Cafe Milano and Fiola Mare will soon have some big competition as Georgetown Italian hotspots. Stephen Starr, the Philadelphia restaurateur behind Le Diplomate and St. Anselm, is planning to open his own Italian restaurant and market in the former Dean & DeLuca space on M Street, Northwest.
“You need to all be sworn to secrecy because I’m going to tell you a few things about what we’re going to do here that we really don’t want to be released to the press,” said Starr in a virtual Advisory Neighborhood Commission meeting yesterday. He was then reminded that the call was being publicly recorded. “OK, so Donald Trump and I are doing a restaurant,” he joked.
Starr went on to share some legit big news: He’s negotiating to partner with acclaimed California chef and baker Nancy Silverton of Osteria Mozza and Pizzeria Mozza for a casual “mega Italian concept” with “fantastic pastas” and a custom-made hearth in the middle to bake bread and pizzas. Silverton, who founded La Brea Bakery and Campanile Restaurant in Los Angeles, scouted the place herself last week.
“Just calling it an Italian restaurant, I don’t think is doing it justice. It’s going to be an event. It’s going to be a festival of food,” Starr says. “I’m not officially announcing that Nancy’s the chef, but I want to give you the idea that we’re definitely going to have a very well-known chef.”
The historic space is one of the few remaining marketplaces built by the city in the 1800s. Starr plans to keep the bones of the building in place and continue the tradition: The restaurant will have a 1,000-square-foot Italian market up front with gelato, espresso, breads and baked goods, fresh vegetables, and other provisions. The group is also looking at possibly adding a wine cellar bar in the basement.
Starr says he wants to create a place where people can go three or four times a week—”not super expensive.”
“Georgetown I think needs a little bit of a boost, and I think this could be a good little kickstarter,” Starr says. He notes that before he opened Le Diplomate, that property had been vacant for a long time. “I just felt it. And I feel a similar feeling here, that this space can just explode. And I also think it’s a little bit of an omen or sign that the President and Vice President were at Le Diplomate the day yesterday.”