Despite a weekend where neighbors came by and were served free pizza, The Italian Store isn’t opening in Westover for another two weeks.
Owner Robert Tramonte said the two soft openings were meant as a “thank you” to the neighborhood– and a chance to break in the new pizza ovens — but the store, at 5837 Washington Blvd, is far from fully stocked. Many of the shelves are still bare, waiting for deliveries from Italy.
“People were so excited this weekend, I don’t want to say I couldn’t believe it, but I almost couldn’t believe it,” Tramonte told ARLnow.com this morning. “The sidewalk was like a boardwalk, there were so many people out there.”
The second location of the popular Lyon Village shop has been in the works since December 2013, when Tramonte announced he was taking over the former 7-Eleven space and turning it into an “Italian Store on steroids.” The wait has been long because of construction and permitting delays, but Tramonte said it was all positive responses this weekend.
“The thing I surprised me was a lot of people were thanking me,” he said. “I said, ‘What are you thanking me for?’ Maybe I’m hitting Westover at the perfect time. They felt this was maybe the little push they needed. They felt like the Italian Store kind of raised the neighborhood up a notch.”
The interior of the new store is warmly lit, with wood shelving and brick walls. There are three separate stations where customers can get sandwiches and individual pizza slices, pizza pies and Illy espresso. Construction project manager Leon MacMullen, giving a reporter a tour this morning, said everything was designed to keep people moving freely throughout the store, which is 6,000 square feet.
“When people come in, you want them to know it’s the Italian Store,” MacMullen said.
The artwork on the wall is vintage Barilla advertisements from Italy. A refurbished, antique meat slicer is by the checkout counter, ready to slice prosciutto and other high-end, cured meats “as thin as paper.” In the back, there’s a separate room for wine tastings, outfitted with a “secret enclave” that can be used to store wine.
Tramonte’s son Michael, freshly graduated from Gonzaga University — the alma mater of NBA legend John Stockton, Robert’s brother-in-law — will manage the front, market part of the store, while restaurant veteran John Koltisko will be running the back of the house. Michael Tramonte spent his last semester in college living in Florence, and is hoping to use that experience to give the store an even more authentic feel.
Tramonte is still hiring, and applicants can stop by the location to inquire about positions. When the store opens, it will allow for seating on the patio, with the potential for more outside seating along Washington Blvd.