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Pizza Roma in Ballston has closed, making way for a new fast-casual Italian eatery called Scolapasta.

ARLnow received a tip last week that the longstanding pizzeria at 4219 N. Fairfax Drive — in operation for at least 15 years — had shut its doors, with “Coming Soon” signs for Scolapasta now gracing the windows. This week, the sign for “Pizza Roma” was also gone.

The closure comes after the pizza place abruptly ended its lunch service in 2019 amid rumors circulating of its closure.

The new tenant, Scolapasta, will not offer pizza but instead sell a variety of freshly made pasta types, sauces and toppings, restaurant owner Burak Temel told ARLnow. Patrons will be able to create their dishes on the spot, an approach Temel describes as “the Chipotle of Italian food.”

Temel, a long-time Arlington resident and owner of Urban Boxing Arlington and a construction company, said his business partner came up with the idea after visiting Italy and seeing how popular Italian street food was there among tourists.

“It’s kind of a no brainer, when you think about it,” he said. “Pasta is healthy. It’s budget friendly, and it could be a great late night food alternative to pizza for example, or some of the other local places in D.C., like Surfside.”

Scolapasta is aiming for a June 1 grand opening, according to Temel. Additionally, he noted that plans are in the works for a second location at the Tysons Galleria mall.

“I think it’s going to be very popular, especially with the locals,” he said.

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After a nearly five-month wait, Maryland-based Roggenart Bistro & Café is set to open in Ballston later this month.

Located inside the former Republik Coffee Bar at 4401 Wilson Blvd, the European-inspired coffee shop and bakery chain is planning to hold a soft opening at the end of February, aiming for a grand opening by mid-March.

“Grand openings are always dangerous,” Roggenart owner and Serbian-born businessman Nemanja Popov told ARLnow. “We’re still a small company and we are probably going to do a grand opening, maybe two or three weeks after our soft opening.”

Once open, this will be the fifth Roggenart in the D.C. area and first outside of Maryland. The coffee shop opened its first location in 2017.

In addition to coffee, the café offers a variety of European-style pastries, including croissants, danishes and tarts, along with a selection of scratch-made sandwiches and soups.

“We have things like ham and cheese croissant, pepperoni mozzarella croissant, mushroom medley rolls… various assortments of quiches… cupcakes, cookies, regular muffins, so the entire bake portfolio,” Popov said, adding he recently added a few vegan options.

After undergoing some light renovations, the shop’s interior will also sport a different look than before, Popov says.

“We think we made it more beautiful and cozy,” he said.

Upon opening, Popov noted there will be special offerings for customers, though he is still deciding what those will be.

“It’s going to be very exciting, and we hope that we are going to have a lot of European baking connoisseurs,” he said.

Roggenart joins a growing list of coffee options in the Ballston area, including Korean coffee purveyor Gute Leute, the outdoor stand Ballstonian, and Slipstream, near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and Glebe Road, as well as Compass Coffee and national chain locations.

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Italian restaurant Carbonara is nearing an opening in Virginia Square.

Interior work on the new eatery at 3865 Wilson Blvd could be seen in progress over the past few weeks, with tiling and some decor already installed.

Originally hoping for a mid-2023 opening, Carbonara is “nearing the finishing line and should open within the next couple of months,” a spokesperson told ARLnow in late January. Social media accounts for the restaurant tout a “February 2024” opening.

With the tagline “Old School Italian & Wine Bar,” Carbonara will offer classic Italian dishes and a “carefully curated” wine list. It’s being opened by a notable figure in the local restaurant scene: Chef Mike Cordero.

Cordero also owns and operates Bronson Bier Hall, Barley Mac, Big Tony’s Pizza, Don Tito, and Taco Rock in Arlington, as well as other Northern Virginia establishments like Don Taco in Alexandria.

More on the restaurant, below, from its recently updated website.

