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Sette Bello Closing, To Be Replaced By American Tap Room

by ARLnow.com November 19, 2010 at 11:11 am 8,469 76 Comments

(Updated at 11:40 a.m.) Clarendon’s Sette Bello Italian restaurant will serve its last customers Saturday, two sources tell ARLnow.com.

Owners told employees last night that the restaurant will be closing after tomorrow, and that an American Tap Room bar/restaurant will take its place after renovations, according to sources.

We’re told that the restaurant, which opened in 2005, enjoyed commercial success at first but later struggled to fill tables inside the cavernous space. It was co-owned by restaurateur Franco Nuschese, of Cafe Milano fame.

A restaurant source estimated that Sette Bello employed around 30 people.

Renovations are expected to take several months, but no formal time frame has been announced.

Replacing Sette Bello will be American Tap Room, a bar/restaurant that currently has locations in Reston and Bethesda, according to an employee who wished to remain anonymous because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

Although American Tap Room will have numerous TVs and a game time menu, it’s not a sports bar per se (as previously reported).

“Upscale comfort casual dining,” is the way the employee described the restaurant. “It’s going to be familiar and modern at the same time.”

Photo via Facebook

  • david

    Just what the area needs. Another sports bar. Ugh.

  • MB

    A real disappointment. One of the few adult establishments in the area. You know, because what Clarendon needs are more drunk and yelling halfwits that are excited about the Virginia Tech or Penn State game.

    • JamesE

      I restrict all my drunk yelling during VT games to Baileys or my condo.

      • MB

        As any decent and community-minded Arlingtonian would do, James. Thank you.

    • tuesdayschild

      And I thought I was the only one who was tired of seeing VT shirts in clarendon…

      • Aaron

        Yes, I thought that’s why we created South Arlington, to keep those damn Hokies sequestered amongst their own kind.

        • MB


          (But to be fair, Hokies were just my most immediately remembered target. I actually can’t stand anyone over 23 who gets drunk and loud over a stupid college ball game. #getoffmylawn)

          • RestonRunner86

            I feel the same way, and I just turned 24! Football + alcohol = Normal people turning into loud boorish morons.

        • Charlie

          Aaron, are you from Arlington?
          Or a transplant?

    • rcw


      • BallstonNOTBoston


  • John Goilios

    I ate there once. It was overpriced, loud and the service wasn’t that good. I decided there were enough decent Italian restaurants in the area that I didn’t need to go back. Apparently, a lot of people had the same thought.

    • MC

      Agree. We ate there, maybe a year or two ago. Sauces tased like they came out of a can, service was so-so. Overall meal was very blah. That said, the description of the new place resembles a sports pub,…groan.

  • tuesdayschild

    Awful news. Sette Bello was a good place to go. I admit it had some issues with bad service. But it was mostly free of the flip flop crowd that so dominates the rest of clarendon. Clarendon is over-run with Irish Bars and Sports Bars.

  • Drunk halfwit

    Yeah, what a shame. Fun has no place in this vibrant community. If only there were more places for me to have a glass of wine or eat a cupcake in Clarendon instead.

  • SB

    Would like to see mexicali blues or boulevard woodgrill close instead…blech!

    • ClarGirl

      Agree with Mexicali but what is wrong with Boulevard Woodgrill? I love their food and have not had any service issues. Am I missing something?

      • SB

        I’ve eaten at BW three times and the food was either bland or overcooked. I haven’t been there in years though – maybe it’s improved.

    • AllenB

      Boulevard Woodgrill is a great, locally owned neighborhood restaurant. Never had a bad meal there and it’s a great mix of all types of Arlington residents.

      • Katie

        Agree with both of you! I got dragged to Mexicali Blah–never again. Woodgrill is great.

  • Kevin

    To be replaced with an American Tap Room? Bleh, that place is terrible.

  • RK

    Sette Bello had decent food but the service was terrible!

  • Bluemonter

    This is disappointing news..but agreed the place was overpriced. The American Tap Room group probably has more capital and is a more inclusive restaurant/bar.

