Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Board Advertises Property Tax Rates — “The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to advertise no increase in the Calendar Year 2021 base real estate property tax rate, citing the toll the ongoing coronavirus pandemic is taking on residents. The Board also voted to advertise a proposed Stormwater tax rate of 1.7 cents per $100 of assessed real property value to fund the full cost of operations and planned capital improvements to the County’s stormwater infrastructure and flood mitigation… The estimated annual impact for the average household with an assessed home value of $724,400 is $123.” [Arlington County]

Snow Falling in ArlingtonUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — Snow is falling in Arlington, which is just outside of a newly-expanded expanded Winter Weather Advisory. Be careful out there! [Twitter]

Business Owners Talk About Burglaries — “Metry describes the Bluemont neighborhood where his business was burglarized as safe. He doesn’t understand why his business was targeted. ‘The whole register, the iPad, the square scan, all of this was missing,’ Metry said. Surveillance footage captured at neighboring restaurant La Union shows the burglars wearing dark clothing, hoodies, masks and gloves. Jose Zelaya has owned the Mexican restaurant La Union for 21 years. Aside from a random car break-in, he said he’s never experienced any crime like this.” [WUSA 9]

St. Patrick’s Pie at Clarendon Pizzeria — “Colony Grill, Clarendon’s new family-friendly tavern, known for its gracious hospitality and famous ‘hot oil’ bar-style pizzas, will serve a special corned beef & cabbage “Bar Pie”… [f]rom Friday, March 12 through Wednesday, March 17.” [Press Release]

Reminder: Trash Collection Delayed a Day — Due to ice and snow last week, Friday’s residential waste collection will be completed today, shifting this week’s collection schedule by one day. [ARLnow]

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Patrons of the novelty pasta vending machine in Shirlington rejoice: the restaurant behind the dinner dispenser, Stellina Pizzeria and Market, opens this afternoon (Friday).

After some holiday-season delays set the opening back two months, the pizza shop in the Village at Shirlington will start serving customers at 4 p.m.

The Arlington eatery and market is an outpost of the Michelin-recognized pizzeria in D.C. and is located in the former Cafe Pizzaiolo space at 2800 S. Randolph Street. But those who venture to Union Market for Stellina pizzas — heralded by the Washington Post and Washingtonian — will find a few variations on the flagship restaurant.

“We want to bring the Stellina experience to our guests in the region, while also being mindful of their specific needs and preferences,” said restaurateur and co-owner Antonio Matarazzo. “Knowing the South Arlington community as a resident here with my family, I thought that a retail element for prepared foods and ingredients to cook at home would be a nice addition to our curbside pick-up, delivery, and outdoor dining offerings.”

For now, guests can only dine outside in the heated, 20-seat patio; once the indoor dining room opens, the restaurant will seat 75 inside. Starting today, customers can also shop Stellina’s market, stocked with Italian pantry goods, deli counter offerings and frozen lasagne and pizza.

The Shirlington menu focuses on Chef Matteo Venini’s signature “neo-Neapolitan” pizzas. Customers can order the traditional Margherita pizza, the celebrated Cacio e Pepe pizza, or pies with any seasonal toppings. The menu also offers other Southern Italian street food, paninis, homemade pasta, classic desserts and coffee.

Both Matarazzo and Venini are natives of Italy who worked together at a trio of upscale Italian restaurants in D.C. before striking out on their own.

The Shirlington outpost is their first location to have a deli counter that offers fresh pasta by-the-pound, homemade sauces, pizza dough, cured meats, cheeses, olives and desserts such as panna cotta and tiramisu. Decorative details inside Stellina include tiles from the Amalfi Coast and murals of beloved Italian actors by D.C. artists No Kings Collective.

Unlike its D.C. sibling, the Shirlington location will not have a bar, but diners can still imbibe a glass of red wine or a Negroni with dinner. Bottled cocktails will be served tableside and Italian wines and beers will also be available.

