Mike Isabella plans a new restaurant

Tuesday, September 28, 2010; 2:01 PM

An edited excerpt from the Going Out Gurus blog:

WRITE ON: Fresh from taping "Top Chef All-Stars" last week, Season 6 cheftestant Mike Isabella is getting ready for another close-up: his much-anticipated first restaurant, which he's calling Graffiato (that's "scratched" in Italian) and hopes to open as early as February at 707 Sixth St. NW in Penn Quarter.

"This will be food I grew up eating, prepared by my grandmother" in New Jersey, says the former Zaytinya chef, 35. "I want to keep it simple."

So there will be stuffed ravioli, wood-fired pizza and gnocchi with gravy, as Isabella's grandmother called her pork ragu enriched with whipped burrata.

The chef says his menu will be "Italian-inspired," which gives him license to serve, say, wine from Virginia and foodstuffs from back home.

The future two-story, 145-seat restaurant behind Verizon Center "needs some work," Isabella says. He hired DMS/Perla, the design team responsible for Volt in Frederick, to give the location a redo. The ground floor will feature a bar and pizza counter, which will stay open from midnight till 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays; upstairs will have a charcuterie-and-cheese bar. Classic rock-and-roll will play throughout the joint.

Isabella has tapped James Horn, who worked at Zaytinya, to serve as general manager.

Fellow Season 6 "Top Chef" contestant and finalist Bryan Voltaggio of Volt is offering friendly support: He is among Graffiato's investors.

- Tom Sietsema

© 2010 The Washington Post Company