    • Kevin

      I suppose its inclusive enough except on weekends when they have the gall to charge a cover

      • Bluemonter

        ahhhh the cover does bite…I have been to the Reston location a couple times on the weekend and not paid a cover charge.. but I was there for dinner… are we we sure on the cover?

      • JamesE

        cover charges are good indicators of places to avoid.

        • Katie

          Very cheesy bar customers at that Reston location.

          • RestonRunner86

            Restonians in general tend to be very cheesy people—sort of like cartoon characters who live in a place that looks like it’s from a Disney movie. I’m so happy I’m moving out in two weeks!

  • American Tap Room is terrible. I really enjoyed the food at Sette Bello, but that place was rarely crowded so I am not too surprised.

    • Joe C

      Unless someone wants to volunteer to subsidize Sette, sounds like it was purely a business decision. I noticed over the years that the service worsened as the crowds lightened…sounds like there wasn’t enough “adult” support! 🙂 I have been to the new ATR in Bethesda and thought it was quite good… Given the size of Sette’s space, my guess is they needed something like an American Tap Room or Clydes to make it work…

  • JW

    The one time I went to Sette Bello, they sat my wife and I at a tiny table about two feet away from a huge subwoofer. It was absolutely impossible to carry on a conversation. They then proceeded to serve the bottle of wine we bought in water glasses. Worst experience I’ve ever had in an “upscale” restaurant. Not surprised in the least that they are going under. Especially since Eventide offers the same kind of upscale dining experience but is diametrically opposed with respect to service.

    • JW

      “wife and me” that is…

  • Chris M

    Good. I ate there twice and the food and service were poor on both trips. Prices too high and bar space too limited. For a ‘pasta place’ the entrees were cold and lacked creativity. Most of these pricey restaurants are going to get squeezed out of Clarendon and replaced by sports bars – not due to economics, but rather, what is proven, works for bar owners.

  • NJmetsfan

    Can always use another bar with american food!

  • katekirk

    Sette Bello was awful – loud techno music, uncomfortable seating, imperiously rude service and meh food. I’ll stick to Spider Kelly’s for my sports, though.

  • Would have liked to see something different go in there, a good ethnic place perhaps or a non-chain. It’s a good location. However, business is business. Consumers clearly voted with their wallets on this one and took their business elsewhere…

  • Clarendon Resident

    I’m not sorry to see Sette Bello leave. I dined there once and was not intrigued enough to return. Another casual dining spot would suit the neighborhood, but I’d prefer something like “Not Your Average Joes” rather than another sports bar…the exception being a second location of “Thirsty Bernie’s,” where I’d gladly dine any day of the week.

    • david

      A few years back before the economy went down the toilet, Not Your Average Joes signed a lease for the soon to be Cava spot in Station Square. They had work permits and ABC applications post outside but they must have backed out at some point.

  • Kate

    I can’t see American Tap Room doing extremely well. I don’t predict a solid future. There is just a lot of competition for that type of venue. Classic american food- Harry’s Tap Room, Liberty Tavern. Good place to watch games: Thirsty Bernie’s, Rustico, Bailey’s, Carpool, Spider Kelly’s, Rock Bottom.

    It is a shame Sette Bello wasn’t better than it was. We wanted to like it, but it just wasn’t consistently good.

    • MikeyinCrystalC

      Don’t forget Hard Times 2nd floor (that is, if you get there early enough).

  • This Guy

    Good. This place wasn’t any good. Service = pathetic. Food = below par. While I wish we had a good, upper-class restaurant going on, I’m glad Sette Bello is out…….

    • South Arlington


      • This Guy

        ET is good. Need more than one place though. I’m actually a big fan on Lyon Hall since its so different than anything else in Clarendon.

  • LVGuy

    I actually liked the food at Sette Bello. The entrees were okay, but the pasta dishes were their best feature. But yeah, the service was pretty bad.

    American Tap Room looks boring. This is the last thing we need in Clarendon.

