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Running in rainy Westover, in front of The Italian Store (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

After some Swanson Middle School students reportedly egged customers and employees at The Italian Store, management at the popular Westover grocer discontinued a student special.

Italian Store Director of Operations Mike Tramonte tells ARLnow he is also trying to identify the students who lobbed the eggs, who also allegedly stole the eggs from Walgreens. He says store employees and patrons were struck three days in a row last week and that when he went onto the patio to deter the egging, he was targeted, too.

“The reason we took away the ‘Swanson special’ was because they’re not mutually respecting the area,” he said. “We’re still working to identify everyone involved and we’ll ban them.”

Last week, families were informed that students without an adult chaperone were banned and the store had discontinued a pizza special for students.

In an email, Principal Bridget Loft chalked the decision up to “a few students’ disrespectful behavior (including, littering, vandalizing, stealing and not following the directions of employees),” though she did not specifically mention egging.

After the email announcing the ban went out, Tramonte said he went back to the principal to clarify what he considers a miscommunication. He reiterated that the entire student body is not banned but the student meal deal is off the menu.

“The manager of the Italian Store asked me to convey to you that they have opted to allow students to enter the store without requiring an adult chaperone,” Loft told families in a follow-up email shared with ARLnow this week, noting the removal of the special meal was still in effect “until further notice.”

Tramonte weighed an entire-school ban but determined that would not be an effective way to hold accountable the students instigating the problems.

In a closed Facebook group for Swanson parents, some backed up the reports of patrons and staff getting egged, according to comments shared with ARLnow.

“Absolutely so disrespectful and disappointing to ruin a great relationship,” one said.

Others said this is not the first instance of middle schoolers stealing from Walgreens.

“Both my sons confirm there is a faction of 8th graders who regularly steal from shops or harass people in Westover,” one said.

A few said they support the Italian Store’s decision.

“Totally support the store in this and hope the kids eventually figure out they’re just hurting themselves in the end,” one parent said.

Until now, says Loft, many students had the chance to “practice some relative independence and autonomy” by visiting the Italian Store, as well as other Westover shops, after school hours. She said in her email that she had previously warned students that their behavior could result in their options being limited.

Tramonte says he had raised concerns with Swanson at the end of last school year, when he began noticing worsening behavior. That has continued this fall, with some patrons telling him they avoid the store if students are there.

“The store was getting overwhelmed,” he said. “We didn’t have a good relationship with the kids this year.”

He mused he may bring the special back next year if these relationships and student behavior improve.

In her emails, Loft stressed the importance of practicing social-emotional skills during school and at home. On Monday, she thanked caregivers in advance for talking with their children about “the importance of practicing responsibility, empathy and self-control while visiting Westover.”

In response to mounting behavioral issues, from fights and other safety concerns to drug use, this year APS invested $14.5 million in deans of students at high schools, middle and high school intervention counselors, and designated Social-Emotional Learning staff at every school.


Julia Franchi Scarselli announced her return home from high school one day calling out to her mom, or mamma, in a thick Italian accent.

She had just transferred from a class of 50 kids in a small British private school in Milan to the much larger Washington-Lee High School, now Washington-Liberty.

“I remember driving up to the school thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, this is an airport? Like, where did I land? I don’t know anybody,” Scarselli tells ARLnow.

Scarselli grew up in Milan with her father and Sara Gay Forden, who had spent two decades covering the fashion industry and luxury goods. This became fodder for her 2001 book “House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour, and Greed” and the basis for the eponymous 2021 movie starring Jared Leto, Adam Driver and Lady Gaga.

Forden moved to Arlington to cover antitrust for Bloomberg in D.C., bringing Scarselli with her. The two clung to stateside vestiges of Italy when they were homesick, frequenting the Italian Store for wine and cheese and an Italian church in D.C. just to hear the language.

Scarselli struggled with her Italian and American halves, says Forden, but was quick to pick up cultural differences. Forden recalls that when her daughter burst home, saying mamma, she made the following observation:

“Americans, when they get an idea in their head, they just go for it in a straight line, bound and determined. Nothing will dissuade them until they reach their goal. Italians really know how to live.”