Introducing “Carbonara,” a culinary gem nestled in Arlington, Virginia, where classic Italian tradition meets DMV diners every night. Spearheaded by the renowned Chef Mike Cordero, this restaurant is a tribute to authentic Italian cuisine, hailing from the Cordero family’s New York City heritage. “Carbonara” celebrates the art of handmade pasta, a testament to the respect and practice of old-school Italian cooking.

Indulge in classic dishes like Clams Oregenato, Chicken Culet Parmigiana, Gnocchi della Mamma, and Shrimp Scampi, each crafted with the finest ingredients and a touch of nostalgia. Complement your meal with selections from an exquisite wine bar, carefully curated to enhance the dining experience.

The restaurant’s ambiance transports you to the charming Italian eateries of old New York, blending rustic charm with contemporary elegance. Chef Mike Cordero, with his 45 years of culinary expertise, has been recognized as a trailblazer in the DMV area, known for his innovative approach and commitment to quality.

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Lee’s Sandwiches, which bills itself as the “World’s Largest Bánh Mì Chain,” has temporarily closed its doors in Ballston but may reopen under new ownership.

The Ballston location at 801 N. Quincy Street appears to have been closed for at least a month and is listed as “temporarily closed” on Google Maps and on a sign posted inside the door.

It first opened on N. Quincy Street in August 2020, replacing a Subway which closed in 2019.

The Ballston spot was the second East Coast location for Lee’s Sandwiches — a California-based franchise — following the first such location opening in 2016 at 3037 Annandale Road in Falls Church.

Tamy Nguyen Duong, who owns the Falls Church franchise location, says she recently purchased the Lee’s Sandwiches store in Ballston. She told ARLnow that the Ballston shop will reopen soon, though she could not give an exact date.

Her nephew will run the shop and is still deciding whether to operate it under the “Lee’s Sandwiches” franchise, she said. Either way, 801 N. Quincy Street will eventually resume selling sandwiches and coffee, according to Nguyen Duong.

The chain has a variety of sandwich options but specializes in bánh mì, a popular Vietnamese sandwich with savory ingredients in a short, toasted baguette. Lee’s is also noted for its Vietnamese iced coffee.

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The facade of the new 36-story Hilton in Rosslyn is nearing completion but it could be nearly two years before the hotel welcomes its first guests.

Meanwhile, the project’s residential counterpart, Rosslyn Towers, is close to being done, with new tenants expected to move in within a few months, the developer tells ARLnow.

“We are excited to open Rosslyn Towers at The Key this spring,” said Greg Raines, a spokesperson for Dittmar Company, the developer of The Key.

While there is no firm data yet, Raines said the plan is to start leasing the 500+ apartments in the Rosslyn Towers building, at 1900 N. Fort Myer Drive, by April 1.

Dittmar’s goal for the 331-room hotel is to hold a grand opening sometime in the last three months of 2025, says Raines.

“We are excited to deliver both properties as we believe both are best in class and are exciting additions to Rosslyn, Arlington, and the surrounding [D.C.] area,” he said.

In September 2019, the Arlington County Board approved plans redevelop the 18-story, 50-year-old Rosslyn Holiday Inn with a residential tower of up to 25 stories and a hotel with up to 38 stories, with 37,000-foot conference center and 14,000 square feet of retail. The former hotel came down in a well-documented controlled implosion.

In 2021, the Arlington County Board approved a site plan amendment to adjust the hotel’s square footage to accommodate more parking and conference space, and increase the number of residential units from 523 to 536.

Dittmar said it would provide a cash contribution of $215,000 to the Affordable Housing Investment Fund to offset the requested additional density, per a 2021 county report.

One year later, Hilton announced it had signed an agreement to run the high-rise hotel.

While the residential tower looks finished, construction crews were still putting final touches on the exterior of the hotel when ARLnow visited the site yesterday (Tuesday). Last month, the company submitted applications for elevator and fire inspection permits, according to county records.

Dittmar also plans to share details regarding a new “destination restaurant” below the residential tower in the coming weeks, says Raines.

