To say the opening of the second Italian Store in Arlington was highly anticipated would be something of an understatement.
The Tramonte family opened the first Italian Store on Lee Highway in 1980. A little more than a week after opening, the second is already exceeding expectations, owner Robert Tramonte, Mike's dad, said.
Here's what's new at Westover:
It's bigger. At about 7,000 square feet, the Westover shop is almost 2 1/2 times the size of the original. The shop is serving the same pizza and sandwich menu and carrying the same items as the Lee Highway store, but the additional space means there's more room for people and goods -- everything from pasta and cheese to nougat and amaretti cookies -- to spread out.
There's a gelato bar. The Italian Store modeled its new counter for espresso and gelato after a cafe Mike Tramonte frequented in Florence while he was studying abroad. Moreover, the frozen treat was something the family would indulge in daily during its month-long sojourns to Italy in the summer, Robert Tramonte said. Gianluigi Dellaccio of Dolci Gelati, a longtime family friend, supplies the gelato for the shop. Customers can enjoy it straight up or topped with Illy espresso as an affogato. You can also get your espresso mixed with cold milk and Nutella (the Nutella Caldo). There are even espresso cocktails: The cafe corretto, with sambuca, Baileys or grappa; the amore, with amaretto and cream; or a martini with vodka and coffee liqueur.
You can eat outside. Sit under the shade of the bright red umbrellas with a view of Washington Boulevard. Soon, that's where you'll be able to sip...
Wine on tap. You'll have your choice of prosecco, Sangiovese and pinot grigio. "I think people should be shopping here with a glass of wine in their hand," Mike Tramonte said. "That's what I would do." If you'd like more than a glass, you can purchase a bottle from the shop's wide selection -- all 20 Italian regions are represented -- and drink it on the premises (there will be a $5 corkage fee). Robert Tramonte is also planning on wine tastings at least once a week, during which he'd like to show off the vintage meat slicer he uses to shave near-transparent pieces of prosciutto.
Private dining may be available in the future. At the back of the shop, you'll find an atmospheric tasting room. Decorated with Tramonte family photos and even the antique Italian passport of one of their ancestors, the space has a window with a view of part of the kitchen that can be whited out for privacy at the flip of a switch. How exactly the room will work for customers is still under discussion.
The Italian Store, 5837 Washington Blvd., Arlington. Open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. www.italianstore.com.