We’ve heard rumblings of restaurateur Stephen Starr’s plans for a “mega Italian concept” in Georgetown. Now the mastermind behind Le Diplomate and St. Anselm is ready to make it official: he’s partnered with Georgetown Park developer Jamestown and Los Angeles-based chef Nancy Silverton for a huge Italian marketplace and the first East Coast location of her Michelin-starred restaurant, Osteria Mozza. The 20,000 square-foot venture, which takes over the historic building formerly occupied by Dean & Deluca, is slated to open in late 2023.
Starr, who operates nearly 40 restaurants between New York, Florida, and his Philadelphia base, is known for high-profile partnerships—including one with outspoken restaurateur Keith McNally; he and Starr will open a spinoff of their Meatpacking hotspot, Pastis, near Union Market in May. But the thing that sealed the deal between Starr and Silverton isn’t a VIP rolodex. It was Silverton’s focaccia di recco at her “meat speakeasy” Chi Spacca in Hollywood. Starr says the cheesy, cracker-like bread—which Silverton likens to matzo with butter—is “My favorite dish I’ve ever eaten in my life. Anywhere.” (Bold statement from a guy with enough chefs to assemble a football team).
“He’s creating this multimillion dollar restaurant so that he can have focaccia di recco any time,” Silverton says. “That’s your $10 million focaccia.”
The Georgetown restaurant will carry the Osteria Mozza name, but Silverton says its menu will be a mix of the “greatest hits” of her three Melrose Avenue restaurants, which also includes Pizzeria Mozza. Wood-burning ovens will turn out Silverton’s signature thin-crust pizzas as well as roasted meats, fish, and vegetables. Diners can also sample Silverton’s homemade pastas, and cozy up to two counters: a prosciutto bar and a mozzarella bar that is similar to the one in LA, where the creamy cheese is made and matched with ingredients like Ossetra caviar.
Starr tapped New York-based design firm Roman and Williams—behind the grand look at his Le CouCou in Manhattan, among others—to refashion the historic building. It will return to its 1865 roots as a marketplace with a frontage along M Street. Shelves will be stocked with Italian olive oils, sauces, pantry items, and fresh produce—much of which can also be found in the restaurant kitchen. Silverton says the goal is for synergy between the market and osteria—so a bartender might duck out to grab some fresh mint for a drink.
“We want to make it as interactive as possible,” Silverton says. “I love the idea that the process—meaning the food being cooked—is visible. When the cooks see the expressions of gratitude for the people they’re cooking with, they make better food.”
Both Silverton and Starr are in an expansion mode. Silverton opened a Mozza in Baja, Mexico and London (another Osteria Mozza operates in Singapore). During our interview, Starr revealed that he’s opening a Mexican restaurant called El Presidente in DC come late March, as well as Pastis in May. But Starr says he has a very special feeling about the project at Georgetown Park.
“The end result of this is going to be magic,” says Starr. “Magic in the food. Magic in the space. I have successful restaurants—they’re very good and they hit the right note. But not everyone has magic. And this one feels like the magic is about to happen.”
Osteria Mozza and Marketplace. 3276 M St., NW.