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A bar and restaurant with French bistro inspiration and an “eclectic ambiance” is set to join several new businesses in Crystal City next year.

Bar Colline, created by D.C. brothers and hospitality entrepreneurs Eric and Ian Hilton, will join six street-level offerings at two new apartment buildings at 1900 Crystal Drive, announced developer JBG Smith in a press release.

The new restaurant is anticipated to open in early 2025 and will be an interpretation of French bistro Café Colline, which the brothers opened in the Lee Heights Shops along Langston Blvd in June 2020.

The Hilton brothers, operating as H2 Collective, have received national attention for their burgeoning D.C. restaurant empire, including Cafe Colline, Chez Billy Sud in Georgetown, Brighton at the Wharf and El Rey taqueria in Ballston and on U Street NW in D.C.

They are also behind Players Club, Parc de Ville in the Mosaic District, Solace Outpost in Falls Church and delivery-only burger purveyor Gee Burger.

The newest venture will boast a bar and private dining room with an “eclectic ambiance,” a press release from JBG Smith said. Bar Colline’s menu will feature shareable plates, wine and inventive cocktails.

The venue will join multiple businesses coming to the new apartment buildings, dubbed The Grace and Reva. They are Chinese-French fusion restaurant Bar Chinois, Cuban café and bar Colada Shop, national blowout and hair styling brand Drybar, a nail salon called nailsaloon, and popular chains Tatte Bakery & Cafe and New York-based Van Leeuwen Ice Cream.

JBG Smith is also behind an explosion of food options in Crystal City after opening a 1.6-acre dining destination in the Crystal City Water Park last October in an effort to “[cultivate] engaging places that create lively communities and exciting experiences,” JBG Smith Senior Vice President of Retail Leasing Amy Rice said in the release.

“We’re thrilled to welcome H2 Collective’s newest concept, Bar Colline, to the neighborhood and expect it to offer customers a unique and compelling reason to return again and again,” Rice said.

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NiHao Crystal City rendering (courtesy of Nahra Design)

(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) Arlington is set to see a number of new restaurants on the scene this year.

We’re tracking at least 19 eateries hoping to open in 2024, from burger joints to Chinese restaurants, and even some by acclaimed local chefs.

Which are you, personally, most looking forward to? For the purposes of this poll, we’ll exclude nationwide chains and one spot mostly serving desserts — Van Leeuwen in Crystal City.

When we asked this same question last year, the top vote-getter was Sabores, which was recently named a Top 100 U.S. restaurant by Yelp (more on that in an article later t0day).

Links to more info, below, on each of the new-for-2024 restaurants.

  1. Carbonara (Ballston)
  2. Thakali Bhatti (Ballston)
  3. Immigrant Food (Ballston)
  4. Roggenart Bistro & Cafe (Ballston)
  5. Zazzy (Clarendon)
  6. Kirby Club (Clarendon)
  7. Mister Days (Clarendon)
  8. Burger Billy’s Joint (Cherrydale)
  9. Yunnan by Potomac (Pentagon City)
  10. 2910 Kitchen & Bar (Columbia Pike)
  11. For Five Coffee (Rosslyn)
  12. NiHao (Crystal City)
  13. Lantern Restaurant and Bar (Crystal City)
  14. Tatte Bakery and Cafe (Crystal City)
  15. Bar Chinois (Crystal City)
  16. Colada Shop (Crystal City)
  17. Bar Colline (Crystal City)
  18. Columbia Pike Deli (Columbia Pike)
  19. Andy’s Pizza (Virginia Square)
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For Five Coffee is opening a new location on Lynn St. in Rosslyn next to Chopt (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Rosslyn location of For Five Coffee Roasters is set to open in the next three weeks — and it will serve more than coffee and pastries.

The café at 1735 N. Lynn Street will be the company’s first to offer a bar with wine, beer and liquor, “making it the perfect after work destination or residential happy hour spot,” Vice President of Marketing Tracy Imhof said.

The Rosslyn location of the New York City-based coffee company will be the biggest one yet at 4,316 square feet. Initially predicted to open this time in 2022, the new location next to Chopt will fill a gap in cafés on the block left by the closures of Cosi and Starbucks.

For Five Coffee Roasters in Rosslyn will boast a full coffee menu, artisanal pastries, stuffed cookies and made-to-order breakfast and lunch items with a “For Five twist,” Imhof said.

The company was founded in 2010 in Queens, New York, and has since branched out to Chicago, Los Angeles, D.C. and Northern Virginia. For Five’s Rosslyn shop is about a mile from its Courthouse location, which opened in 2020.

According to its website, the company has direct connections with small coffee farms “renowned for their top-tier crops.” For Five provides signature blends and single origin coffees sourced from 30 different regions around the world.

“For Five’s coffee philosophy is firmly rooted in the essence of the coffee bean,” the website says. “It’s not the familiar brown bean we recognize, but the vibrant green bean plucked fresh from coffee trees that truly reveals coffee’s quality.”

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For three decades, Westover was home to a dive bar called The Forest Inn that, in yesteryear, sold cigarettes and garnered a reputation for attracting a “rough crowd.”

Now, it is home to a taco and margarita spot with a kids’ menu.

The Forest Inn first opened in 1981 in a former post office space, under the name of The Black Forest Inn. In 1994, it moved a few blocks to its location on Washington Blvd where it remained until it closed in 2022. The bar had a blue-collar atmosphere — though it attracted judges and congressmen in addition to cops and teachers — and earned a reputation as one of Arlington’s last dive bars.

When it closed in 2022, however, times were changing. At the time, General Manager Ken Choudhary told ARLnow that he guessed the landlord, Van Metre Commercial, did not renew the lease because it wanted “something new… something that’s not a bar.”

Nearly a year and a half after The Forest Inn’s closure, Westover Taco opened at 5849 Washington Blvd. According to local serial entrepreneur and restaurant co-owner Scott Parker, the clientele at Westover Taco is less like a dive bar and more family-oriented — but cocktails are always available.

“There are people that come in and just have a couple margaritas but the great majority of people that come in are… having at least some food,” he said. “We’re open to people just having drinks if they want. There’s some people that come just for drinks, there’s some that come for food, and we’re happy with both.”

While the recently opened restaurant now has some regulars, Parker says he is mostly seeing an influx of new patrons trying it out.

“There are definitely some regulars from the neighborhood that have come quite a few times, some that come weekly for sure, but at the same time there are definitely folks that are just trying it out for the first time as well,” he said.

The entrepreneurs behind the taco shop also reflect the new focus. At the helm is Sarah White, a restaurant industry veteran who also runs the Cowboy Cafe on Langston Blvd, which many lovingly consider a dive bar, as well as several local Lost Dog Cafe locations. White co-owns the business with Parker and Cowboy co-owners Mike and Jim Barnes, Mike Danner and Wes Clough, who are all Yorktown High School grads.

Tacos and margaritas are the backbone of the menu but the casual eatery also serves a variety of tequila-based cocktails. The space features three roll-up doors that create an indoor-outdoor feel for spring and summer months.

Westover Taco might not hold the dive-y appeal of The Forest Inn to its former regulars, but Parker says it is finding success in its own, community-centric way.

“We had big expectations just because we love the neighborhood and know how much that neighborhood supports the local businesses, but even as much as we had hoped for I think it’s surpassed our expectations,” Parker said. “It’s just been really an amazing experience. I really love being there and it’s blown us away with how much the neighborhood has supported us.”

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Burger Billy’s Joint (via @alysonphoto/X)

A new burger restaurant with a novel take on contactless service is coming to Cherrydale.

A sign for Burger Billy’s Joint has been installed above a ground floor retail space at the condo building at 3800 Langston Blvd.

