Food

A Husband-and-Wife Chef Team With Serious NYC Dining Cred Open Thompson Italian in Falls Church

Gabe and Katherine Thompson debut a chic eatery with homemade pastas, gelato, and offbeat wines.
Pasta is handmade daily and topped with ingredients like clams or springy ramps. Photograph by Kelli Scott courtesy of Thompson Italian.

Former RPM Italian chef Gabe Thompson and his wife, pastry chef Katherine Thompson, are no strangers to opening Italian restaurants. The pair debuted popular  Manhattan eatery Dell’Anima and were partners in sister concepts L’Artusi, Anfora, and L’Apicio before they moved to Northern Virginia (Katherine’s home) with their kids in 2015. Now, the duo is putting down roots with their own restaurant in Falls Church. Thompson Italian—a 125-seat dining room and patio serving seasonal pastas and draft prosecco—opens tomorrow.

A neon "pasta power" sign gives a hints at the menu offerings. Photograph courtesy of Thompson Italian.
A neon “pasta power” sign gives a hints at the menu offerings. Photograph courtesy of Thompson Italian.

Both chefs have Michelin three-star restaurants on their resumes from the New York days; Gabe worked at Le Bernadin while Katherine was at Per Se. But for their own venture, the food and vibe are much more casual—look no further than the neon “pasta power” sign designed by Katherine’s father. House-made pastas include simple spaghetti with marinara and basil alongside heartier plates like ricotta gnocchi with lamb ragu and linguine with clams and chorizo. Many of the dishes will rotate, capitalizing on the season’s freshest offerings. For the mid-August opening you’ll find items like sweet corn ravioli, arctic char with summer beans, and homemade ricotta paired with grilled peaches and pistachios. Appetizers run $9 to $16, while entrees range from $15 to $29. 

The spicy pork meatballs get their heat from cumin, paprika, and chili flakes. Photograph by Kelli Scott.
The spicy pork meatballs get their heat from cumin, paprika, and chili flakes. Photograph by Kelli Scott.

Despite the pasta-centric menu, the kitchen looks beyond traditional Italian fare. Gabe grew up in San Antonio before moving to Austin, and his penchant for bold flavors stems from a childhood eating Tex-Mex and barbecue. A favorite home-style dish is spicy pork meatballs with smoked paprika, cumin, and chili flakes. Let the heat-fearing be warned: “These are not necessarily kid-friendly meatballs,” Katherine says.

Luckily, the kids get a menu of their own with red sauce Italian dishes like chicken parmesan and build-your-own pasta plates. The Thompson’s five-year-old daughter exclusively orders chicken tenders and french fries at restaurants, so her favorite makes an appearance as well.

The recipe for Katherine's olive oil cake is carried over from their New York restaurants. Photograph by Kelli Scott.
The recipe for Katherine’s olive oil cake is carried over from their New York restaurants. Photograph by Kelli Scott.

Rose’s Luxury and Little Pearl alum Kristen “KC” Hamilton is stepping in as general manager. While Gabe oversees the savory side, Katherine fashions the finales. Traditional Italian desserts include affogato (homemade gelato and espresso an optional shot of amaro) and cannolis. Anyone familiar with the couple’s New York restaurants will recognize the signature olive oil cake topped with crème fraîche mousse and flaky salt. The cake isn’t the only nod to previous Thompson spots: the restaurant’s deep teal walls are inspired by L’Artusi’s dining room. 

Touches of teal are inspired by L'Artusi. Photograph courtesy of Thompson Italian.
Touches of teal are inspired by L’Artusi. Photograph courtesy of Thompson Italian.

In addition to draft prosecco, the wine list includes classic red and whites alongside more offbeat finds like skin contact varietals and pét-nat natural sparkling wine. The restaurant spotlights the local brewery scene, sourcing all the draft beers from Virginia. Other local nods include a gin-and-tonic infused with herbs from the Falls Church farmers market. Refreshing cocktails like the “Tequila & Watermelon Situation” (the name says it all) and “Summer in a Glass” (vodka, lemon, and blueberries) are answers to August humidity.

The restaurant will offer dinner service to start, with plans to expand to brunch and lunch in the future. 

Thompson Italian. 124 North Washington St., Falls Church. Open Wednesday to Monday from 5 PM to 10 PM. 

The menu will rotate as seasonal ingredients shift. Photograph by Kelli Scott.
The menu will rotate as seasonal ingredients shift. Photograph by Kelli Scott.

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Daniella Byck

Daniella joined Washingtonian in August 2018. She is a University of Wisconsin-Madison grad and lives in Columbia Heights.