Say the name of Chevy Chase’s newest Italian spot, I’m Eddie Cano, three times fast and suddenly, the name transforms into “Americano.” If your gut response to this is an eye roll and haughty scoff, you are not alone: even co-owner Massimo Papetti was hesitant at first. The restaurant’s name is inspired by co-owner Carolyn Papetti’s introduction to Italian lessons. But for her husband, the name is reminiscent of a hauntingly familiar taunt.
“This is my nickname in Italy because every time I go back to Rome, where I’m coming from, none of my friends call me Massimo anymore,” Massimo says. “Everybody calls me Americano.”
Massimo eventually came around to the playful name, which says a lot about the food. The menu is spearheaded by James Gee, former chef at José Andrés’s spots China Chilcano and Jaleo, and tells the story of Italian-American classics like chicken parmesan on one side and authentic Italian cuisine like bucatini all ‘amatriciana on the other. Gee celebrates the influence of Italian immigrants and the checkered tablecloth, red-sauce joints of Little Italys across the country.
“It was out of their resourcefulness that this food came about, and in no way to me is it something that is lesser than real Italian food,” Gee says.
Gee pays homage to his own Italian-American heritage with recipes passed down through his family: Nonna’s meatballs find their home as both starters and stuffed in a hero sandwich. The baked rigatoni is an ode to Gee and Papetti’s roots at East Hampton spot Cittanuova and their former mentor, now-deceased owner Ben Krupinski, who loved the off-menu pasta’s crispy top layer of parmesan. The Italian side of the menu is similarly warm with memories from attending Massimo and Carolyn’s wedding ceremony in Cinque Terre to touring Massimo’s local favorites in Campo de’ Fiori.
“For me, probably the few things that really stick out in my mind that gave me inspiration for the Italian side was being, first in Cinque Terre, the amazing seafood there,” Gee says.
While the restaurant may not have access to the Mediterranean’s abundant seafood, Gee is instead focused on adapting the tender respect of a Cinque Terre chef to highlight local catches like striped bass and rockfish through rotating specials. The Italian philosophy unifying both sides of the menu is a focus on using high quality, seasonal and local ingredients, an approach the kitchen applies to American-style fettuccini alfredo and spaghetti alla vongole alike.
The Papettis live in the neighborhood and saw the 60-seat dining room as an opportunity to create a spot they themselves had wished for. They can take their two kids for an affordable Italian meal or spend a romantic night toasting on-tap negronis and sharing a bottle of wine from the list curated by Carolyn, a certified Italian sommelier.
As the restaurant opens its doors and the name continues to be a conversation piece, Massimo may not be able to escape his “Americano” nickname. Passerby unfamiliar with the name’s wordplay have already inquired about the identity of the mysterious Eddie Cano.
“We actually have joked around that Massimo will become known as Eddie rather than Massimo,” Gee says.
I’m Eddie Cano. 5014 Connecticut Ave., NW. Open Tuesday to Thursday and Sunday from 5 to 10 PM, bar open until 11 PM, and Saturday from 5 to 11 PM, bar open until 12 AM.
I’m Eddie Cano Dinner Menu: