“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.
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.
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.”
(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Bruegger’s Bagels has closed up shop in Ballston.
The long-time breakfast and lunch spot at 818 N. Quincy Street just closed, posting a sign on the door directing bagel fans to a location of corporate sibling Einstein Bagels, in Bailey’s Crossroads.
“Thank you for allowing us to make your mornings brighter & more delicious since 1986,” the sign says. “We look forward to continuing to provide you with freshly baked, kettle-boiled bagels at one of our nearby locations, 15 minutes away: 3556D S Jefferson St, Falls Church, VA 22041.”
The closure was not announced in advance, but there were signs that this Bruegger’s was not long for the sizable ground floor space that it occupied along Wilson Blvd.
The restaurant appears to have struggled in the wake of the pandemic, as fewer people populated local offices, thus requiring fewer catered bagel platters. The dining room, once filled with local residents and office workers sipping coffee and noshing on schmear-filled bagels, never reopened.
Bagel aficionados who don’t want to go all the way to Bailey’s Crossroads will now have Brooklyn Bagel in Courthouse as arguably the closest equivalent eatery.
In Ballston’s battle of the beer bars, Crafthouse has emerged as the survivor.
World of Beer, in the Ballston Point building at 4300 Wilson Blvd, closed up shop earlier this week.
“We’re ceasing our business operations in Arlington, Virginia starting April 17,” a sign on the door says. “Thank you, Arlington, for allowing us to be a part of this community for the last 3 years.”
The watering hole opened in October 2020 in the former Ted’s Montana Grill space. It was a return to the neighborhood for the suds-centric national chain, after a World of Beer franchise up the road rebranded as Crafthouse.
From our article on the opening:
The restaurant is not far from Crafthouse (901 N. Glebe Road), which was Virginia’s first World of Beer location from 2012 until 2017, when the owner parted ways and rebranded locations in Ballston, Reston and Fairfax. […]
The split between then-owner Evan Matz and World of Beer took a bitter turn later in 2017, when the chain sued Matz for violating the terms of the franchise agreement. In October 2018, Matz sued back.
All three Crafthouse locations, including in Ballston, remain open. World of Beer has D.C. area locations in Bethesda and Rockville.
While you’ll no longer be able to get an obscure beer from halfway around the world at World of Beer, a new beverage option recently opened in the same building: D.C.-based coffee shop Slipstream opened within the past month or so.
(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Ten restaurants and restaurateurs with Arlington ties were named finalists for one of the region’s most prestigious dining awards.
Ruthie’s All Day, Bar Ivy, Circa, and SALT were among the finalists named for a RAMMY award this year, which was announced earlier this week. Plus, the restaurant group that owns Ballston’s Salt Line, Shirlington’s Stellina Pizzeria, a manager at Ambar Clarendon, and the pastry chef at Liberty Restaurant Group, as well as fast casual spots Rasa and Moby Dick House of Kabob, were included in the list.
The RAMMY Awards are handed out by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, the region’s restaurant industry trade association. The intention is to honor restaurants for their work in the previous year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2022. A gala is set for July where the winners will be announced. This year marks the 41st edition of the RAMMYs.
For the first time, this year the dining public could choose the finalists for five categories including best bar, best brunch, favorite gathering spot, best sandwich, and favorite fast bites. Diners can now vote for the winners online, with voting continuing through May 31.
In total, ten finalists this year have some Arlington ties, including several up for some of the biggest awards. That exceeds last year’s seven finalists, which were essentially on par with previous years.
Clarendon’s Bar Ivy is a finalist for best new restaurant of the year. The “West Coast-inspired” outdoor garden-centric spot opened on Wilson Blvd this past June.
“The RAMMY nomination has been amazing — there have been so many noteworthy restaurants opening in the last year and to be recognized as one of the top 5 is humbling. We’re over the moon to be recognized for all the hard work from our team and it’s really a tribute to them,” owner Greg Algie wrote in a statement to ARLnow. “We’re always looking at ourselves, thinking of what we can do to be better every day, and an honor like this just pushes us to continue to bring a memorable experience day in and day out.”
The acclaimed Ruthie’s All Day in Arlington Heights was nominated for “Favorite Gathering Place,” given to the restaurant “rooted in its neighborhood where guests come to eat, drink, and get together with friends over and over again.” Last year, diner-esque eatery won for “Casual Restaurant of the Year.” It was also named one of Washingtonian’s Very Best 100 Restaurants earlier this year.
“We feel so fortunate to have such tremendous support from our Arlington community and to be nominated with other outstanding local neighborhood businesses,” said chef and owner Matt Hill.
Salt in Rosslyn made the list for having the best cocktail program. The bar on S. Lynn Street opened in 2019.
“We are over the moon and so honored by your support,” the restaurant wrote on social media about the nomination.
Five additional restaurants with Arlington outposts were nominated for RAMMYs.
Moby Dick House of Kabob was chosen by the public as a “Favorite Gathering Place.” The local kabob chain has a number of locations across the region, including in Clarendon and Shirlington.
Long Shot Hospitality, which owns both Salt Line locations, including the one that opened in Ballston in late 2021, is up for Restaurateur of the Year. Circa, with a Clarendon location, was also nominated by the public for best brunch.
RASA, which has a location in Crystal City, and Stellina Pizzeria, with a spot in Shirlington, will compete against one another in the favorite fast bites category.
Individuals with Arlington connections are finalists too. Ambar Clarendon’s Snjezana Jaksic was nominated for the manager of the year and Bridie McCulla of Liberty Restaurant Group is on the list as pastry chef or baker of the year.
McCulla — who has been nominated before — bakes for Liberty Tavern, Lyon Hall, and Northside Social, all in Arlington.
Other restaurateurs with local ties are up for RAMMYs, though not for their Arlington locations. Hot Lola’s owner Kevin Tien is on the list for chef of the year for his work at D.C.’s Moon Rabbit while Rose Previte is nominated for restaurateur of the year. She’s planning to open up a new restaurant in Clarendon later this year that was previously dubbed Tawle but is now being called Kirby Club.
In addition, restaurant software startup MarginEdge, based in Ballston, is up for an award that “best exemplifies commitment to and support of RAMW.”
The full list of all the Arlington RAMMY finalists is below.
Two months after the start of interior demolition, and eight months after a devastating crash and fire, Ireland’s Four Courts has announced a reopening month.
The Courthouse pub said this morning that it expects to re-open its doors in August.
“We are looking forward to welcoming everyone back to Ireland’s Four Courts in August 2023,” the pub said via social media and on its website. The announcement included a rendering of the pub’s new exterior facade, now in green and gold rather than black and red.
Four Courts managing partner Dave Cahill tells ARLnow that work inside is progressing
“Work is on schedule,” Cahill said. “We will retain our neighborhood pub feel that we have had for 27 years… When our customers walk into the pub in August, we want them to feel they are in the old Four Courts but with a more updated, fresher look.”
“We will be adding some new elements to the pub,” he added. “The entrance will have double doors and bi-fold windows.”
Police announced in October that the Uber driver who slammed into Four Courts after suffering an apparent medical emergency would not face criminal charges. All three pub-goers who suffered serious, potentially life-threatening injuries in the August crash were released from the hospital by the next month.
“He still works every day in the restaurant, in the kitchen,” the current owner says about his father.
Wilson Boulevard is home to a few local gems that have been feeding the community for some time, and the long-time, family-run restaurant Two Chefs Pizza in Bluemont is definitely one of them.
Two Chefs Pizza offers a variety of classic American, Italian, and Greek dishes. They even serve breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. From cheesesteaks, burgers, and subs to pizza, lasagna, and spaghetti, and all the way to gyros, souvlaki, and baklava, this neighborhood restaurant has been around for almost four decades and has served a wide variety of meals.
“It’s a neighborhood spot. Customers will come in and see others that are here and they have all grown to know each other and know their families,” Tasos Sgardelis says.
Sgardelis is the son of Greece natives George and Dimitra Sgardelis, who originally opened the restaurant in 1984. I sat down with Tasos to discuss his family’s journey in owning a restaurant that will celebrate another milestone next year.
“My parents bought this place when I was four years old, now I’m 43,” Tasos said.
The Sgardelis purchased the restaurant on April 1, 1984, but their journey to this point started long before.
Growing up in southern Greece, George and Dimitra Sgardelis lived in neighboring villages outside of Monemvasia, Laconia, where they helped their family pick and press olives for olive oil.
George was a teenager when he moved to Athens and worked at a coffee house within the Old Royal Palace, which now houses the Hellenic Parliament of Greece. George later served in the Greek military before becoming a chef on luxury cruise ships, traveling the world.
Eventually, he found himself in New York in the early 1970s, working as a chef in a few classic Greek-style diners.
Before Two Chefs Pizza, the couple owned a restaurant called The Greek Village in Washington, D.C., located in the Dupont Circle area. After a brief run in the local restaurant business, they moved back to Greece, but eventually returned to the United States to open the pizzeria in Arlington in 1984.
“Growing up here, I was here after school every day,” Tasos said. There were about 30 seats, barstools like a diner style, you could watch them cook in front of you. There were a couple of two-seaters and a six-seater and a Pac-Man machine in the back.”
In 1995, the restaurant transitioned into its current layout.
“They bought the space where the kitchen is now and built a new kitchen. They added more than just pizza and subs to the menu, like Greek dishes. My mom was the waitress and she still serves to this day,” Tasos said.
(Updated at 9:45 a.m.) You can’t get an trans-Pacific flight from National Airport, but with a new P.F. Chang’s location opening in the airport, you can at least get a taste of (very Americanized) Chinese food.
