As Ancora prepares to close, Campono gets ready to open

The best restaurant closest to the Kennedy Center – Ancora, from veteran Washington chef Bob Kinkead – is finally closing at the end of March for renovations that were originally expected to be completed by the end of last year.

And to think the chef initially dubbed the place a “pop-up.”

Bob Kinkead. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

“It’s been a nightmare,” Kinkead says, partly because of the way the building housing the Italian restaurant is designed, with cables running through concrete. “Anytime we want to drill in a wall or floor,” the chef says, “we have to take an X-ray.”

“We’re not just painting and re-carpeting,” Kinkead says of Ancora. The top-to-bottom makeover will result in a dark-brown granite bar in the back rather than up front; lots of booths in different shapes (square, semi-circle, big enough for 10); two private dining areas with the feel of libraries; a salumi bar near the entrance; and an outdoor patio with a fire pit and bocce ball court. Kinkead expects to spend as much as $5 million on the 135-seater.

Better news for arts patrons and neighbors: Kinkead is opening a more casual place to eat, Campono, right next door around the same time Ancora goes dark. (March 25 update: Campono will open March 28.) Named for a village in the Marche region of Italy where some of Kinkead’s grandchildren live, the 50-seat dining room (formerly Cup ‘a Cup ‘a) will serve pizza baked in a wood-fired oven, sub sandwiches, salads, pastries for breakfast and even take-out. Campono won’t serve cocktails, only beer and wine.

Kinkead isn’t worried about losing key workers; the vast majority of Ancora’s 25 or so staff members will work at Campono while the formal restaurant is being reimagined.

Look for Ancora to open its doors around Labor Day.

Campono, opening March 28 adjacent to Ancora at 600 New Hampshire Ave. NW (Metro: Foggy Bottom).

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