Remember this name: Frank Maragos. He’s the quietly captivating 32-year-old chef whose Greek nickname (more on that later) explains the restaurant’s title, and whose brief appearances in the dining room to say hello and share a story make any dinner more delicious. While at the Inn, he served as executive sous chef.
The sunny presence at the door, the woman who watches over the dining room like a nanny with a fine sense of humor? That’s the chef’s English-born fiancee, Sue Wilson, who was a server at the Inn and who tells you, if you ask, about how she and her teammates scrubbed and painted this space into the handsome room it is today.
The jolly fellow helping you select something to drink is Tyler Packwood, the Inn’s former cellar master. At Foti’s, he is quick to make you feel good about ordering wine, stripping the experience of any pretension. (Unlike many of his competitors, he also acknowledges that Virginia is producing some respectable wines these days.)
Don’t expect a baby version of the Inn at Little Washington -- acres of rich fabric, nonstop whimsy and a bill that suggests a very, very, very special occasion. Plan instead on a comfortable few hours and generally excellent food in a dining room that fairly glitters with sparkling glassware and flickering candles but, with its brick walls and wood floors, stops short of making you wonder, “How am I ever going to pay for this?”
The diners surrounding you at Foti’s are alternately dressed up and down, yet every customer is treated as if he’s an investor, and many of the niceties that accompany a date at the Inn pop up here as well. Invariably, there’s someone posted outside the restaurant to bid you welcome. Ask for the restroom, and you’ll be escorted there. In a trend that’s catching on elsewhere, water is poured for everyone at the table simultaneously.
And even simple-sounding dishes tend to add up to so much more than the words used to describe them on the menu. In the “fried egg sandwich,” a pillow of toasted ciabatta comes layered with a slice of local ham, a pane of Parmesan cheese and, capping it all off, a perfect fried egg -- “breakfast for dinner,” a pal sums up the immensely satisfying combination, garnished with yellow cherry tomatoes and a splash of balsamic vinegar to remind you it’s an appetizer. In another fetching display, half-circles of beets alternate with goat cheese to form little towers; the salad is made more special with walnuts fried in olive oil and single leaves of baby arugula arranged just so.