Restaurateur Kaiser Gill calls his former career as an FBI counterterrorism agent good preparation for his entry into the food industry. One of the job skills he knows will come in handy? "Being a glutton for punishment," he says. "I'm not risk-averse."
As he prepares to open Noelia Italian Kitchen late next week, Gill said that some of his softer skills from his time in the FBI and military will come in handy, too.
"The FBI's no different -- you talk to people," he says. "The relationship you have with people is what makes your success."
Gill, 40, comes from a family of restaurateurs -- his relatives own the Pakistani restaurants Shineys in Annandale and Aabshaar in Springfield. They tried to talk him out of it, he said, but he had always planned to go into the food industry after his government career concluded. Instead of opening a Pakistani restaurant, he decided on Italian, because it's among the most widely appreciated forms of comfort foods. And, it's one of his favorite cuisines. Chef Carmen Gianna Piazza, formerly of Cafe Milano and Extra Virgin, is focusing on "Fan favorites with an updated twist," Gill says. That includes chicken parmesan, gnocchi, lasagna and tiramisu. Entrees will range from $20 to $35, and, on the lunch menu, will be priced between $10 and $20.
The restaurant's beverage program will focus on Italian wines. And late at night, the restaurant will clear out one of its rooms for a 1,400 square-foot dance floor.
"I grew up in the '90's, so I love 90's music," Gill says.
The restaurant, decorated in dark wood and with the original vaulted ceilings of its previous inhabitant, Finemondo, seats 238. It features two private dining areas -- one that can seat up to 60, and another intimate space for 12. They'll also project old Italian films onto the walls.
Check out the menus below.
Noelia Italian Kitchen, 1319 F St. NW. Expected opening: Mid to late June.