Those who prefer a vending machine’s convenience and lack of human interaction can frequent it until the end of spring. Then, it moves to 508 K Street NW to preview Stellina’s third location.

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Locals can now buy handmade pasta and sauces from a vending machine outside the future home of Stellina Pizzeria, a soon-to-open Italian restaurant and market in Shirlington.

The machine delivers food in a pandemic-friendly way and helps preview the opening of the restaurant in the former Cafe Pizzaiolo space at 2800 S. Randolph Street, co-owner Antonio Matarazzo said.

The second outpost of the Michelin-recognized pizzeria in D.C.’s Union Market was set to open at the end of 2020, but the holiday season delayed equipment and furniture shipments. It’s now slated to open “in a couple of weeks,” Matarazzo said.

Matarazzo and Chef Matteo Venini, both Italian transplants, got the idea for the vending machine in March. The pandemic had just hit the East Coast, and they were trying to find ways to deliver food to their guests.

“We did not want to just tape up a hole, but do something that could be good for the future,” Matarazzo said.

While vending machines in the U.S. just offer snacks and bottled drinks, Matarazzo said he has seen Prosecco vending machines in Europe and in Japan, “you can buy everything you want in a vending machine there,”

Granted, he said he has “never seen a pasta vending machine before.”

Like the restaurant, the vending machine was also delayed. It arrived from California — where it was custom-made — a few weeks ago, and six months late.

“It’s a tough time for everybody,” he said. “You have to be more patient these days.”

The machine will stay in Arlington until the end of spring. Then, it will move to 508 K Street NW to preview Stellina’s second location in D.C. Its flagship location opened in April 2019 at 399 Morse Street NE.

Right now, the machine has three kinds of pasta, sauces, dessert, merchandise and coffee.

Matarazzo recommends pairing the paccheri — a large, smooth tube-shaped pasta — with a bolognese sauce; the fusilli goes with ragus made with lamb and wild boar; and the tonnarelli pairs with a cacio e pepe sauce, literally, “cheese and pepper” sauce.

“That is a typical sauce from Rome, and a perfect dish for today’s weather,” Matarazzo said, referencing the recent snowfall.

For dessert, people can choose babà al rum, a 400-year-old dessert from France via Naples, or tiramisu. The coffee comes from Ready Set! Coffee Roasters, a Cleveland-based roaster run by some friends.

“This is just the start,” he said. “We’ll see what else we can put in there.”

After the pandemic, Matarazzo plans on installing 10 more in select office buildings.

He keeps tabs on the products through his phone, and said it seems like he has to restock the pasta and sauces “every two minutes.”

“People are excited about it,” he said.

Update at 10:20 a.m. — Stellina is planning to open on Friday, Feb. 12, the restaurant just announced.

Photos courtesy Rey Lopez

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When Chef David Guas of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse delivered food to the security personnel in the District on Monday, it took two-and-a-half hours and many phone calls — even to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser — to pass each checkpoint. 

“When I arrived the Commander of that unit and the policeman literally cheered, [saying] ‘Bayou Bakery is here,'” Guas tells ARLnow.

Bayou Bakery and Arlington-founded District Taco are helping nourish the 25,000 servicemen and women, along with law enforcement, deployed to protect the nation’s capital during the 59th Inauguration.

The homegrown Mexican chain donated 2,000 burritos to the National Guard on Monday. The day before, Guas said he and his crew worked into the night to prepare biscuits and sandwich lunches for the Monday delivery.

The two join about 30 D.C.-area restaurants distributing meals to the multitudes, hailing from Maine to Guam. The heightened security is in response to the mob of Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.  

District Taco donated burritos that were pledged during a “Buy One, Give One Burrito” campaign in December.

On Monday, CEO and co-founder Osiris Hoil cashed in all 2,000 BOGO burritos to feed the National Guard. He said they were so popular that supplies ran out long before the lunch hours ended.

“When I saw the brave servicemen and women protecting the Capitol building, I knew exactly where I wanted those pledged burritos to go,” Hoil said in a press release. 

