 0

From Candida Mannozzi. You can reach her at candida[AT]borderstan.com.

Featured image of Dupont Circle Fountain by Candida Mannozzi.

Borderstan, we’ve been lucky with the heat, so far, this summer — until now, it appears. In fact, with the more typical DC temps and humidity suddenly upon us, I’m reminded of how good we’ve really had it. The Mallard Duck I recently spotted bathing in the Dupont Circle fountain instantly evoked a number of memories from my summers growing up in Italy.

The first image was literally a transposition of the duck-bathing-in-Dupont-fountain: I remembered the many tourists literally cooling their heels in Italian marble fountains (or worse, stepping over the ledge to soak in them completely).

"Tomatoes and Lemons"

Dining al fresco on the appropriate summer foods was important as a child in Italy. (dracisk in the Borderstan Flickr pool)

While this may be a welcome relief to the tourists, we Italians, by and large, really don’t appreciate the spectacle, nor do we enjoy this misuse and disrespect for what are, in many cases, historic sculptures. We locals usually go past such scenes thinking or even muttering: “I’d like to try that in your main piazza’s fountain back in Switzerland, Germany, fill-in-the-blank… and not be hauled off by the municipal police!”

But back to the cooling memories: another is of the delicious “granite” (pronounced: grah-KNEE-tay), called sno-cones here. Some of the favorite flavors among Italian children are lemon, mint, sour cherry and coconut. I remember the ambulating vendors, their call as they pushed an umbrella-shaded cart: “Eccole! Le graniiiiiteeeeee!” working their way up and down the seaside promenades. They would stop whenever a flock of children or families gathered around them.

The ice was shaved into a little pyramid off a huge block, the syrup poured over it liberally. Then, it was all scooped up and served in a pointy cup made of twisted wax paper. Often mothers cautioned the vendor not to give the kids too much sugar by going easy on the syrup (try putting any bambini down for their afternoon nap after a dose of THAT!).

Grownups found refreshment in various aperitivi, like the bittersweet “Campari e soda,” or the citrus-flavored “Aperol.” White wine (the cheaper table wine variety, mind you!) was sometimes lengthened with sparkling mineral water. Ice cubes were rare (they are gaining some traction now), so most drinks were just fridge-cold or cellar-cool.

During the summertime, dinners started much later in the evening, to allow an appetite to really build. Who wants to eat in the blistering heat, after all? It was not uncommon to sit down to dinner around 9 pm or later, having also slept for a few hours during the hottest part of the afternoon in a shaded room or hallway, with a cross-breeze blowing over cooling tile or marble floors.

Summertime meals started with slices of prosciutto and chilled “melone” (cantaloupe) or figs, or with a helping of the famous Caprese salad made of  alternate mozzarella and tomato slices, dressed in basil leaves, salt, pepper and olive oil (if I hear you pouring vinegar on this, I am coming after you!). What a great way to rehydrate and also replenish the sodium that the summer heat had sapped from us, as we played and perspired outside in the sun!

A favorite seaside breakfast was yesterday’s not-so-fresh bread, sliced, toasted, rubbed with the open face of a halved garlic clove, and then covered in the dark red, meaty, sweet diced tomatoes that abounded in the summer. Basil leaves, a pinch of salt and a light circle of olive oil topped the whole thing off: viva la bruschetta! The moisture from the tomatoes and olive oil softened the bread, though we could still feel the crunch of the toasted crust, the oil and tomato juices would go running down our cheeks and chins with each bite. We gobbled down kilos!

Washing-up? We just hit the sea.