“Julia,” Forden replied, “if you figure out how to bring those two things into balance, you will figure out how to live.”

This balancing act has animated Scarselli’s career path and life since. It lead her to start an organic extra virgin olive oil company, Libellula, which bridges her American and Italian roots and maintains her Arlington ties.

Libellula olive oil bottle (courtesy photo)

Going to the roots

Libellula sells organic extra virgin olive oil produced by six Italian family farms, which use sustainable methods to preserve ancient olive groves threatened by climate change.

Customers can purchase gifts and subscriptions, adopt groves and take retreats where they can participate in the harvest, taste fresh-pressed olive oils and learn how to pair them.

Scarselli has been working on Libellula since she was a student at Smith College, though the brand officially launched a year and a half ago. Its U.S. warehouse, in Maine, has been a boon for the local economy, leading the Maine International Trade Center to recently name the company the Foreign Direct Investor of the Year.

Today, Scarselli oversees bringing oil to fine-food retail partners around the U.S. when not at her day job with the World Economic Forum in Geneva. Her father, who lives in a medieval town outside Rome, works with the farmers. She travels between Italy and the U.S. for work, taking time to visit her mom in Arlington.

“It’s like bringing together the best of both worlds: the Italian love for food and community and appreciation for culture and nature.. and the American desire to to seek those out,” she said. “I think there is no one like an American that can like pragmatically get stuff done, right?”

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Update at 11:05 a.m. — Most businesses along the north side of Washington Blvd in Westover are still closed following Monday’s flooding. Ayers hardware is open in a limited capacity. 

Earlier: This morning’s storms and flooding has left stores along the north side of Washington Blvd in Westover Village without power — and some facing extensive damages.

Businesses along the 5800 block of Washington Blvd, from Westover Market (5863 Washington Blvd) to The Italian Store (5837 Washington Blvd), were closed as of 2 p.m. All of the properties were without power and several were flooded.

Westover Market and the Ayers Variety & Hardware at the west end of the block were at two of the lowest points of the slope. At Westover Market and Beer Garden, workers moved tables and soaked beer crates out of the store and into the rain, occasionally with the assistance of people passing by.

“I came down to get a keg and stuff was just floating away,” said Joseph Turner, a manager at Westover Market. “We’re trying to clean and open as soon as possible, but there needs to be fire department and health inspections.”

Turner watched as people carried out soaked boxes from the store and set them into stacks of rubbish.

“I’m just speechless,” Turner said.

Video posted earlier today shows the market flooded and fast-moving water rushing through the outdoor beer garden, damaging the fence and sweeping away picnic tables.

At Ayers Variety & Hardware, water in the storefront was ankle deep, but the real damage took place below — the basement, where the business stores merchandise, was completely flooded. Kristy Peterkin, a manager at the store and daughter of owner Ronald Kaplan, said that staff had been running generators to pump water out of the basement — but then the power cut out.

“We’ve seen nothing like this since 1977,” Peterkin said. “This is catastrophic.”

Peterkin said employees haven’t been able to access the basement to examine the impact but estimated that there would be at least $100,000 in damages.

The Forest Inn, Toby’s Ice Cream, and Rite Aid were all closed and empty. The post office west and slightly uphill from Westover Market was still accepting drop-offs as of 2 p.m., but said they would soon be closing.

At Pete’s Barber Shop, the staff cleared away waterlogged mats but were otherwise sitting around, waiting for power to come back.

The Italian Store on the end has no basement and fared a little better than its neighbors. Owner Rob Tramonte said they were working with contractors to get a generator running, to allow the business to open again soon or at least keep the food from spoiling. Tramonte noted that his Lyon Village location remains open, despite flooding at the nearby intersection of Lee Highway and N. Kirkwood Road.

Jeremy Slayton, a communications specialist for Dominion Energy, said power was estimated to be back on by tonight, though it’s unclear whether power will be able to be restored before the floodwaters could be pumped out. Store owners said they were told it could be a week before utilities are back online.

