“Joe’s is the past, A Modo Mio is now!”
These are the words from Rosario, part owner of what used to be Joe’s Pizza Place, but is now A Modo Mio.
Joe’s made a name for itself and became a community favorite with its pizza, pasta, subs and most memorably, their buffet. Fast forward to 2020, with Covid in full effect, the restaurant changed its name, concept and menu to stay alive.
A Modo Mio was born.
Located at 5555 Langston Boulevard, A Modo Mio stands as a location serving its community authentic Italian cuisine.
“A Modo Mio, it came to be because of Covid. The previous concept wasn’t Covid friendly. With the buffet and salad bar, you just can’t do it,” co-owner Rosario Farruggio said. “[At first] we didn’t know what to do actually. We knew Joe’s wouldn’t be able to survive.”
The answer: a sit-down dining experience that borrows some of the Italian playbook from its restaurant cousin, the well-liked Georgetown eatery il Canale.
“Joe from Joe’s Place has another restaurant in D.C. called il Canele, and because of that restaurant and because of Antonio, one of the head chefs there when il Canele first opened, they were able to partner up and bring that concept here to Arlington. He knew the cuisine and we had the location, we made it happen,” says Rosario.
Born in the Agrigento region of Sicily, Italy, Joe Farruggio is an award winning restaurateur, pizzaiolo, chef and author that has over 53 years of food service experience. He opened the first Joe’s Place in Bailey’s Crossroads in 1978.
Joe, Rosario, and master pizza chef Antonio Biglietto — who’s from Naples, Italy — all came together to bring a piece of home to life here in Arlington, saving the location’s business.
“In August of 2020, we shut Joe’s down, remodeled and reopened in October as A Modo Mio,” says Rosario. The name translates to “my way” in Italian.
“Not inspired by the Sinatra song,” says Rosario. “It was something Joe came up with.”
What was new about this restaurant, other than the name?
“This is real authentic Italian, not like an Olive Garden. One of the main things that showcases that and what the people appreciate and recognize is that we are VPN certified,” says Rosario.
VPN stands for Vera Pizza Napoletana and can be seen within the menu. To that end, a Modo Mio has a custom made, hand built brick oven from Italy.
“To get certified, you have to be authentic,” says Rosario. “You need to have real Italian ingredients imported from Italy, like our flour and tomatoes, and you need real mozzarella cheese, fresh mozzarella.”
The restaurant’s employees are even trained by a certified Neapolitan pizza maker.
“We have the roots so now we can actually teach that art,” says Rosario. The authenticity extends to other parts of the menu, too.
“The pasta that we have, it’s authentic in how we make it. It’s all house made,” Rosario says.
It has been about 10 months since Arlington County released drawings of a future Langston Blvd.
That vision included apartment buildings of up to 12-15 stories, cafés and wide sidewalks buzzing with people, and bike lanes buffered by lavender bushes — a substantial change from the commuter route lined with strip malls, car dealerships and quick-service establishments with drive-thru windows.
Now, the county is gearing up to publish a more formal draft plan that refines the ideas set forth last year. That draft will take into account all the supportive and critical feedback people submitted last fall and winter.
Once the draft is released — and exact details and dates on this are yet to be determined — there will be more public engagement opportunities, Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development communication specialist Rachel LaPiana tells ARLnow.
The multi-year effort to create this planning document is known as Plan Langston Blvd. It re-envisions what was once known as Lee Highway as a walkable and bikeable, verdant commercial corridor with more affordable housing.
After hearing hundreds of hours of comments from residents, and a decade’s worth of work, Langston Blvd Alliance Executive Director Ginger Brown says she is excited to get her hands on the draft plan soon.
“We know this is a huge step forward,” she said. “We’re very eager to see the final draft plan.”
The draft plan is supposed to be informed by community and commission input but in many cases, that input is deeply divergent, according to snippets of comments included in a summary of public engagement year.
“If we wanted to live in denser, taller neighborhoods we would have moved to [Rosslyn],” wrote one person. “Stop forcing your vision of redevelopment down residents throats.”
“As a working professional with a young child, I look forward to eventually being able to buy a house in Arlington as a result of projects like this one,” wrote another. “Please ignore grumpy people who hate change and implement this plan!”
There were some points of agreement.
People generally want to see a safer Route 29 — the other name for the VDOT-maintained artery — with more street trees and wider sidewalks, as well as underground utilities and fewer driveways. Some wrote in strong support for protected bike lanes over cyclists and drivers sharing lanes, a traffic pattern that may harm, not help, cyclists.