    • Joe C

      Check out the new one they just opened in Bethesda…. I wasnt expecting much (as I had been to the Reston one some years ago), but I really liked it… Food (for this kind of restaurant) was really good, service was good…and I just liked the feel. I was there for lunch and it was a pretty business-type crowd… I am optimistic…

  • CW

    Too bad. I never ate any meals at Sette Bello but went there for happy hour several times. All drafts for $2 until 7:30 or so? $3 glasses of wine? On weekends too? Yes, please. Good appetizers and plenty of room to spread out and talk.

    Not too excited for this new place.

    Exhibit A: “currently has [a] location in Reston”. Well there’s your problem right there.

    Exhibit B: “It’s going to be familiar…” Sure will. Ever been to Harry’s?

    • RestonRunner86

      Exhibit A: BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA! I love how everyone outside of Reston thinks Reston is hell on Earth! Come to think of it half of us who live there feel the same way! 😀

      • Take it down a notch

        There must be something wrong with me then because I don’t think Reston is hell.

        • Tater_Salad

          Me neither – just Hell’s waiting room!!

        • Frenchy B

          Agreed – I do dislike the American Tap Room in Reston, but I don’t hold that against the rest of the Town Center.

    • Chris M

      I just hope Clarendon doesn’t become RTC East. The individually owned bars and restaurants create the environment – but with all the new development comes dollar signs and greed. I work with a bar owner now who is trying to acquire a space in Clarendon and every developer/landlord wants Georgetown rent amounts. Two more high-rise buildings are coming in the next 24 months and will most likely have ground retail spots catered to such national chains.

  • Suburban Not Urban

    What a shame, best patio in the corrider, it wasn’t cheap but food was clean and simple. Went 20+ times, and can’t say that the service was ever that bad. Only thing that sucked was the parking(per Arlington guidelines).

  • G::NativeArlingtonian

    Clarendon is in desperate need of more ethnic, non-brown flip flop places. I never had a problem with Sette other than the noise level. We don’t need another beer place in Clarendon, that’s for sure. Agree with everyone that Mexicali is going down hill. It was once really good go and hang… but I never anything but negative reviews now. Boulevard Grill has been real hit or miss when I have been there. Sometimes great… next time poor. Too many of these places do not take quality and consistency seriously. The amusing thing is that in the beginning Clarendon had a lot of character with its establishments, and now its just another cookie-cutter neighborhood, slowly but surely.

    • CW

      I agree, but unfortunately ethnic, non-brown-flip-flop places aren’t where the money is. I’m actually surprised that the dining scene has not gone more the other direction – towards haute cuisine. Eventide is really the only critically-recognized conventional high-end dining room in the area (Lyon Hall and Liberty Tavern really still just come across as bars to me, and RTS is it’s own little world).

      Either way, I’ll be happy to partake in more ethnic places if they come around. Until then, it’s Nam-Viet and Delhi Club for me!!

      • Tater_Salad

        It is a pity that there aren’t more restaurants for grown-ups in the Ballston-Courthouse corridor. Beyond Eventide, there’s Willow, which is holding on for dear life in its hiding-in-plain-sight location. 3 Bar and Grill tries, but needs to pick up its game a little. Agreed RTS is in a class all its own.

        • CW

          I know. Every time someone asks Sietsema for a recommendation in the orange line corridor, he stammers all over himself before spitting out RTS, Eventide, and LT. Occasionally he’ll reference Me Jana, but it’s fine with me if that establishment stay under the radar of the “cool” crowd. Love that place.

          • CW

            P.S., I’m 24. And I still agree we need more places for grown-ups!

    • Typical

      All the people complaining about a lack of ethnic cuisine are the reason the majority of the Vietnamese places in Clarendon are gone. Your immigration drove up rent prices forcing cheaper/family-owned ethnic restaurants out and generic “upscale” American cuisine in. Clarendon was doomed the day the Cheesecake Factory moved in.

      • CW

        Hey, that’s not fair. I said above, I love Nam-Viet in particular. They can adjust pricing to keep themselves in the market and I would keep coming back. But it seems like they’re doing just fine. I don’t know how many other Vietnamese places there used to be (there’s at least two still beyond Nam-Viet that I can think of), but if it was really that many more then maybe it was just more than the area could support. The one in the block with Hard Times (where Clarendon Center North is going) was before my time, but if they owned that building, I’d hope they got market value when they sold out.