District Taco also donated hundreds of burritos to essential workers in hospitals and food banks last October and November. Hoil said he is proud to continue this longstanding tradition of giving back.

“Thanks to the support of our community, our restaurants are still open,” Hoil said. 

Guas also uses his food for good. He co-founded Chefs Feeding Families during the pandemic and has cooked for the annual awards dinner put on by Blue Star Families.

“Not having served in the military myself — but having grandparents that did — I’ve always jumped at the opportunity to help our men and women in uniform who protect our freedom,” he said.

Guas credits his involvement to Micheline Mendelsohn Luhn and Spike Mendelsohn, his friends and two of the family members behind We, The Pizza. The duo told ABC News that D.C. restaurants — despite struggles during the pandemic — are pitching in to provide fresh food to upwards of 5,000 people, who might otherwise have to rely on pre-packaged military meals, each day.

Photos (1) via District Taco, (2-3) via Bayou Bakery

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Pentagon Row is no more. Now, it’s “Westpost at National Landing.”

The Pentagon City shopping center has rebranded as Amazon’s new HQ2 rises a few blocks away. The goal, according to a press release, is to create a “fresh vision” for the retail strip, which first opened in 1999.

In announcing the new branding, “Westpost” owner Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRIT) also announced a new tenant: Nighthawk Pizza.

Nighthawk is a partnership of Arlington nightlife (and grooming) kingpin Scott Parker; Northern Virginia brewer Aslin Beer Co.; and buzzy local chef Johnny Spero, of Reverie and Netflix fame.

The restaurant, expected to open next fall, will feature “approachable low ABV beers, that will be reminiscent of old-world styles for the working class,” along with “Spero’s innovative approach towards pizza, sandwiches.” It will also sport a 90s vibe and a beer hall-like atmosphere.

Though Spero’s food will give Nighthawk culinary cred, we’re told it will be more of a social destination — an after-work watering hole for future HQ2 employees and others who live and work in the area.

Nighthawk will be located in the sizable former Champps space. The shuttered sports bar had been struggling for months when the pandemic dealt a final blow in March.

Leading up to the “Westpost” rebranding, Pentagon Row added a trio of other restaurants helmed by notable local chefs and restaurateurs: Scott Chung’s Bun’d Up, Chung and Kevin Tien’s Wild Tiger BBQ pop-up, and, more recently, Antonio Ferraro’s Napoli Salumeria. Nighthawk “compliments the current mix and offers a look into the future of Westpost at National Landing,” FRIT says.

More from a press release, below.

The dynamic partnership of popular local chef Johnny Spero, Aslin Beer Co., Scott Parker and The Wave Group have created a new fun brand, Nighthawk Pizza. The restaurant is scheduled to arrive to the newly named Westpost in fall 2021.

Nighthawk Pizza will focus exclusively on making approachable low ABV beers, that will be reminiscent of old-world styles for the working class, with the innovation that Aslin is known for. Paired with Johnny Spero’s innovative approach towards pizza, sandwiches, and more, and The Wave Group’s ability to build brands with and through the community, the team plans to make a lasting impact in the DMV area and beyond.

“The team behind Nighthawk are thrilled to bring something special to Westpost at National Landing. We’re excited to add our experience in the Arlington bar scene to Johnny’s incredible food, and the Aslin team’s best-in-class beer-making abilities to create a new beer hall experience that pays homage to the 90’s in its design elements. Nighthawk will be a beer brand of its own, and will brew beer on-site for consumption and to-go,” says Scott Parker.