Ashley Hopko contributed to this story


The 1966 celeste green Vespa scooter that was stolen from Westover’s The Italian Store in December has been recovered.

It was found by a man walking his dog this morning (April 3) far off the Lubber Run Trail, near the intersection of N. Carlin Spring Road and N. George Mason Drive. The man called Bob Tramonte, the Italian Store’s owner, and the Vespa was quickly back in the family’s possession.

Given the widespread publicity around the theft, Tramonte told ARLnow that he thought the vehicle was “too hot” to try to sell or even use — though he also believes that the thief didn’t know how to use the scooter’s shifter, as there is some damage to the clutch.

A Facebook post from The Italian Store shortly after the theft had urged residents to come forward with any information they might have had regarding the stolen Vespa, and security camera footage was released showing what employees said was a man loading the Vespa into a red Ford Focus before driving away down N. Longfellow Street.

The family and store employees received dozens of tips, with several calls a day at times since the Vespa went missing. While a few tips led Tramonte on wild goose chases, he called the recovery “truly a community effort,” and expressed gratitude for the tips, concern, and over 1,000 Facebook post shares.

“For being in the leaves for four months, I think it looks good,” Tramonte said. He noted that his sons helped to clean it up this morning, though it will need some minor mechanical work to make it rideable again.

The Vespa is important to the family, not just as an iconic Italian charm but as a part of the family’s history. Tramonte taught his sons how to drive it, and it was a centerpiece at his daughter’s graduation celebration. It’s been in the family for over 20 years.

Though the Vespa was taken outside for photos late this morning, it won’t be staying there long.

“I think we’ll keep it inside for now, but maybe eventually it’ll make it back outside,” said Tramonte.


(Updated at 11:25 a.m.) Surveillance video appears to show a man loading The Italian Store’s Vespa scooter into his car and then driving away.

The still-missing 1966 Celeste Green Vespa scooter disappeared Saturday evening from outside The Italian Store’s Westover location around 5 p.m., the business said.

The footage shows a man allegedly loading the Vespa into a red Ford Focus before driving away on N. Longfellow Street. The video is from behind the nearby Ayers Variety & Hardware Store (5853 Washington Blvd).

In a recent Facebook post, The Italian Store said they are waiting for the case to be assigned a detective by the Arlington County Police Department for more examination. They also urged anyone with surveillance cameras along N. Longfellow Street to share any footage they may have from that day.

There was a possible sighting of the car at around 10:30 a.m. yesterday (Wednesday) at the nearby intersection of 10th Street N. and N. Kensington Street, prompting a police response.

A woman said she saw a “suspicious” red car in the neighborhood and posted about it on an app. Someone who saw that post told the store owner, who then called the police. The woman thought the car was suspicious because she had never seen it before.

Several police units responded to the scene but the car was nowhere to be found and there was no evidence that it might have been the same suspect vehicle.

Vespa Update:We have obtained video of a man loading up the Vespa into the red Ford Focus shown behind Ayers Hardware…

Posted by The Italian Store on Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Photos via Facebook


Arlington, we need your help! Yesterday (12/2) between 3-6pm the 1966 Celeste Green Vespa was stolen from the Westover…

Posted by The Italian Store on Sunday, December 3, 2017

Long-time local business The Italian Store has lost a piece of its history to a thief.

The restaurant’s 1966 Celeste Green Vespa scooter, which “has welcomed customers to the store for the past 20 years,” was stolen Saturday evening around 5 p.m. from its Westover location, the business said on Facebook.

The Italian Store also released a screenshot from a surveillance video (below) showing the alleged Vespa bandit absconding with the vehicle down N. Longfellow Street.

The restaurant said it has contacted the Arlington County Police Department but it is seeking the public’s help in getting the Vespa back. Dozens of people have commented with words of sympathy and encouragement on the Facebook post.


The Italian Store opened its new Westover Village location to large crowds of hungry fans Monday.