But the most fun came from eating watermelon. We held a variety of contests with the seeds, either measuring spitting distance, or target accuracy, or pinching their pointy end to make them flip up in the air and (hopefully) plink rewardingly into a bowl or glass. On some occasions, the competition was about volume of seed-volleys: a few kids (and dads!) were true pros at conjuring almost machine-gun like effects with a mouthful of seeds. Don’t come near me with those seedless watermelons, they may be organic, but they’re sad, genetically modified freaks to me! Not to mention witnessing the hilarious effect of people arguing over a disputed target hit or other disagreement through a mouthful of juicy, oozing watermelon…

Most summertime dishes were served cold or at room temperature, and had been prepared that morning, sparing the cooks any work over heated ovens or stoves in the hotter hours. Some favorites were the stuffed tomatoes or peppers (pomodori ripieni, peperoni ripieni) filled with rice salad, or rice-and-mincemeat, or tuna salad), meatballs (tiny, rolled in bread crumbs for a lovely crisp finish, flavored with herbs, garlic and some hot pepper flakes… some even had melted mozzarella in their center), capponata (a vegetable medley similar to the French ratatouille — though, forgive me, way better!), and of course myriad pasta salad variations.

I remember the excitement of being able to play with the other kids late into the night, feeling the cool nighttime breeze as we found our way around in the darker shadows and splashes of moonlight, guided by the scent of a jasmine hedge or a lavender bush, tip-toeing or running, crackling over the rough needles of the fragrant Mediterranean Pines, while the grownups remained within earshot at the table, chatting, laughing, sharing the last bit of cellar-cool wine.

Borderstan, my nostalgia aside, what are some of your favorite summer cooling-off activities or recipes? Share, will you?

by Borderstan.com May 25, 2012 at 2:00 pm 1,415 4 Comments

By Michelle Lancaster. You can follow her and let her know your news on Twitter @MichLancaster. Email her at michellel[AT]borderstan.com.

The Italian joint on Connecticut Avenue always seemed to have a bit of a problem fitting in with the neighborhood, and after its last day (Wednesday) it’s still sort of hard to put a finger on “why?”

Borderstan

Borderstan: News from Dupont-Logan-U Street

After all, La Tomate has been making ends meet in the neighborhood for years, offering many similar dishes with a less modern spin. Perhaps that was the problem, Connecticut Avenue already had Italian family style, if you are willing to count Buca Di Beppo and a red sauce joint.

I was a fan of the gelato cart and chef Amy Brandwein’s creations, and the Eater article indicates the owners agreed with at least one of those assessments.

Is this the end of NYC concepts coming to DC? The immediate comparison has to be Carmine’s, another Yankee transplant featuring giant portions of red sauce favorites.

Any reports on how business is in Chinatown? On my last visit there, I recall an over-sized menu, over-sized portions and underwhelming meals. But perhaps that plays better with tourists than the fancy salad lunch crowd around Dupont?

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by Borderstan.com May 9, 2012 at 10:00 am 1,614 3 Comments

Piola hopes to open by mid-June on 14th Street NW, north of W Street. (Luis Gomez)

From Luis Gomez. Catch his photos on Picplz and at One Photograph A Day. Follow him on Twitter @LuisGomezPhotos.

The international Italian food chain Piola, know for its pizza, is opening at 2208 14th Street NW. The owner of the 14th street location, Nabil Ashi, says he hopes to open by mid-June; the restaurants are franchised. The menu will be very similar to the ones found in their other locations: authentic Italian cuisine, pastas and an extensive list of pizzas served in a casual space. Piola will also serve wine and beer.

The chain has locations not only in the United States, but also in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Honduras, Chile and Turkey. Some of you might have already been to a Piola, since they have a location just right across the Key Street Bridge in Arlington on Wilson Boulevard.

Piola is coming to the neighborhood after looking around the area for more than two years. For Ashi, the idea of bringing Piola to 14th Street NW came after having to wait over an hour for a table at another restaurant.

“The area is very trendy and happening, and we think Piola fits the environment very well. Most restaurants on 14th street are always full… with many young professionals living in the area and not enough restaurants to feed them all,” said Achi. “14th Street NW is where all the nice-good looking people want to go these days.” (Achi added a smiley face to his email on that last quote.)

However, there is another new pizzeria opening on 14th Street NW, south of T Street: Edan McQauid will be opening his new place at 1832 14th Street NW.

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