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by ARLnow.com — January 21, 2013 at 1:10 pm 1,760 23 Comments

Pines of Italy at 3111 Columbia PikePines of Italy restaurant, at 3111 Columbia Pike, is heading toward a possible showdown at the upcoming Arlington County Board meeting on Saturday.

The restaurant has been seeking a live entertainment permit since last spring. The permit, which would allow live music and dancing, has proven controversial with neighbors, who cited problems with noise, violence and public drunkenness at the location in the past. The Board twice deferred consideration of the permit last year, each time asking the owners of Pines of Italy to do more outreach to neighbors.

According to county staff, that outreach has still not occurred. While staff is recommending another deferral, the restaurant is apparently asking for the Board to vote on the permit once and for all.

From the county staff report:

The County Board considered this request at their April and September 2012 meetings, at which the County Board deferred consideration of the use permit due to concerns about Police issues and insufficient outreach to the community. The applicant was directed to establish communication with the community and to work with them on addressing their concerns. The applicant requested a deferral from the December 8, 2012 County Board meeting to the January 26, 2013 meeting with the intent that additional meetings would be scheduled to continue to work to a resolution on issues related to noise and crime impacts. Sufficient outreach has not been completed by the applicant. The intent of scheduling a meeting in December was to organize a representative meeting in which nearby residents and civic association members could discuss specific mitigation measures by which the applicant could implement to address ongoing issues. This meeting did not occur. The applicant does not agree to defer and wishes to be heard by the County Board in January. Staff is recommending that the County Board defer this request for two (2) months to allow sufficient time for the applicant to hold a meeting, which has not been scheduled as of the date of this report, with the Arlington Heights Civic Association to work through ongoing issues. Staff further recommends deferral to allow sufficient time to evaluate the applicant’s outreach and to ensure that issues have been addressed to the extent possible.

by Nick Freshman — January 21, 2013 at 9:00 am 2,640 50 Comments

Restaurant Talk is a new, occasional feature written by Nick Freshman, a native Arlingtonian and co-owner of Spider Kelly’s and Eventide Restaurant in Clarendon.

Hello ARLnow readers! I have been a fan of this site since its earliest days, and I am now proud to be a contributor. I am amazed at the dining public’s bottomless appetite for content about restaurants and food culture. As an operator, I think this is great, and the attention certainly contributes to every operator’s success. However, there does seem to be an occasional disconnect between the dining public and restaurant professionals. I hope to offer a bridge between the two by providing an insider’s perspective on trends and issues that pertain to our business. And since I am a local, and this is the most local of websites, it will have an Arlington twist.

To kick things off, I’ll take advantage of the New Year theme and start a discussion about one food trend that should be of great interest to many who live and work in Arlington. In the coming weeks, we’ll discuss other trends and give you a chance to get your burning restaurant questions answered in a live Q&A.

Food Trucks: I’ll Skip the Politics, Thanks

The 'Pepe' food truck makes its debut in ArlingtonAhhh, the food truck: bringing funky food to the cubicle masses in guerilla form. What an idea, albeit an old one in Arlington. Ever had a pupusa from the trucks that hover around our construction sites? Tasty. The concept has been around forever. Nonetheless, the convoys roaming the county now represent a huge trend, and it’s growing. The Post just ran a piece recalling that during the 2008 inaugural there was one food truck operating in DC. One. This year, there are over 100. Thirty of them will be there to feed the inaugural masses today. For our recent holiday party, in fact, we hired a couple of trucks to camp out in the alley behind Spider Kelly’s for our staff to enjoy, including Big Cheese (I recommend the “Thrilled Cheese”) and District Taco (the carnitas is a favorite).

But for the consumer, the question remains: How many trucks can the market reasonably sustain? Business Darwinism will cull the herd in 2013 for two reasons. First, just because it’s on a truck with a cool paint job doesn’t mean it’s great food. Sometimes it is, sometimes it ain’t. There are only so many spots they can park in, and the service window is short. The ones that don’t truly offer something special will fade out.

Second, sometimes people want to sit down at a table inside to eat, even at lunch. Even if they don’t, most eaters assume that by sacrificing the comfort of a chair and a plate, they’ll receive a commensurate decrease in price. However, price points on these trucks can rival or exceed the restaurants they’re parked in front of. This again raises the bar for the food inside the truck: If it’s not better, cheaper and more convenient, customers will seek a spot that is. Is it worth it to squat on a curb for your meal if what’s inside that foil wrapper is just mediocre?

You, the dining public, will decide their fate with your wallets. Will there be 100 trucks prowling at noon this time next year? I wouldn’t bet on it.

In 2013, will you be visiting food trucks as often, more often or less often than you did in 2012? Let us know in the comment section.

I look forward to hearing from all of you, and if you ever want to come by to share your thoughts with me in person, pull up a barstool at Spider Kelly’s or Eventide and let me have it. But please, buy a drink first.

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