The popular chain opened in Concourse E (Gates 46-59) of the airport. It’s the second location in Arlington after one in Ballston (901 N. Glebe Road) and joins a bookstore and a burger joint as some of the new offerings in the airport this year.
The new 5,800-square-foot restaurant will have restaurant staples like Mongolian beef and lettuce wraps.
“The much-anticipated addition of P.F. Chang’s brings our passengers an appetizing option that completes the arrival of new dining choices envisioned for Concourse E,” said Chryssa Westerlund, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, in a press release. “Working in partnership with Marketplace Development, we are proud to further evolve the Reagan National dining experience through P.F. Chang’s beautiful design and elevated cuisine.”
P.F. Chang’s isn’t the only Asian cuisine at National Airport. Matsutake Sushi sits in National Hall just post-security and Wow Bao is a centerpiece of Concourse D.
Arlington Kabob has consistently delivered on its promise to serve the community with fresh ingredients and unwavering support.
I recently spoke with the restaurant’s owner, Susan Clementi. Susan established Arlington Kabob in 2013, creating a woman-owned business that has thrived for nearly a decade.
Like many new restaurants, they persevered through the challenging first couple of years to gain momentum.
“I was looking for a building to open my restaurant and was at Linda’s Cafe, which used to be right next to us. I saw a ‘for lease’ sign on the doors of the former pizza restaurant,” Susan shared.
Linda’s Cafe closed in 2018, and now a Bob & Edith’s Diner stands in its place. Susan quickly found herself inside the former pizza restaurant space nearby.
“There were still pizzas left in the refrigerators,” Susan said.
She saw the potential of the building and spent the rest of the day cleaning and scrubbing the walls.
Delving into Susan’s background and story, it was evident that she didn’t crave attention. Instead, she wanted the focus to be on the restaurant, an Afghan cuisine establishment that values its staff, customers, and the food it serves.
At Arlington Kabob, expect to find kabob platters, sandwiches, wraps, in-house made gyros, and desserts like baklava. For drinks, they offer a unique assortment, including Boylans, Calypso, and Mashes.
Mohammad Saeed, the manager at Arlington Kabob, tells me that the local favorite is the Chicken Kabob platter, which comes with two different types of rice, one veggie side, two house sauces, and fresh bread.
“It is the juiciest chicken you will have in the metropolitan area… you’ll find regulars coming from places like Gaithersburg, Gainesville, and Woodbridge,” Mohammed says.
By the way, definitely go for the chickpeas as your veggie side.
Susan’s top priority has always been the freshness and nutritional value of the food served at the restaurant.
“We cook the food twice a day for lunch and dinner… I would rather tell the customer we ran out than have something we need to warm up for them,” Susan says.
“For me, it’s important to know that the food I make for my daughter is what I serve to my customers… my belief is our cooked food should be simple and cooked fresh daily without added preservatives,” Susan said. “We cut all our meat in-house and marinate daily with fresh herbs and spices.”
Susan’s head chef has been with her for the past nine years, and she expresses immense gratitude for him and all her staff for their loyalty during tough times. During the pandemic, she made sure her staff was well taken care of.
“Arlington Kabob isn’t just me, it’s all of us who work here. We are a tight-knit family,” Susan says.
The high standards that Susan sets for staff care and food preparation make one wonder why this level of dedication isn’t more widespread. It should be the minimum, but the food industry today often falls short in employee care and fresh food.
Arlington Kabob also partners with local schools, including Yorktown and Bishop O’Connell high schools, for various fundraising initiatives.
“Any successful restaurant has an owner that is passionate about their food and community,” Susan preaches. “Those are the ones where our kids will one day bring their kids to experience a great meal.”
When you have an owner like Susan, you can almost always guarantee that the food coming out of the restaurant will be a hit. It’s not just good food being served, it’s the good being done behind the scenes that makes all the difference.
Address: 5046 Langston Blvd, Arlington, VA 22207
Nicholas Barahona is a freelance food writer who often posts his food reviews on Instagram.
Taco Bamba is expanding its presence in Arlington.
The burgeoning fast-casual chain is planning to open at 4041 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington, a PR rep said this morning. That’s the former location of Taco + Piña, which closed late last year after opening early in the pandemic and never quite finding its footing.
“The 2,100-square-foot space at 4041 Campbell Ave. will include a full bar and patio, and open this spring,” the PR rep noted.
Taco Bamba has an existing Arlington location at 4000 Wilson Blvd in Ballston, which opened in August 2020 after chef Victor Albisu decided to swap out a planned all-day egg concept called Huevos for his tried-and-true taco eatery.
Albisu today also announced the April 4 opening of a new Taco Bamba in Herndon, the restaurant’s ninth location. Additionally, the company is preparing for the impending opening of locations at City Ridge in D.C. and in Raleigh, North Carolina — the first outside of the D.C. area — as well as a new Fair Lakes location in Fairfax opening this fall.
Taco Bamba’s menu includes a variety of tacos, tortas, sides, sweets and cocktails.