In Italian-American family celebrations, there’s a concept known as abondanza.  The direct translation, as you may have guessed, is “abundance.”  But the more realistic translation as embodied by my mother’s approach to cooking is “make sure you’ve prepared enough of each dish so that if EVERY guest were to eat ONLY that dish, there would still be enough for everyone to be satisfied.”  It is in this spirit that Carmine’s arrives in Penn Quarter.

Carmine’s has become something of a New York institution over the past twenty years, a family-style restaurant that manages to balance a more refined atmosphere with a traditional “red sauce” menu.  Portions are huge, with each entree easily serving four, five or even six people.  Assuming guests play it smart and limit themselves to an entree or two for every four diners, it’s entirely possible to leave without dropping a small fortune as most entrees are priced between $20 and $30.

As of last night, Carmine’s is open for business – they’ll be offering lunch service as well starting today.  And I was especially impressed to see that they’ve wasted no time jumping into the Washington restaurant scene: Carmine’s is participating in Restaurant Week (August 16-22) for both lunch and dinner.  No word yet on what they’ll be offering, but it’s commendable that they’re participating so soon after opening.

We had a chance to take a look around the restaurant before last night’s dinner service, and we made sure to grab some pictures for you.  After the jump, take a look at Carmine’s studiously mismatched chandeliers, their ubiquitous menu boards (in lieu of individual menus) and a bar and lounge that are wired to accommodate even the busiest guests.

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If the number of visitors to Capital Spice who have been checking out our first look at We the Pizza is any indication, there will be lines for days as soon as they’re open.

There’s just one thing…that won’t be today.

We just heard from the Mendelsohns that they’ve had to push back their opening one more time.  Instead of opening today at lunchtime, as previously reported just about everywhere, they’re planning to open on Friday, July 23rd.

And if you thought the line was going to be long today, don’t forget to factor in the casual nature of most Congressional offices on Fridays in the summer.  Chances are there will be just a few more folks willing to brave the lines for a taste of Spike, Mike and Brian’s pizzas, wings and sandwiches.

We’ll keep you posted if we hear of any further developments.

<<EDIT #2 4:39 PM 7/8/10 –As reported elsewhere (including Tim Carman’s Young & Hungry post), the opening has been pushed back a week and is now slated for Monday, July 19th.  Stay hungry!>>

<<EDIT 11:29 AM 7/7/10 – Official word from We the Pizza is that they’re planning for a Monday opening. They’ve been working ’round the clock to finish everything up and, in Mike Colletti’s words, “Everything’s great…but I’m tired!”>>

Brace yourselves.

Better yet, Capitol Hill, break out your fat pants.

In just a few days, Spike Mendelsohn (along with his family and friends) will be opening We, the Pizza in the space that used to be Zack’s Taverna.  Consider it the polar opposite to the new SweetGreen – the menu consists of pizzas, wings, sandwiches and gelati all washed down with ice-cold beers and hand-flavored Italian fountain sodas.

The opening party is tonight, and they’ll be turning out pies to the public as early as Friday.

Can’t wait that long?  Check out the menu on their already-live website.

Better yet, check out the following photos to get a feel for the place.  We were lucky enough to get in for a first look yesterday, and it’s clear that Spike, Mike Colletti and Brian Lacayo are ready to have some fun with their new concept.

More photos after the jump. (more…)

<<EDIT 2:53 PM, 5/28/10: I’ve been informed that Agora’s chef is now Ghassan Jarrouj, who comes to Agora from Sitti in Raleigh, NC.  Jarrouj has 35 years’ experience heading up kitchens with a wide range of Mediterranean influences including Neyla in Georgetown and Taverna Kefi in Wheaton.  My apologies for the confusion.>>

There’s a reason I got as excited as I did when I discovered Urfa Tomato Kabob in Penn Quarter last year – Turkish cuisine is still woefully underrepresented in the DC dining scene.  But not for long.  This week, a taste of Turkey arrived in Dupont Circle in the form of Agora.

If you’ve ever made the trip out to Vienna to taste the authentic Turkish flavors at Nizam’s, you’ll be thrilled to know that Chef Rasit Gulsen is heading up the kitchen in the new 17th Street restaurant.  And if you’ve found yourself wondering how Turks can live almost exclusively on kabob and pide, Agora has the answer you’ve been looking for: seafood.  The riches of the Mediterranean make up a sizable portion of Agora’s menu in a variety of presentations that is likely to surprise most DC diners.

I stopped by Agora just as they were putting the finishing touches on the decor and the kitchen, getting ready for their big opening this week.  While I was there I had a chance to take a look around, take some pictures, and even get a look at their menu.

After the jump, check out some of what Agora is bringing to the marketplace. (more…)

RIS is coming…

The phrase taunted us from the window at the corner of 23rd and L Street for what seemed like an eternity.  On Monday, the wait is over.  Ris Lacoste’s eponymous new neighborhood eatery opens for business.

