First Look: Rustico Hours Away From Opening

by ARLnow.com October 25, 2010 at 6:31 pm 6,519 15 Comments

(Updated at 7:20 p.m.) With just hours to go until the long-anticipated opening of Rustico restaurant in Ballston, the staff is breaking out the Red Bull and the Mountain Dew, preparing for a long night of putting on the finishing touches and getting ready for the first customers to walk through the door at 11:30 tomorrow morning.

With about 200 indoor seats and 100 outdoor seats (which will stay in storage until next year), Rustico is trying to become the premiere lunch, dinner, happy hour and sophisticated night spot in Ballston.

It will certainly have the largest beer selection in Ballston, if not in all of Northern Virginia: 400 bottles, 40 drafts and 3 cask ales (the casks will be installed next week). By comparison, the original Rustico, in Alexandria, has 300 bottles, 30 drafts and 2 cask ales.

The bottles are displayed prominently behind the bar in two bright display cases. The taps, however, form the bar’s centerpiece — two dense horizontal arrays of colorful tap handles in a cut-out nook between the display cases.

Unlike the Alexandria location, the Ballston Rustico will feature a bar area separated from the dining area. There will also be a semi-private dining areas for groups and parties.

The bar area features five flat screen TV’s (tuned primarily to sports), two long tables, a dozen booths and at least a dozen seats at the bar itself. The bar stools are modern, padded and comfortable, with a foot rest and arm rests.

The dining area is elegant and modern. The seats are molded wood — no padding, but surprisingly comfortable. Booths run along either side of the room.

The lighting fixtures are particularly fascinating. Elaborate, artistic chandeliers adorn the bar and the private dining area. Long, antique Edison bulbs light the general dining area.

Management tells us that more interior touches will be put into place in the two weeks after opening. A bare wall near the bar will be decorated, a raw wooden wall in the dining area will be illuminated with LED lighting and more mirror accents will be installed.

Rustico has hired about 50 full-time employees so far. Management says they’re fully-staffed, but still interviewing.

Neighborhood Restaurant Group co-owner Michael Babin says he’s proud of the Rustico concept. While Babin, chef Steve Mannino, beer director Greg Engert and the rest of the team team is focusing on getting the Ballston location up and running, another Rustico may be on the way — eventually. Babin says nothing has been nailed down yet, but he’d like to see Rustico continue to expand.

Meanwhile, Rustico’s next-door sibling, Buzz Bakery, is several months away from opening, management tells us.

  • ACI

    I absolutely, positively CAN’T WAIT!!! Walking distance to one of my all-time favorite restaurants?! I hope this one lives up to the original location’s legendary deliciousness and all-around relaxed atmosphere! Yay! Will visit *AFTER* the opening-week kinks and crowds get worked out!

    Best wishes, and good luck!

  • I like those bar stools

    • rob42

      i like beer

  • WL

    This is probably the only thing that could motivate me to venture to Ballston…that and cheap dry cleaning.

    • BallstonNOTBoston

      WL we lowly Ballstonians don’t want ya motivated to come round these parts. So pick up your dry cleaning and keep on movin buddy.

      • rob42

        Harris Teeter brings me to Ballston every week. I can’t deal with the parking at Whole Foods, and Giant and Safeway are holes.

  • MikeyinCrystalC

    Yet another reason to move to N. Arlington

  • Matt K

    I love burgers and beer! I’m glad that we are getting another American food and beer restaurant. I will try this place soon instead of my usual Rock Bottom.

  • GeorgeMcC

    Always good to see new places open but I really find Rustico overrated. It’s ok but can’t say I’ve been thrilled the times I’ve tried it on Slaters Lane.

  • Ah, now THAT’s an interior. See that, Fire Works? No hotel fabric anywhere.

  • Jobo

    I’m with George; I’ve been to the one on Slaters a number of times and while I love the beer and atmosphere, I can’t say I’ve ever eaten anything memorable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty good, but for what they charge I expect food to be more than just “pretty good”. For example, at $12, their burger doesn’t come close to anything on BGR’s menu (who also have better fries), and if you’re craving mussels then save your $12 and head over to Hank’s. If you want to get your beer on though, Rustico won’t let you down.

  • SB

    Food is definitely subpar and overpriced for what it is, but the atmosphere and beer selection is good. Crossing my fingers that the chef here will be better than the one in Alexandria.

  • Hardbottom

    well, that’s it, I can’t go to a place that has molded wood chairs…with no cushion!

  • KMVA

    Agree w/George & Jobo: The Slaters location is walking distance for me – haven’t been impressed w/the food (beer selection is great!)since they opened considering the amt of money they charge, other restaurants have a wider selection of food for the buck (e.g., MadFox). The Arlington location looks fancy compared to Slaters, will try it anyway for comparative purposes, maybe the Arl location will have a better chef & prices(?!).

  • NJmetsfan

    It’s great that we have another bar with American food. Not enough beer places in Ballston. I will go there for the beer, but I will still have to pay for the overpriced food.


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