Owner Roberto Broglia was cagey this afternoon when asked if Pasta Mia, his Adams Morgan institution, is closing after more than two decades of serving platter-sized bowls of penne, pappardelle and other pasta-based delights. Broglia said his landlord may be selling the building that has housed his iconic red sauce operation since 1991.
"If he sells it, that's it," Broglia said about his pasta house, famous for the long lines that regularly snake down Columbia Road, even in the chilliest of weather.
Yet in the very next breath, Broglia went on to say that longtime patrons already know the place is closing, sounding as if Pasta Mia had begun its final countdown. The owner said his lease expires on Feb. 28, which could mark Pasta Mia's last day of service. Broglia said he would know more in a couple of weeks when he next talks with the landlord.
According to the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue, the owner is the 1790 Columbia Road General Partnership, with an address listed in residential Silver Spring. I couldn't immediately track down a number for the partnership. Kristen Barden, executive director of the Adams Morgan Partnership, also didn't have a contact for the landlord. Nor had she heard anything about Pasta Mia closing.
If the end does come next month for Pasta Mia, Broglia sounded content with the idea. He said he's 74, and business has been suffering in recent months, the result of new competition in Adams Morgan and other neighborhoods, notably the 14th Street corridor. He even struck a nostalgic note by mentioning former Washington Post critic Phyllis C. Richman's 1999 review of Pasta Mia.
It was a rave. Among other things, Richman wrote, "The remarkable thing is that nobody seems to mind waiting here. Coats get juggled and stuffed into corners; there’s no proper place to put them. The waiters – two or three at the most – squeeze through the crowd to deliver the big, deep plates of steaming pasta two at a time. Everyone here seems to know and accept the rules: The food comes when it comes. Don’t expect the whole table to be fed at exactly the same time."
In the intervening years, time has not been so kind to Pasta Mia. The lines may remain, but loyalties often do not. Washington's tastes have changed, and places like Pasta Mia no longer find themselves among the city's top restaurants. Its potential closing may also be a sign of the times: In December, Famous Luigi's, another Washington red sauce institution, closed its doors.
In other Adams Morgan news, Douglas Development has purchased the old Slaviya space on 18th Street. The place has been closed for a couple of years, said Barden of the Adams Morgan Partnership. "It's been an eyesore," she said. "It'd be great to get another restaurant in there."
In an e-mail, Norman Jemal of Douglas said the company has no tenant yet for the space. But, he added, it "is ideal for a restaurant."