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Mike Isabella Prepares to Open Graffiato Richmond

He’s also on the hunt for a star restaurateur in Ballston.

Chef Mike Isabella plans to bring versions of Kapnos and Graffiato to Virginia diners. Photograph by Scott Suchman.

Chef Mike Isabella may be a Jersey boy at heart, but he’s showing plenty of interest in the Old Dominion State. The toque announced plans for a Kapnos spinoff, Kapnos Taverna, in Ballston this summer. Next, he’s teaming up with Rappahannock Oyster Company’s Travis Croxton and Hilda Staples, who’s already a partner at Graffiato, for a Richmond branch of his popular Penn Quarter Italian eatery.

The new Graffiato will be housed in the historic building at 123 West Broad Street, formerly the home of Popkin Tavern. As at the original, you’ll find pasta and pizza from a wood-burning oven; we’re guessing the calamari-topped Jersey Shore pie and chicken with pepperoni sauce will migrate with the concept. Also in the works: more Prosecco on tap.

Kapnos Taverna isn’t Isabella’s only Ballston project. The chef has teamed up with the Ballston Business Improvement District for a Top Chef-esque competition to find Ballston’s “next great restaurateur.” Aspiring Ballston restaurant owners will submit online applications to the BID, and the most promising applicants will be asked for a business plan. The finalists will go on to participate in various events to demonstrate their skills, including Taste of Arlington. Isabella and the BID plan to select a winner by the end of June. The prize: a year of free restaurant space on the first floor of the Brookfield Office Properties building at 110 North Glebe Road. Let’s keep our fingers crossed Tom and Padma make an appearance somewhere.

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