Mike Isabella To Open Graffiato

Isabella has had a lot on his plate. The chef just got back in town after
Bravo's Top Chef
in New York and in the next month, he hopes to start
construction on his new Italian restaurant in Penn Quarter.

caught up with Isabella, who will open Graffiato
at 707
Sixth St. NW
(at right) sometime early next year, to get the dish
on what the Top Chef alum is cooking up for DC diners.

cooked pretty much every other type of cuisine over the years, Isabella
says he's just now turning to the food of his childhood. "During my
whole career, I never wanted to cook Italian food because I grew up
with it," the New Jersey native says. "As I get older, it started
bringing me back to my roots."

The name Graffiato means "scratched" in Italian, and Isabella says it
historically refers to a form of expression (see: graffiti) in which
people would scratch messages on surfaces. The restaurant, he says, "is
an expression of the food I grew up with."

The "Italian-inspired"
joint, which will fit 150 seats over two floors, will serve wood-fired
pizzas, pastas, charcuterie and small plates.

And for anyone
rolling their eyes over the "small plates" bit, Isabella sums up the
appeal nicely. "Growing up when we would eat on Sundays, there were like
10 things on the table. I wanted to recreate that. I enjoy going to
places where I can try a little of everything," he says. "I don't think
it's a fad or a style. It's just a way people eat."

To fill
glasses at Graffiato, Isabella says the majority of the wines will come
from the United States. He promises bottles from Virginia, Arizona and
Long Island, as well as the expected West Coast sources.

general manger James Horn, who worked with Isabella at Zaytinya and recently oversaw the
beverage programs for New York heavyweight chefs Michael Psilakis
and Scott Conant, will be creating the cocktail list.

As for the decor, Isabella wants to channel the hole-in-the-wall Italian
places he grew
up going to, and when he first saw the long-vacant 1940s building, once
home a print shop, he thought, "This is it."

"I don't want a fancy place. I wanted
that very urban look. It's beat up, which is good," he laughed. As a
resident of the neighborhood, he added, "I want to make it a local place
where people can go and not spend a lot
of money."

Also up Isabella's chef coat sleeves: a secret chef's menu with
enticing options that take the concept further, "whether it's brains or

The chef is hoping for a February or March opening for Graffiato.

And no, he wouldn't tell me anything about the upcoming Top Chef
All-Stars season, other than, "I wouldn't go back if I didn't think I
could win."


Anonymous said...

I wish him all the sucess he deserves, which is none.

Anonymous said...

Well, that's kind of mean, anonymous... geez louise!

Anonymous said...

Getting hungry thinking about the food you'll be serving at your place! Hope all goes along nicly with the construction of Graffiato! Looking forward to the opening! Go Jersey!

Anonymous said...

After the shit he pulled, the first anonymous commentator has it right.

Anonymous said...

He came off like a douche to me. I just moved to DC and have no intention on going to his restaurant. He gave us Italians a bad name

Anonymous said...

As a Top Chef All Stars fan, Mike is not my favorite contestant. But I do believe deep down there is a "nice" person inside him hiding.

Anonymous said...

I sure won't go to his restaurant. I found him thoroughly disgusting on the show. He was more into trying to defeat his competitors with mind games than with good food. He is so annoyingly cocky! No way will I eat at his place.

Anonymous said...

The only way I would in this guys' place if that they put a gun on my head, and still, maybe will talk about going..

Anonymous said...

I hope Mike wins. He's the underdog. He may not be so polished but Mean? not as much as these comments.

Anonymous said...

My opinion of Mike changed as this current season progressed. He was still cocky, but as his dishes matured, so did he. I think the episode where he made his grandmother's gravy probably turned it. It seems that as a newly wed, with his new restaurant, and a successful run on Top Chef, his luck is turning. I wouldn't be surprised to see him win it all at this point... though beating Richard will be tough.

Anonymous said...

I don't eat food based on the personality of the chef, he might be an ass, but the food he has been cooking looks amazing... I will definitely go

Kathy Michaels said...

Mikey, I hope you do great. I was routing for you!!! I thought that because of your cocky attitude in your season bit you in the ass and I blame Natalie totally for that. I never thought you should have left at that point. Who knows what would have happened. Mikey has changed since then though. He's more focused now, but he wasn't stupid then, just not focused. His wife, mother and grandmother probably had a lot to do with that. lol

Anonymous said...

The Food at Zaytinya's was awesome. I'm sure the food here will be also. Who cares about his personality. Good food is good food.

Jenny said...

I think anyone going thru a Top Chef competiion needs an attitude. Realize it is a 'reality' show and treat it as such. I'm looking forward to going to his restaurant!! Good Luck MIKE :)

Anonymous said...

Good Luck, Mike! Your food on Top Chef looked amazing! Wish you the best!

Brenda said...

Can't wait to go to Mike's restaurant. Big fan of Top Chef & I agree with the person who said you have to have a bit of attitude to survive that show. Glad to hear he's getting his own restaurant. And getting a chance to meet him would be great - GO MIKE!

Felipe said...

I find it pretty pathetic to judge his food by how he came out in the show (although I agree he came out annoyingly cocky at times). About his new restaurant, I wish him well and hope he delivers great food at an afordable price that in it self might prove to be great service. I am pretty sure he won't even want all those ill wishers at his joint. Good luck Mike!