“We’d like to see a greater emphasis on pedestrian safety and transportation and transit improvements and more affordable housing,” Brown said.
Majority support for greater development broke down somewhat when it came to what buildings should look like.
“People in my neighborhood are looking for development similar to the unified and attractive character of King Street in Old Town [Alexandria], not the development and tall buildings that characterize Ballston or Clarendon,” wrote one person.
“We should allow 15 stories for all sites between Langston & [I-66],” wrote another. “This could provide so many amenities and increase property values.”
For instance, where Route 29 is bordered by the Waverly Hills, Donaldson Run, Old Dominion, Glebewood and Waycroft Woodlawn neighborhoods, a slight majority favored taller heights — with many others preferring a range of other, shorter options.
Sports bar Thirsty Bernie is closing this weekend.
The 15-year-old local watering hole, at the corner of N. Glebe Road and Langston Blvd, will serve its last pints on Sunday (May 21), co-owner Gobind Ghai confirmed to ARLnow. Sales have slowed since the pandemic, which led ownership to decide not to renew its lease at the Glebe Lee Shopping Center.
“I wish we could continue, but we had a great run. It’s just our time,” Ghai said. “Sales were not high enough to continue but weren’t low enough… where we had to close right away. We could wait out the lease.”
He says there are no plans to open elsewhere and does not know what will come next to 2163 N. Glebe Road.
Last summer, rumors began circulating that the sports bar might be closing come mid-2023. Those in charge denied it at the time, but it ended up being true.
Thirsty Bernie opened in 2008, with its signature Saint Bernard mascot, as a sports-centric hangout. The current ownership took over in early 2017 after whispers of a format change.
Ghai said what made Thirsty Bernie special is the diverse mix of customers.
“We had customers and patrons from all walks of life… different cultures, different communities, different races. Everyone just sitting together,” he said. “It was such a special place. A melting pot.”
Ghai called Thirsty Bernie a “family-friendly” sports bar, a rarity in Arlington, with plenty of parking. He said his staff and regular customers were “family.”
“We are sad to go but happy for the time we had at Thirsty Bernie,” Ghai said.
Essy’s Carriage House in Cherrydale appears to have been sold, but it remains a mystery to whom.
The long-time, well-known restaurant on Langston Blvd closed in March and went on the market shortly thereafter for two million dollars.
Now, an “under contract” sign has appeared next to the building. The listing webpage also notes that an offer is “contingent.”
“Rare offering of the Essys Carriage House restaurant and parking lot located behind Essys that totals 17,269 Sq Ft,” reads the listing. “The restaurant is sited on a 2,099 Sq Ft lot that is zoned C-2 and is approximately 1,800 Sq Ft with two basements for storage and utilities. The parking lot is comprised of two parcels totaling approximately 15,170 Sq Ft that is zoned R-6. The property is vacant, conveys as-is & a majority of the restaurant equipment & personal property has been removed.”
ARLnow contacted real estate firm Yeonas & Shafran and they did confirm the former location of Essy’s is currently under contract, but could not disclose any more information than that. We have also reached out to a prominent local restaurant group that has been rumored to be behind the purchase but have yet to hear back as of publication.
The steak and crab cake Cherrydale eatery closed a couple of months ago after serving the community for nearly fifty years. The married couple who had run it, Essy and Janet Saedi, decided to retire.
That portion of Cherrydale has seen a good deal of turnover in recent years with the shuttering of several long-time restaurants.
In September 2021, Portabellos closed but was replaced only a few months later by Pines of Florence itself making a comeback after stints in Virginia Square and Columbia Pike. Tuna Restaurant serving Laotian and Japanese cuisine opened in October 2022, replacing Maneki Neko Express. But that restaurant was quickly sold to new owners who re-opened last month with a more Thai-focused menu.
Well-regarded Gaijin Ramen Shop at 3800 Langston Blvd also shuttered in September 2022, citing “irrecoverable business losses” due to the pandemic. It had been there since 2015.
Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe offers a German and European gourmet experience like no other.
Aiming to bring a piece of home to Arlington, owner Wolfgang Büchler continues to present his customers with the best baked goods after 48 years in business. Together with his Arlington-native wife, they fulfill that goal.
Located along Langston Boulevard, Heidelberg once occupied a location just down the street.
“The bakery itself opened in February of 1975, and we were down the street in the Lee Heights Shopping Center,” said Carla.
