Oyamel will move into the former Andale space in Chinatown.
Oyamel will move into the former Andale space in Chinatown. (Sarah L. Voisin - The Washington Post)
Wednesday, September 20, 2006

CHANGING SPACES : The splashy but financially unsuccessful Oyamel (2250 Crystal Dr., Arlington), brought to life two years ago by chef Jose Andres , poured its last margarita Saturday night, and chef Roberto Donna -- forced to find somewhere else to cook while the office building that housed his Galileo (1110 21st St. NW) gets renovated -- is poised to take over the space.

Donna, who closed the famous 22-year-old Italian restaurant after dinner service last Wednesday, intends to turn the former Oyamel space into a trattoria called Bebo , his nickname.

The story gets richer: Andres is relocating Oyamel to Washington's Penn Quarter, home to the majority of his other restaurants ( Cafe Atlantico , Jaleo , Minibar , Zaytinya ). The exact spot: 401 Seventh St. NW -- until recently, the site of another Mexican purveyor, Andale .

The main players are putting a happy spin on the complicated game of musical (restaurant) chairs. "This isn't a closing, but a rebirth," says Andres, who hopes to reopen early next year after a face-lift by ace restaurant designers Adamstein & Demetriou . "Oyamel is a concept worth saving." (Indeed, a reportedly "jolly" party was held for the staff after the restaurant closed.) The menu in Washington will be similar, but with more of an emphasis on tacos and other Mexican street food, he adds.

"I'm excited," echoes Donna, who says he hopes to welcome customers as early as the first weekend in October. "Trattorias are fun!"

At Bebo Trattoria , the selections will run from spaghetti alla carbonara to fried rabbit with artichokes. With only one restaurant to focus on, Donna says, "I'll be there lunch and dinner, until we reopen downtown," probably next September.

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