      • G::NativeArlingtonian

        Uh, that is a negative big bopper. It started when Arlington started promoting the corridor as the new hip place to be. I for one frequented many of the Vietnamese places when I was a high school kid selling ads for W-L’s Crossed Sabers news paper. This was when almost all the restaurants in Clarendon were ethnic. Except the Little Tavern. Today, as CW has noted, Nam Viet (still a favorite) and, Dehli Club are it. I hope they stay with us.

        Oh, but wait, Cheesecake Factory has ethnic food! 😛 (OK, I do like their cheesecake, I admit it…)

  • CJR

    I’m holding out hope that some day a developer will but a German style beer garden in the Clarendon area!

    • rft

      yes, please

      • oompah

        Sounds great!
        SB was a good looking place, too. Sorry it will all be torn out. At least there will still be outdoor seating…I hope.

  • fingerscrossed

    i’d welcome one of great american restaurant group’s restaurants in Clarendon. they run carlyle, sweetwater tavern, coastal flats, etc. best restaurants in the area-value, service, and quality. seriously.

  • MC

    Completely agree with all comments about needing more adult dining, less widescreen TVs showing football. Sette Bello’s biggest problem was the happy hour crowd making dining unpleasant. There is nowhere to get real Italian food now (sorry, the pizza joints don’t count.) As much as I love Arlington, news like this makes me miss living in DC. The 20-somethings living in DC are just a bit more sophisticated.

  • Bender

    YES! Smart growth! Urban village!

    Get all those damn restaurants with character out, tear down all of the old buildings, drive up costs, get rid of all that authentic vibrant diversity, and bring in more boring clones catering to loud drunk idiots in their 20s.

  • Jennifer

    Boo! This is a big letdown! Sette Bello is one of the few simple but delicious italian restaurants in the area. We do NOT need another American sports restaurant.

  • Diesel

    I liked the food and never had a bad experience with the service.

    Restaurant staff told me the lack of on-street parking caused by the rebuilding of the Baptist Church (The Views at Arlington was a problem.

  • Andrew

    @MC: You might want to try Village Bistro for Northern Italian / French fusion and Il Radicchio for old style chicken parmesan (perennial special) and endless pasta – you just buy the sauce. Piola has good gnocchi and chicken rolled w/ spinach and ricotta served with pepperonata (along w/ a tons of pizzas).

  • Pingback: Top five things I'll miss about Sette Bello – Patrick Cooper: Greetings from Evanston, Ill.()

  • Andy

    I thought Sette Bello was really good when it first opened, but got a little worse each year. Last I ate there was about a year ago. That meal was pure awful. And maybe the most uncomfortable bar stools I’ve ever sat upon. Oh well…

  • William Tansmith

    The Clarendon eating secene is quickly going downhill. Thank god for the Owners or Liberty Tavern and Tallula and a few others scatterd aroung without them there is no saving the stip from the likes for the Cheesecake Factory. In the name or progress we are losing the small to meduim size businesses to these soul less vapid places.

  • nugget

    Just agreeing with the others – would be nice to have an upscale-ish non-nouveau-American restaurant in the area, but, man, the service at Sette Bello was AWFUL(!!!) and the main reason my wife haven’t been there since late-2007. (Hokies suck, BTW.)

  • cb

    Sette Bello had excellent food and filled the dire need for an authentic Italian restaurant in Northern. VA. Now the are none. A sports bar will sadly bring neighborhood property values down and an influx of drunk drivers.

  • Darryl

    The yuppies are out in full affect!

  • Michael

    Wow…my friend and I loved Sette Bello and it served as our “go-to” Italian restaurant for almost two years. We were never disappointed with the food or service. All of their dishes (except for their pizza!) were excellent, and they had the BEST tiramisu, hands-down…and I’ve eaten a lot of tiramisu! Replaced by American Tap Room? Really? There are way too many restaurants like that in this area…so sad.


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