Christopher Nassetta welcomes routine and predictability.
There’s the standing, decades-old Tuesday night dinner at a McLean Italian restaurant where his dad, Paul Nassetta Sr., and his three brothers, his brothers-in-law (he has three sisters, as well) and friends gather to hash over the Redskins, politics, real estate, food, business, travel and fun.
There are the 20-plus person Friday night dinners, which usually finish with an open grill at Washington Golf and Country Club in Arlington. There’s even a Sunday night gathering.
For a guy who spends two-thirds of a year on the road, visiting hotels, Chris Nassetta is a surprising homebody. His life centers on Arlington, where he grew up and lives today, not far from his parents and siblings. He even married his high school sweetheart.
“His father lives four blocks from him,” said his former business partner and mentor, Terry Golden, a frequent guest at the Tuesday dinners. “Chris’s brothers and sisters live nearby. You could hit a nine-iron from Chris’s place to any of their houses. Some kids from one family open their windows and look at kids from the other family.”
Nassetta, 51, competes on the golf course, but he oddly reserves his pride for things like his Italian cooking. He once threw down his suit jacket and donned a chef’s apron to gin up his grandmother’s patented red sauce and ziti with Italian sausage for 75 employees at the Waldorf-Astoria.
He drives himself to and from work at Hilton headquarters in McLean, and uses a driver sparingly. Even then, he adheres to familiarity: the driver is an old friend who once worked at the Alpine, a now-closed Arlington restaurant and former site of the Tuesday dinners.
Nassetta enjoys the accoutrements of wealth, even though he disdains ostentation.
“A balanced guy,” is how Edward Walter, a friend and former colleague who now runs Host Hotels & Resorts after Nassetta left to head Hilton International.
The father of six daughters, he has a boat called Another Girl. He golfs at the best courses locally and occasionally at an exotic location around the world with his best friend, John Schulman.
Nassetta attended Arlington public schools, and so do his daughters. He drinks Miller Lite, rarely exceeding his limit of two. He is good at math and prefers tea over coffee. His brothers remember a young man interested in real estate and law, and preferring non-fiction over novels.
He has a place on the Chesapeake Bay, where the extended clan gathers every Thanksgiving to eat, talk and golf — rain, shine, or snow. He sends his mother, Kay, and aunts to the Final Four every year.
Nassetta favors nicknames for his friends and is given to business bromides. Colleagues and competitors describe him as analytical as well as strategic. He is loquacious to a fault, sometimes known to filibuster at meetings.
Talk is the lingua franca in the Nassetta circle.
The elder Nassetta, a successful real estate businessman, chairs the weekly dinners. The younger Nassetta gets his people skills from his father, but his family credits his mother, a low-key, accomplished woman, with instilling a quiet determination in him.
At one recent dinner, Nassetta Sr., in his 80s, pages through the history of Washington business, discussing all the local families he has worked with or competed against over the years. Donohoe. Lindner. Hitt.
The talk veered from trips to Italy to visiting Catholic dignitaries to the economics of the Italian Store, a popular Arlington market that Chris swears makes the best New York Style-pizza on the planet.
“Those dinners are a ritual that I expect will survive forever,” said Schulman.