Franco Nuschese's restaurants go well beyond dispensing eats and drinks. They're lively, clubby spaces that come to embody their neighborhoods. Cafe Milano in Georgetown has long been the playpen of Washington's social set. Sette Osteria in Dupont Circle, with its affable menu of pizzas, pastas, and salads, became an immediate hit with a younger, theater-going crowd when it opened last year.
Next up: Sette Bello in Clarendon. Can the third outpost of Nuschese's empire also be a neighborhood fixture?
A lot of research is riding on that question. Nuschese conducted extensive demographic studies of the neighborhood, a newly dense hodgepodge of office buildings and high-rise condos. He came away convinced that the area needed "a sophisticated, lively restaurant, a cut above La Tasca or Faccia Luna in atmosphere and quality. "
With Sette Bello ("beautiful seven" in Italian) Nuschese is courting a clientele more settled than that of his Dupont osteria but less moneyed than that of Milano. Toward that end, the menu seeks to comfort and reassure (a wood-burning pizza oven, a raft of antipasti and salads, pasta and rice dishes, and entrées in the $14-to-$19 range) while also innovating along the margins (an "Italian raw bar" serving raw and marinated seafood in the Italian style, and sushi made with Arborio rice.)
Sette Bello: 3101 Wilson Blvd., Arlington; 703-351-1004; settebellorestaurant.com.
Open from 11 AM to 1 AM Sunday through Thursday and until 3 AM on weekends.