The modern Italian operation on 11th Street NW, which the chef is hoping to open in early November, had originally planned to offer two tasting menus: an eight-course one for around $85 and a 12-course indulgence for about $115. But during an interview yesterday at his still-under-construction restaurant, Fargione indicated that he plans to pare down the menus to make sure their price tags are both under a C-note.
As he’s currently envisioning it, Elisir will serve two different tasting menus at dinner: seven courses for $75 and 10 courses for $95. The former Teatro Goldoni chef also plans to devote his lunch service to a casual bistro concept, including a quick, two-course meal expected to cost about $19, which he hopes will capture some of the downtown eaters searching for (relative) bargains.
Fargione clearly has been keeping an eye on the country’s darkening economic climate — and the stormy public reaction to a pampered, indifferent, privileged class that appears oblivious to the crisis, even as they chow down on their $1,000 dinner for two in Gotham.
If anyone understands the economic conditions in America, it would be Michael Fusano, Fargione’s recently hired chef de cuisine. Fusano is a southern California native who worked as executive chef at 676 Restaurant and Bar and the Allerton Hotel in Chicago, before Second City’s economy put a serious squeeze on the restaurant industry there, forcing him to move east to Washington. (Could Chicago’s economic woes be a boon to District’s restaurateurs who constantly complain about the lack of quality cooks here?)
Fusano is just one of Fargione’s recent hires. The rest of his team includes mixologist/bar manager Stephen Oshana (another Chicago transplant who previously worked at Sova Espresso and Wine on H Street NE); Elisabeth Barbato (who’s worked for both Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse in Las Vegas); and Justin Kraemer (a former chef turned manager who last worked at Restaurant Eve).
If all goes according to his plan — and the current construction schedule complies — Fargione plans to have a short, multi-day soft opening in early November. If the soft launch goes well, Elisir will debut for lunch the day after the limited opening schedule. The idea is to ease the public into Fargione’s first restaurant — and to let them know that the place isn’t all about pricey tasting menus.