I didn’t know it at the time, but Chef Lacoste’s cuisine at 1789 was my first experience with high-end cooking in Washington.  She helmed the venerable Georgetown institution for over a decade, until she left at the end of 2005 with the intention of opening her own place…”a scene, something really fun and delicious.”

It may have taken the better part of four years, but every indication is that RIS will be well worth the wait.  We got a chance to take a look around this week, before the restaurant began its mock service.  What we found was a restaurant that reflects Lacoste’s taste and inspiration from beginning to end.  Whether it’s the three flat-screen TVs behind the bar (which New England native Lacoste promises will always show the Patriots and Red Sox when they play) or the Jacquard tapestry that adorns the wall in one of the private dining areas, the chef had the final say on everything.

Considering her track record, that’s likely to be a good thing.

A look around the new space, complete with photos, after the jump. (more…)

Dangerously Logo<<UPDATE: 11/16/09 @ 6:00 PM:  I just got off the phone with the folks at Dangerously Delicious, and they told me they’re still a few weeks away from their official opening, but they are accepting Thanksgiving orders over the phone for pickup at the store.

They are offering five of their sweet pies for order: apple, apple crumb, pecan, pumpkin and sweet potato.  Pies are $30 each and weigh in at 5 pounds.  Give them at call at (202) 398-PIES and place your order today.>>

Every so often, we’re faced with something so coincidental that we just have to stop wonder if there isn’t something bigger at work.  Sure, for some people these kinds of existential questions are triggered by major life events.  For us, go figure, it’s food.

Back in June, we took a trip up to Hampden in Baltimore.  While checking out HonFest, an old favorite event, we made our way to Dangerously Delicious Pies.  It was our first experience with the rock n’ roll pie place, and we left with a major sugar high and a healthy respect for the shop’s repertoire.  We even promised a return visit next time we’re in Baltimore.

1339And that’s where the big coincidence comes in.

No sooner had we posted our write-up in early July than Alex and our friends over at Brightest Young Things broke the news that Dangerously Delicious would soon be expanding into Washington.  They’d be opening up at 1339 H Street, NE, near the Rock n’ Roll Hotel, before the end of the year.  That’s right – not only were the pies following us from Baltimore, they would be taking up residence in our neighborhood!

Now we’re just a few short days away from Thanksgiving, and the pieman is just about ready to throw open his oven doors.  Pick your favorite for the holiday after the jump. (more…)

Photo Courtesy of Casey Patten

Photo Courtesy of Casey Patten

When Taylor Gourmet II rolls up its big garage-style door at 11 AM today, Mount Vernon Square is in for a treat.  By now you’ve heard all about the opening – a friends & family reception on Tuesday night turned out plenty of bloggers and media friends who have sounded the alarm.

If you love the Race Street or the 9th Street Italian, this is good news.

If you live in the V at City Vista (or in the newly-expanded Taylor delivery area), this is decidedly good news.  Between Taylor, Busboys and Poets and the forthcoming Kushi you’re getting pretty darn spoiled.

If you happen to get your run on at the Results gym above the new Taylor, this is VERY bad news.  Nothing like fresh mozzarella and prosciutto to undo an hour on the elliptical.  At least the great taste makes it well worth the extra gym time.

Casey Patten and David Mazza have earned all the attention they’ve received so far – they’ve been open and engaging with their neighbors (like us) and they’ve done a great job of telling their unique story to the media.  Their creative use of reclaimed materials in both Taylor locations doesn’t hurt…nor does the sleek, polished look of everything from the sign out front to the countertops.  It just feels cool.

Photo Courtesy of Casey Patten

Photo Courtesy of Casey Patten

It’s definitely not broke, so they didn’t try to change much when they jumped at the opportunity to expand into this new space at the City Vista.  Instead, Mazza and Patten looked for more ways to incorporate repurposed materials into the design of the new, larger space.  They inverted 55-gallon metal drums and 5-gallon tubs, turning them into overhead light fixtures.  They continued their use of deconstructed shipping palates as wall coverings.  And they took scraps left over from their rolled steel countertops to form a 6-foot by 6-foot communal table that will have pride of place within the new store.

Like the original, Taylor II will be a combination deli and market.  In addition to the made-to-order sandwiches – still served on Sarcone’s Italian bread shipped in daily from Philadelphia – you’ll be able to buy a variety of Italian and Italian-American products including pastas, sauces and olive oil.  The inventory is hand-selected by Mazza and Patten, who pride themselves on bringing in the best and offering it at a competitive price.

When you get there?  Be sure to try the arancini – you’ll thank us.  Just don’t ask for mayo on your sandwich.  They don’t have any, and they don’t make any apologies for what they see as an issue of authenticity.

If you’ve had a chance to visit Taylor on H Street since it opened, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect at this second location.  If you haven’t, you’ve got one less excuse not to check out Taylor: this location is just two blocks from the Metro, on K Street Northwest.

Taylor Gourmet II
485 K Street, NW
Washington, DC
Taylor Gourmet II on Urbanspoon