The old 1940s-era print shop that he picked for his debut restaurant required a whole new electrical buildout — and about $300,000 more than estimated in his budget — but former Zaytinya chef and “Top Chef All-Stars” finalist Mike Isabella is finally in business.
Graffiato, his Italian-inspired operation with small plates and pizza and pasta, will officially open at 5 p.m. on Thursday at 707 6th St. NW in Chinatown.
“We signed the lease for Graffiato 11 months ago and on Thursday the dream becomes a reality. I can’t wait for Washington to taste my food,” Isabella wrote in a statement for All We Can Eat. “It’s like nothing else you can find in this city.”
When all is said and done, Isabella thought he and his partners — Volt chef/owner Bryan Voltaggio and restaurant enabler Hilda Staples — had put nearly $1.5 million into Graffiato. Last week, in preparation for the restaurant’s debut, Staples was not just sitting around waiting for Graffiato to open; she was dealing with the Chinatown Steering Committee to finalize the restaurant’s signage. The committee was apparently requiring Graffiato to add more illustrations to accompany its official Chinese banner, which will read either “Exciting Italian Cuisine” or “Delicious Italian Cuisine.”
I guess the Chinese alphabet doesn’t have characters for “Italian-inspired”?
Relax, that’s a joke! Whatever he wants to call his cuisine, Isabella and executive sous chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley and sous chef Elliot Drew were painstakingly training the kitchen crew last week and fine-tuning dishes on the menu. What will be on the menu? Good question. Here are all three of Graffiato’s menus:
Unlike Zaytinya, where he was stuck back in the kitchen, Isabella will be front and center at Graffiato, finishing pies that come out of his 700-degree-plus Wood Stone oven. That’s the way he likes it. Isabella plans, he says, to log 14-17 hours a day at Graffiato.
You can make a reservation to Graffiato by calling 202-289-3600.