For Federal Realty, to create a fresh vision for Westpost, formerly known as Pentagon Row, couldn’t have happened at a better time. “With the impending arrival of Amazon’s HQ2 to the newly formed National Landing, our team has set out to deliver a true destination, an outpost, if you will, for the long-time residents and the new-comers that call National Landing, and the greater Arlington area, home, work, and all things in between,” says James Milam of Federal. “Westpost is ideally located just a short walk west from Amazon’s campus, but a world away as far as amenities and offerings. It’s the perfect place to disconnect from work, while staying connected with friends, great food and unique drinks, in a comfortable, relaxed environment,” Milam continues. The neighborhood is equally convenient to Arlington and points south, via Rt. 1, and D.C. via 395/Metro/Rideshare.

New additions to the neighborhood over the past year (Scott Chung’s Bun’d Up, Antonio Ferraro’s Napoli Salumeria, led by Chef Andy Clark and Wild Tiger, a partnership with Chung, and Chef Kevin Tien, formerly of Himitsu and Emilie’s and now Moon Rabbit) have delivered great buzz met with serious culinary innovation. Nighthawk Pizza compliments the current mix and offers a look into the future of Westpost at National Landing.

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The kitchen of Palette 22 (4053 Campbell Avenue) in Shirlington is working double-duty as an outpost for Mia’s Italian Kitchen, which has a dine-in location in Old Town Alexandria.

Alexandria Restaurant Partners, which owns Mia’s and Palette 22, announced on Monday that those in and around Shirlington can now get pizza, giant meatballs and classic dishes delivered via UberEats and GrubHub from Mia’s “ghost” location, in the kitchen of Palette 22.

“We’ve had tremendous success with Mia’s to-go in Old Town, and thought, ‘This has legs,'” said Dave Nicholas, a founding partner of ARP. “So we decided to help people in Arlington who can’t reach us all the way in Old Town.”

The expansion of Mia’s, which also has a dine-in location in Orlando, follows a nationwide trend.

These delivery-only spaces with no dine-in options began sprouting up as food delivery businesses such as UberEats and GrubHub took hold in the economy, but really took off during the pandemic. The coronavirus accelerated their growth as more Americans use delivery, RestaurantDive reports.

In addition to operating from the back of bricks-and-mortar restaurants, ghost kitchens also can operate from mobile trailers, like the one that currently set up in a Clarendon parking lot.

Nicholas defines a ghost kitchen as one where customers do not know where the food is made, but they recognize the brand. ARP had mulled over the idea for years, but the pandemic and government-imposed restrictions sped up its development.

ARP operated its first ghost kitchen around Easter, when 150 full-family meals were made in Mia’s Old Town Kitchen for another ARP restaurant, The Majestic, while it was still closed.

The company opened a second ghost kitchen in Alexandria, Touchdown Wings & Burgers, in the kitchen of Theismann’s Restaurant and Bar.

“We’re a couple of weeks into it, and the response is awesome and sales are growing every week,” Nicholas said. “We’re not even doing pick-up: It is a true ghost kitchen.”

He predicts ghost kitchens will be a long-term necessity for the industry, and could help restaurants make up for lost time and money when dine-in returns to full capacity.

“People believe in our brands and know what we do, so it doesn’t matter where the delivery driver picks it up from or if you pick it up,” Nicholas said.

Delivery-only menu items offered by Mia’s include:

  • Giant meatball ($14)
  • Chicken Parmigiana ($19)
  • Roasted Mushroom Lasagna ($19)
  • Rigatoni à la Bolognese ($20)
  • Bucatini Cacio e Pepe ($18)
  • Five different pizzas, including Margherita, pepperoni, and sausage and peppers ($7.5-$8)

Hours of operation are:

  • Monday and Tuesday: 12-9 p.m.
  • Wednesday to Friday: 12-10 p.m.
  • Saturday: 3-10 p.m.
  • Sunday: 3-9 p.m.

Photos via Mia’s Italian Kitchen

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Pizza will be on the house at Colony Grill (2800 Clarendon Blvd) for any active, inactive or retired members of the U.S. military on Wednesday, Nov. 11 in honor of Veterans Day.

“This is a small token of thanks to some exceptional Americans,” said Ken Martin, chief operating officer and co-owner of Colony Grill, in a press release. “A few pizzas are obviously not much in the grand scheme of things, but we want the men and women in our armed forces, past and present, to know we are grateful for their service.”