“My husband, Wolfgang, was the one who opened it originally, and then I came in September of 1975 and applied for a part-time job. So this is my first job and only job,” she said with a smile.
About 12 years after opening, they moved to their current storefront.
“In 1988, we moved to this location, and this is where we’ve been since then,” said Carla.
Starting by selling just breads, donuts, and cakes, the move down the street allowed them to expand their offerings. With more space and ambition, the pastry shop added a deli section, offering cold cuts, cheeses, and German wursts. The goal, as always, is to give customers a taste of Wolfgang’s hometown.
“He was raised in a suburb of Heidelberg, Germany,” Carla said of her husband. “Wolfgang completed two apprenticeships, one as a baker and one as a pastry chef, because they are two very distinct arts.”
Wolfgang came to America in 1969 and “worked for a German guy who had a pastry shop in Tysons,” Carla said.
Having grown up in Arlington nearly her entire life, Carla shares how she has seen Heidelberg Pastry impact the lives of those in the community.
“They come through the doors and are very overwhelmed and surprised because it is more than just a bakery, it’s bigger,” she said.
“Here we have donuts, breakfast pastries, breads, rolls, other pastries and deli items like sandwiches, and we even have different German grocery items in our store,” Carla added.
For those growing up on the northern side of Arlington, you may have fond memories of this place providing your family with specialized cakes for celebrations or baked goods for the holidays.
“I think it’s satisfying to have the customers feel as though they are family, and so many of our customers have been customers for more than 40 years,” said Carla. “You’re a part of people’s lives and see people get married, have babies, and when they graduate because we make cakes for them.”
Heidelberg has also been a destination for some homesick Germans in the D.C. area.
“Germans tend to always miss their bread first, so this is a perfect spot for them to come to… and during Christmas time, there are so many traditional German treats we have that your mom or grandma would make in Germany,” said Carla.
Despite its enduring popularity, the shop faced challenges during the pandemic.
“We sold items we don’t normally sell, such as eggs, milk, and butter. A lot of people bought yeast and flour because they couldn’t get it in the grocery store,” said Carla. “People were very supportive and would buy from us in particular because we were a small business.”
Tuna Restaurant in Cherrydale has been sold to a new owner, who is reopening with a more Thai-focused menu today (Friday).
The restaurant at 3813 Langston Blvd that served Laotian and Japanese cuisine was put up for sale only a few months after it initially opened, replacing Maneki Neko Express. Owner Sak Vong told ARLnow in late February that he was selling because of a “new business opportunity overseas.”
And, fairly quickly, it found a buyer in Leesburg-resident May Ditnoy, who also owns a catering company with her mother.
The plan, Ditnoy told ARLnow, is to reopen today after being shut down for a week to “upgrade” the menu and make minor layout changes. The restaurant will keep the “Tuna” name for the moment and will serve Thai and Japanese cuisine, similar to the previous menu.
This is Ditnoy’s first restaurant, but she couldn’t pass up the opportunity of a fully built-out kitchen that served a similar cuisine to what her and her mom plan to cook.
“[Building] a brand new restaurant is definitely a lot of investment and money, so this is big for us,” she said. “We are very fortunate to find Tuna Restaurant, though it could be in better condition, we can definitely improve and work with it. The fact that they served Laotian and Japanese cuisine is good too.”
The neighborhood is also a big plus, Ditnoy said. In recent weeks, she’s walked the neighborhood and eaten a number of different places in Cherrydale. Her experiences have convinced her to reopen Tuna.
A new name is “in the works,” but Ditnoy didn’t want to delay opening her first restaurant by waiting on name change paperwork. Both she and her mom are excited those first customers to come in today.
“This is a great spot for us,” Ditnoy said. “All in all, this is going to be a great place for us to start.”
Construction on the new Fire Station 8 on Langston Blvd is halfway done but experiencing delays, partly attributed to the county’s own permitting process.
The project at 4845 Langston Blvd, where the old station used to be, is about seven months behind schedule and is now expected to wrap up by January 2024.
Firefighters are operating out of a temporary station at 2217 N. Culpeper Street, just behind the construction site.
This weekend, the Arlington County Board is set to review a request to tack on another $510,000 to its roughly $1.6 million contract with an architecture firm, FGM Architects, to continue providing design and construction administration services.
The total revised budget for the project remains the same, at $27.92 million, given a $2.1 million county-held contingency that’s being used for the overages.
