“I was working in 900 square feet for three years and I wasn’t a partner,” explained Pilla. “I need to grow.”
His new position is loosely defined, as is Ghibellina, which is expected to open in December at 1610 14th St. NW, the former home to HR-57. Pilla says he will run a ground-floor gastropub serving pizzas, panini, pastas, salads and bistecca fiorentina, or Italian-style T-bone steak. “They’re still working on the other concepts” in the 9,000 square foot structure, Pilla said.
Fans of Seventh Hill, closed until Friday for remodeling, gravitated to the trim, 20-seat pie shop for a crust that was consistently thin and puffy-lipped, with a flavor that fused yeast and char in every bite. Patrons also got a show with every pizza: no local competitor stretches dough, or spins a pie, with more carefree finesse and attention. “I’m going to miss that tremendously,” said Pilla of his regular audience, although he thinks his future kitchen will also be an open stage.
Pilla (“I don’t want to call myself a chef yet,” he said) sounds primed to compete in a new part of town: “It will be exciting to go against Edan [MacQuaid, of Local 16] and Matchbox ,” which is opening its third branch in Washington on the corner of 14th and T St. NW. “May the best win,” he added.