The offer applies to dine-in orders. The pizzas regularly cost around $13.

The pizzeria will also accept emailed or physical 8×10-inch photos of men and women in their military uniforms. Contributors do not have to worry about framing, as Colony Grill handles framing before installing them on the Wall of Heroes, a tribute to former and current military members who served in the United States and abroad.

According to a press release, the photographs “honor the WWII history of the original Colony Grill restaurant.”

After World War II, owners at the original Colony Grill in Stamford, Connecticut began collecting framed pictures of those who fought to honor Connecticut’s contributions to the war effort. Now, locals to each new location are invited to bring pictures of their friends or family members in the service to be hung on the brick walls.

Those who want to learn more about the complimentary pizza or submit a photo is being asked to email [email protected].

The original Colony Grill opened in an Irish immigrant neighborhood of Stamford in 1935. Although it originally served a wide array of foods, today it serves a thin-crust “bar pie,” served with its signature “hot oil” topping. The Clarendon Colony Grill, which opened in mid-October, is the first outside of the New York metropolitan area.

In response to the pandemic, the company has erected glass partitions, launched an app for contact-less ordering, and invested in a streamlined check platform for employees, according to the co-owners.

Colony Grill is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until late closing, at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Fillmore Street, for up to 170 people.

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Morning Notes

Expensive Bike Parking Spaces — “Metro has spent nearly $20,000 per bike parking space at three bike facilities, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has found. Metro has spent over $5.9 million on the construction of 304 bike spaces at the three facilities… located at the College Park, East Falls Church and Vienna Metro stations.” [NBC 4]

Short Waits to Vote in Arlington — “Eager to avoid waiting in line while casting an early ballot? Try to avoid peak times and you should be fine. ‘Wait times are minimal,’ said county elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer, with the exception of early morning and occasionally at lunchtime. Other than that, voters have been experiencing waits of 10 minutes or less, and ‘most people are just walking straight in to vote,’ she said.” [InsideNova]

Voters Flocking to Ballot Drop-Boxes — “Arlington has set up nine dropboxes for the secure collection of ballots at points across the county, representing another option for those who neither want to vote in person nor wish to trust the U.S. Postal Service with their ballots. That network has proved ‘very popular,’ Arlington elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer said.” [InsideNova]

Biden Leads in New Va. Poll — “Former vice president Joe Biden leads President Trump 52 percent to 41 percent among likely Virginia voters, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll — roughly double Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in the state in 2016. Biden’s advantage cuts across most demographic groups, with regional strength in the Northern Virginia suburbs and the Richmond area.” [Washington Post]

Local Nonprofit Featured on GMA — “Lights, camera, action! We had a wonderful experience filming with the Good Morning America team last week. The piece aired early this morning… We were thrilled by an unexpected and very generous gift from Amazon.com to help our residents weather the pandemic.” [Facebook, Vimeo]

Police Investigation Bill Signed into Law — “Gov. Northam has signed my bill (HB 5072) to empower the Atty Gen to conduct ‘pattern or practice’ investigations of police forces that appear to be violating constitutional rights, such as patterns of excessive force, illegal searches, or racially biased policing.” [@Lopez4VA/Twitter]

Pupatella Now Available for Delivery — “UBER EATS Now available at all locations – DC (Dupont Circle), both the Original Wilson Blvd spot and South Arlington, as well as Richmond too! We’ve partnered up with UberEats to bring you some of the best pizza around.” [@PupatellaPizza/Twitter]

Local Beer Biz Figure Dies — “Ben Tolkan, a popular figure in DC’s beer industry who was the subject of a Washingtonian feature story, died late Saturday night after a five-and-a half-year battle with cancer. He was 37.” Tolkan is survived by his wife, Abby, an Arlington County public school teacher. [Washingtonian]

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What was once beloved family dining spot Joe’s Place Pizza and Pasta will soon be A Modo Mio.

