Some people may not see the connection between Asian noodle shops and Italian red-sauce joints, but to restaurateur Erik Bruner-Yang, the two are a natural fit—and are the theme of his newest restaurant, ABC Pony, opening tonight in Navy Yard.
“A lot of the techniques and ingredients are similar,” says Bruner-Yang, who’s also behind Maketto and Line hotel restaurants Brothers and Sisters and Spoken English. “Every good neighborhood needs a good noodle place. That’s what cities across the US have been like, whether it’s your Chinese carryout or your pasta shop.”
Bruner-Yang found two fitting chefs to bring his idea of American melting-pot cuisine to life: Paolo Dungca, who just left a head-chef post at Thai/Korean/Filipino spot Kaliwa, and former Elle chef Chris Yates (ABC is an easy place to namedrop—restaurateurs Eric and Ian Hilton are also on board). Together the team put together an all-day menu that’s eclectic yet fairly approachable, price-wise. All dishes are currently under $20, while cocktails are a throwback $10.
The lineup of a dozen-odd dishes—cold and hot appetizers and pastas—explores the intersection of Asian and Italian cuisines. Take the egg drop soup, well-known as such on Chinese menus and lesser-known as Italian straciatella all Romana (meat broth with shreds of egg and parmesan). Or burrata-stuffed lumpia spring rolls, “basically a mozzarella stick,” per Bruner-Yang. A puttanesca-style spaghetti gets its signature punch from XO sauce, capers, and anchovies. For traditionalists, there are more straightforward Italian items among the cold antipasti, noodles like tagliatelle arrabiata, and gelato for dessert.
Design firm Foklor is behind the retro-chic decor, which nods to Little Italy with tile floors and marble tables as well as ’80s and ’90s pop-culture (note the checks delivered in cassette-tape cases). A vintage Coca-Cola soda machine behind the bar, which was built in the ’80s to mix soda syrups and carbonated water on demand, has been repurposed for the trend du jour: spiked seltzer. Instead of soda, the machine will produce flavored vodka-sodas at the push of a button.
ABC Pony, named for a toy favored by Bruner-Yang’s kids, was partially built as an amenity to the new luxury condo building in which it resides. The 99-seat space opens early at 7 AM for residents (and everyone else) to get coffee and, soon, breakfast.
ABC Pony. 2 Eye St., SE