The contractor overseeing construction, MCN Build, agreed to build Fire Station 8 for a guaranteed maximum price of $16,878,504 as the construction manager at risk — meaning it is financially responsible if the project is over-budget.
A staff report says the half-million dollar contract increase is needed for extended construction administrative services because permitting delays have caused the project to fall behind.
Arlington County has transitioned all of its permits online to the Permit Arlington system. Some local home builders previously told ARLnow they are waiting longer for project approval as a result.
Per the staff report, additional administrative and design expertise is also needed to plan for site-related design changes, including realigning a traffic signal, and for inspection and testing services.
“This request… is required for extended construction administrative services to complete the project, including items such as civil coordination with Dominion Energy, Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan close-out, and other building commissioning support services,” the report says.
Arlington County first used the construction manager at risk model for the Lubber Run Community Center project. Since then it has been used for Jennie Dean Park, which opened nearly a year ago, and the under-construction ART Operations and Maintenance facility.
“This delivery method can better control the project costs and schedule by allowing early builder input on costs, schedule, value, and quality and collaboration with the architect-engineering firm,” the county said in a previous report explaining the terms of the contract with MCN Build.
A more common approach in which a project is fully designed and the contractor with the lowest, responsible bid is awarded the project can result in delayed delivery if, for instance, bids come in over-budget and the whole project has to be redesigned and rebid, the report said.
Involving MCN Build Inc. as design and construction drawings evolved helped those working on the project identify issues early on and address them, the county previously said.
The fire station project has faced other challenges not related to permitting. In February injured workers were rescued by the fire department after their lift made contact with power lines.
The McDonald’s at 4834 Langston Blvd is once more looking to change its drive-thru to reduce backups that spill onto the busy road.
The fast food restaurant has filed a special exception use permit application to add a second ordering station and three more “standing spots” for customers. Currently, the site has one drive-thru lane and a circulating lane wrapped around it.
“The Application proposes a site layout that will improve vehicular flow and help minimize stacking onto Langston Blvd,” McGuireWoods lawyer Matthew Weinstein wrote in the application prepared on behalf of McDonald’s.
One apparent casualty, based on the rendering above: an aging and sparsely used McDonald’s PlayPlace, a free indoor playground for kids.
About three years ago, the fast food restaurant proposed a second drive-thru lane and a new recirculating lane that would have run between the restaurant and Langston Blvd. These plans fizzled, however, after county officials blasted the plans during an April 2020 meeting of the Arlington County Board.
This time, Weinstein says, the business engaged Arlington County staff to address issues they had with the 2020 application. After talking with staff, McDonald’s nixed the recirculation lane.
“The recirculation lane was staff’s primary concern about the 2020 application,” he wrote. “By removing the recirculation lane, the Applicant envisions a smooth traffic flow and minimal pedestrian conflicts.”
Building a second order station would result in 16 total standing spaces for cars, compared to the 13 that exist today, which “will help minimize potential vehicular stacking onto Langston Blvd,” Weinstein said.
Customers will access the drive-thru from the property’s northwest side, queue in one of two lanes, order, pick up their food and exit on the property’s northeast side.
McDonald’s also took the plans to the Langston Blvd Alliance to compare them against Plan Langston Blvd. This planning study reenvisions the corridor as denser, greener and more walkable.
McDonald’s new plans would reduce parking spots from 34 to 28 spaces but will plant more trees and shrubs to “provide a natural buffer between the restaurant and the Langston Blvd frontage,” Weinstein said.
“[This] will create an attractive setting for McDonald’s customer sand drivers passing by the restaurant on Langston Boulevard,” he said. “McDonald’s customers will also be able to enjoy an outdoor seating and dining area in the landscaped area long the Property’s Langston Boulevard frontage.”
Although the County Board has yet to adopt a final version of the Plan Langston Blvd study, Weinstein says, the plans from McDonald’s align with the preliminary concept plan, or PCP. This document envisions an enhanced streetscape with a wider-right-of-way, landscaped areas, street trees and flexible open spaces.
“The Project accommodates and will not inhibit the PCP’s enhanced streetscape recommendations,” he said.
The application is slated to be reviewed by the Arlington County Board alone, per a public notice of items up for review by the Planning Commission and the Board this month. The Board will meet on Saturday, March 18 and Tuesday, March 21.
In 1989, when Raffis Cleaners opened at 5119 Langston Blvd, the Berlin Wall came down, the Game Boy was released, and Taylor Swift was born.