There are no specifics on when the burger joint might open, but a Facebook page associated with the restaurant says that “Burger Billy’s Joint is coming to the Cherrydale community in Arlington, VA, very soon!”

Burger Billy’s Joint promotes quick and simple service, locally sourced ingredients and “food lockers” to get customers “in and out quickly,” the restaurant’s website says. Customers can place their order and pick it up from the no-contact locker system or have it delivered through an app-based delivery service.

“We love and appreciate you but we know you’re busy,” the website says. “That’s why our restaurants are designed to get you in and out quickly. Our Food Locker system will ensure you get the correct order, fast!”

The burgers at Burger Billy’s Joint will be fresh and made-to-order, using ingredients from Virginia farms, including grass-fed beef from Cottonwood Ranch in Front Royal and fries and hot dogs from Winchester, the website says.

The burger joint will join L.A. Leaf, a CBD and vape shop which opened in 2023, and an existing ATM-only Chase Bank vestibule, in the building’s street-facing retail bays.

The condo building in Cherrydale has seen a few homegrown businesses open on the ground floor and gain popularity, only to close a few years later. Among them were tea house and foot-soaking “sanctuary” House of Steep, closed in 2018, and Gaijin Ramen Shop, which closed in 2022.

Photo via @alysonphoto/X

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Arlington’s first halal barbecue restaurant is up and running in Ballston.

Hal & Al’s BBQ in Quarter Market, the food hall in Ballston Quarter, opened in December. It is best known at this point for its beef brisket, though it also serves beef ribs and turkey sausage and sides such as chili and mac and cheese.

All of the meats follow Islamic food preparation laws — meaning customers will not find pork on the menu.

Owner Mohsin Rehman was born and raised in Baltimore and his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan. Rehman incorporates his upbringing in his dishes by merging Baltimore and Pakistani flavors to create Hal & Al’s popular brisket.

“Deep down, I have my love for Old Bay,” Rehman said. “So we use kind of a hybrid of Pakistani spices and Maryland crab seasoning mixed together to create our brisket. It creates this kind of ‘Bay-B-Q’ vibe, a Chesapeake Bay barbecue vibe.”

Rehman believes it’s important to highlight flavors from different regions as part of the varied Northern Virginia food scene.

“We live in a world — such a diverse world with such a diverse palette — and just black pepper and salt really keeps you from showcasing what you could do with brisket,” Rehman said. “You’re not going to go to a fancy restaurant where they’re like, ‘We only use black pepper.’ They’re going to use a multitude of spices from all over the world. I try staying to my roots.”

Rehman started his venture into the culinary world in college where he was lovingly titled the “Italian grandmother” by his friends due to his love of cooking.

“I get a lot of joy from feeding people,” he said. “I’ve always really gotten a lot of pleasure from seeing people nourished and happy from what I put my time into. The nice thing about barbecue is it’s a very family-oriented community, it sparks a lot of memories for folks.”

In 2010, Rehman started a food blog and, he says, was the only halal food blogger who traveled nationwide as part of his writing. He was inspired to open Hal & Al’s BBQ in Quarter Market (4328 Wilson Blvd) after noticing a lack of halal barbecue spots on the East Coast.

“I found halal Italian places, halal Chinese spots, but not once did I find a halal barbecue place,” he said. “When I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do, what theme I wanted to go with for the restaurant, there’s nothing more quintessential to being American than barbecue. But there’s also nothing more quintessential to being human than barbecue.”

Rehman’s big goal? To put his “Bay-B-Q” spin on the map.

“You have Texas barbecue, you have Kansas City barbecue, there’s Memphis barbecue, you go to Carolina and they have that vinegar barbecue, and you go down to Alabama and they have the Alabama white sauce barbecue,” he said.

“I’m hoping 20 years from now we’re going to have Bay-B-Q, which is going to be barbecue using Chesapeake Bay seasonings or Old Bay,” Rehman continued. “And it’ll be barbecue all based here in the DMV, up and down the mid-Atlantic.”

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