The restaurant at 5555 Lee Highway says it’s planning to reopen in “a few weeks” with “a new look, chef and menu.”

New signs are already up, touting the new name and its focus on Neapolitan pizza, as well as the fact that the restaurant is now hiring. The renovated and repainted interior, sans the old Joe’s buffet, can now be seen through the windows.

The new menu, as posted online, includes higher-end Italian dishes at reasonable prices — nothing above $24. Wood-fired pizza appears to be the main attraction, alongside pasta dishes, meat and fish entrees, and appetizer-sized flatbreads.

After temporarily closing in April due to oven trouble, Joe’s reopened in May for takeout and delivery, as well as indoor and outdoor dining. It closed for renovations on Aug. 23. The long-time local restaurant celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2018.

On Tuesday, the restaurant’s Facebook account posted a photo taken prior to the August closing, saying it was a celebration of “a new exciting beginning.” An exact reopening date was not given and the restaurant’s manager could not be reached for comment.

When our family gathered outside our beloved Joe's Place before we closed, it was not to say goodbye. We were…

Posted by Joe's Place Pizza and Pasta on Tuesday, October 13, 2020

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Today, 85 years after opening its first location in Connecticut, Colony Grill (2800 Clarendon Blvd) began serving Arlingtonians its famed thin-crust bar pie, sizzling with hot oil and topped with peppers known as “stingers.”

The location, three years in the making, is the first outside southern Connecticut and Port Chester, New York. Construction on the two-story establishment at Market Common Clarendon began in February and only lost a week or two to delays related to the pandemic, said co-owner Ken Martin.

He and his fellow co-owners, Paul Coniglio, Chris Drury and Cody Lee, began looking outside their home state because real estate there is limited. The childhood friends from Trumbull, Connecticut fell in love with the D.C. area “almost overnight,” he said.

“Arlington resembles Fairfield County on steroids,” Martin said, noting that it has the same energy: a dense population of smart, eclectic people who are especially social.

If the Clarendon outpost does well, more D.C. area locations may follow, according to Martin.

“We hope to open more down here once we establish ourselves and are doing well,” Martin said, mentioning Bethesda and the District as possible destinations.

Irish immigrants opened Colony Grill in Stamford, Connecticut in 1935, two years after the end of the Great Depression and the Prohibition era. The owners served many dishes, but the Italian and Eastern European chefs devised the “bar pie” to be smaller and thinner than a traditional pizza, and fit on the bar top.

Today, the chain only serves this pizza, although the name and the Irish decor pay homage to the kitchen’s original menu and the restaurant’s origins.

After World War II, the owners began collecting framed pictures of those who fought to honor Connecticut’s contributions to the war effort. Today, locals to each new location are invited to bring pictures of their friends or family members in the service to be hung on the brick walls.

Arlington patrons can submit 8×10 inch photos of friends, family members or themselves, in their branch of the military uniform, to the restaurant’s collection.

Local antique pieces will join the familiar faces in sepia tones and in color, including three prominent astronauts with roots in the area, to make patrons feel at home.

Colony Grill’s designer visited flea markets, tag sales, and frequented libraries and historical societies to get a feel for Arlington’s neighborhoods. Folks will recognize some of the antiques on display, Martin said.

“We want to give people the feel that we understand the neighborhood as they come in,” he said.

Pizzas cost up to $13, and customers can choose standard toppings or the chain’s original offerings, including the salad pie and the breakfast pie.

Colony Grill also has 12 beers on top and wine bottles by the glass or bottle.

In response to the coronavirus, the company has spent nearly $100,000 at each location on glass partitions and a streamlined check platform for employees, according to the co-owners. The restaurant has also invested in an online app for contact-less ordering and payment.

Colony Grill is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until late closing, at the corner of Clarendon Blvd and N. Fillmore Street, for up to 170 people.

Photos courtesy Rey Lopez, as marked

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