Now, after 33 years, the owners of Raffis Cleaners say the business never fully came back post-Covid, forcing the alterations and dry cleaning service to close.
“We reached a point where we’re not covering our expenses,” said Eugenei Hovsepian, who owns the cleaner with her husband Harout. “We didn’t want to declare bankruptcy, we wanted to go out the right way.”
Eugenei said their landlord was a big help in keeping the businesses afloat as long as it has been: only paying half their usual rent for the last three years and getting several months in 2020 completely free.
The business also received support from the local community, with neighbors doing everything they could to help.
“We know people by their names here,” Eugenei said. “It’s a beautiful neighborhood and people really tried to help out.”
Eugenei said her husband has retired, but she’s hoping to go to Fairfax County Public Schools to work as a classroom monitor. Eugenei is in the interview process for the schools, saying she heard they needed support and wanted to help.
Raffis Cleaners closed for good yesterday (Wednesday) but will be open for the next two weeks to clear the store and return cleaned garments to customers.
(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) Firefighters have rescued two construction workers after they got stuck in a lift that reportedly contacted power lines.
The incident happened around 2 p.m. at the construction site for Arlington Fire Station No. 8, at 4845 Langston Blvd.
Two men could be seen standing on the lift, which had been raised to the top of the under-construction fire station, shortly before the rescue. Initial reports suggested that one was dangling from their safety equipment immediately after the accident.
A crowd of local residents gathered on the other side of Langston Blvd, watching the rescue unfold.
Firefighters used a ladder truck to reach the lift. The men were then lowered to the ground and helped onto stretchers. They both appeared shaken but not seriously injured.
The thoroughfare remained blocked in both directions by the police and fire department activity for about an hour, reopening shortly after 3 p.m.
Just over 900 Dominion customers are now without power in the neighborhoods around the construction site.
Power company personnel and workplace safety investigators are heading to the scene, according to the fire department.
FINAL: Two patients have been transported to area hospitals in stable condition. The investigation into the circumstances of the incident remains ongoing. Units are clearing the scene and some lanes of traffic will open shortly.
— Arlington Fire & EMS (@ArlingtonVaFD) February 20, 2023
It’s the day after Valentine’s Day and Janet Saedi is tired.
It was extremely busy and a bit “overwhelming” at Essy’s Carriage House last night, she tells ARLnow, while taking a breather at a white-clothed table adorned with fresh cut flowers right before the lunch rush. Janet cooks, manages, and does ordering for the restaurant.
She’s also the wife of owner Essy Saedi, who’s stepped out to go to the bank and grocery store.
After nearly five decades of serving, Essy’s Carriage House in Cherrydale will permanently shut its doors at the end of next month. The couple is retiring. The news was first reported by Charlie Clark for the Falls Church News-Press last week.
So, throughout Valentine’s Day, new diners and long-time customers alike were coming to get one last holiday meal at the long-time Langston Blvd landmark.
But, really, it’s been busy like this since Janet and Essy first started telling regulars their plans at the end of last year. It’s been tough on them.
“It’s really been fundamentally the two of us running this place,” Janet said. “But it’s been beautiful.”
The restaurant opened in 1975 with Essy Saedi fully taking over as owner a year later. It’s been a local staple ever since, serving up steak, liver, and crab cakes.
There were a few lean years in there, Janet says. The 2007-2008 recession was tough and, more recently, the pandemic forced the restaurant cut some staff. That’s left the two of them to do most of the work.
Janet and Essy were married in the 1980s and she joined him working at the restaurant later that decade. She notes with a laugh that it’s Essy who gets a lot of attention. He has a “quirky sense of humor that some people adore…and there are people who don’t quite get it.”
And he loves his customers back, she says. While he still does a lot of the prep work, sauce-making, and meat-braising, he’s most often out among the people in the dining room greeting, joking, and soaking it all in.
Janet knows it’s going to be tough for both of them when the time comes to lock the door for the final time.
“I don’t know how it’s going to feel at the end. I’m very comfortable that we’re doing the right thing,” she said. “There’s some element of relief. But it’s not going to be without emotion.”
As we talk, the phone rings while several customers come in asking for a table. It’s getting busy already and Essy is still out doing a few errands.
RJ McGlasson is one of those customers, sitting at a table by the wall. She tells ARLnow she’s been coming to Essy’s since the late 1970s with her husband.
“This is a dying breed,” McGlasson said. “It’s a great place where locals come and the food is good. It’s just like losing a member of the family.”