Mike Isabella expanding to Arlington with Kapnos Taverna

September 11, 2013

With the aim of “bringing Greek cuisine to a whole new level,” Mike Isabella says he’s opening a spinoff of his wildly popular Kapnos next summer in Arlington. Kapnos Taverna will occupy 4,700 square feet on the ground floor of an 18-story high-rise at 4000 Wilson Blvd.

“I’m reaching out to people who have been to my restaurants in the city,” including Graffiato near Verizon Center, “but don’t come out a lot because of where they live,” Isabella says of his customers in Northern Virginia.


Mike Isabella will open a spinoff of Kapnos, shown here on 14th Street NW, in Arlington next year. (Stacy Zarin Goldberg for The Washington Post)

While smaller in size, the future restaurant will open with more seats (about 185) than Kapnos, plus patio seating and “a monster bar.”  The plan calls for 10 cocktails on tap and more than 200 wines on the list. Like 14th Street's Kapnos, the offshoot will cook whole chickens, lamb shoulder and octopus on a spit.

No word yet on what else the taverna will be serving. That’s because Isabella and his team, including business partners and brothers George and Nick Pagonis, are waiting to write their menu until after they return from a three-week tour of Greece in May. Their itinerary will include Crete, Peloponnese, the Ionian Islands and Thessaloniki, and visits to home kitchens and purveyors as well as to restaurants.

Isabella also plans to use the time away from Washington to write a proposal for a Greek cookbook.

Is Kapnos Taverna a sign of more restaurants to come from the former “Top Chef” contestant? “I think there will be more Greek,” hints Isabella. His ultimate goal, he says, is to make Greek food “more mainstream, like Italian, like Spanish.”

Weaned on a beige buffet a la “Fargo” in Minnesota, Tom Sietsema is the food critic for The Washington Post. This is his second tour of duty at the Post. Sietsema got his first taste in the ‘80s, when he was hired by his predecessor to answer phones, write some, and test the bulk of the Food section’s recipes. That’s how he learned to clean squid, bake colonial cakes and distinguish between nutmeg and mace.
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Tim Carman · September 10, 2013