When it reopens this fall, Spezie (1736 L St. NW; 202-467-0777) will greet customers with a new floor, fresh carpeting, an earthier palette and a bigger bar. "We want to make it a happening place," says Enzo Livia, the owner of the downtown Italian restaurant.
A makeover isn't the restaurant's biggest news, however. For that, one has to look in the kitchen. Livia has recruited no less a name than Cesare Lanfranconi, who put the luxe Tosca (1112 F St. NW) on the restaurant map six years ago and earlier made his reputation at Galileo.
Which raises the obvious question: Is Lanfranconi saying arrivederci to the restaurant he named after a daughter?
"I'm still a partner in Tosca," Spezie's soon-to-be-executive chef tells us. Although he gave up daily kitchen duty at Tosca earlier this year, he says he still pitches in there when staffing is short. But summer finds him drafting new ideas -- seasonally focused tasting and bar menus among them -- for Spezie. Lanfranconi, 39, says he doesn't think the gig is pitting one business against another. "They're two different parts of town," he says, and two distinct personalities.
Livia hopes to relaunch Spezie ("Spices" in English) close to its sixth anniversary. It's a date all too easy to remember: Sept. 11.
-- Tom Sietsema