The store, at 5837 Washington Blvd, represents an expansion for the company in more ways than one. At 6,000 square feet, the new store is more than twice the size of the original, beloved Italian Store in Lyon Village.

The Westover location features an espresso coffee bar, a gelato station, a sandwich counter, a pizza station and retail shelves of wine, pasta and sauce. There’s also a small private dining room in the back, an outdoor cafe area and a dedicated customer parking lot. Owner Robert Tramonte termed it an “Italian Store on steroids.”

Customers at the store Monday evening seemed unperturbed by the long lines and upbeat about the opening.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Amy Penchuk, who walked 10 minutes from her home to visit the new store. “I grew up in New York so I was used to getting great Italian food, and this makes me feel at home. It’s about as good as it gets around here.”

Tramonte enlisted his entire family to try to serve customers as quickly as possible.

His sons, Michael, Vincent and Joseph, were all working alongside him Monday night. Also working: Tramonte’s wife, Laura, who was celebrating her birthday.

Michael, a newly-minted college grad who’s managing the front of the store, said that despite continued delays and challenges, his dad was determined to open on his mom’s birthday.

“It’s her birthday present,” the elder Tramonte said, with a smile, when asked about the date. In the end, it paid off: Tramonte said the first day of business exceeded even his optimistic expectations.


Despite a weekend where neighbors came by and were served free pizza, The Italian Store isn’t opening in Westover for another two weeks.

Owner Robert Tramonte said the two soft openings were meant as a “thank you” to the neighborhood– and a chance to break in the new pizza ovens — but the store, at 5837 Washington Blvd, is far from fully stocked. Many of the shelves are still bare, waiting for deliveries from Italy.

“People were so excited this weekend, I don’t want to say I couldn’t believe it, but I almost couldn’t believe it,” Tramonte told this morning. “The sidewalk was like a boardwalk, there were so many people out there.”

The second location of the popular Lyon Village shop has been in the works since December 2013, when Tramonte announced he was taking over the former 7-Eleven space and turning it into an “Italian Store on steroids.” The wait has been long because of construction and permitting delays, but Tramonte said it was all positive responses this weekend.

“The thing I surprised me was a lot of people were thanking me,” he said. “I said, ‘What are you thanking me for?’ Maybe I’m hitting Westover at the perfect time. They felt this was maybe the little push they needed. They felt like the Italian Store kind of raised the neighborhood up a notch.”

The interior of the new store is warmly lit, with wood shelving and brick walls. There are three separate stations where customers can get sandwiches and individual pizza slices, pizza pies and Illy espresso. Construction project manager Leon MacMullen, giving a reporter a tour this morning, said everything was designed to keep people moving freely throughout the store, which is 6,000 square feet.

“When people come in, you want them to know it’s the Italian Store,” MacMullen said.

The artwork on the wall is vintage Barilla advertisements from Italy. A refurbished, antique meat slicer is by the checkout counter, ready to slice prosciutto and other high-end, cured meats “as thin as paper.” In the back, there’s a separate room for wine tastings, outfitted with a “secret enclave” that can be used to store wine.

Tramonte’s son Michael, freshly graduated from Gonzaga University — the alma mater of NBA legend John Stockton, Robert’s brother-in-law — will manage the front, market part of the store, while restaurant veteran John Koltisko will be running the back of the house. Michael Tramonte spent his last semester in college living in Florence, and is hoping to use that experience to give the store an even more authentic feel.

Tramonte is still hiring, and applicants can stop by the location to inquire about positions. When the store opens, it will allow for seating on the patio, with the potential for more outside seating along Washington Blvd.


The Italian Store under construction, Feb. 3, 2015The much-anticipated opening of The Italian Store‘s location in Westover has been pushed back again.

Owner Robert Tramonte told today that delays in getting utilities installed in the 75-year-old building — water, gas, electric and Verizon FiOS — have been the cause of the delay. Now, he hopes the 6,000-square-foot location on Washington Blvd opens this spring.

“There is no competition for those companies,” Tramonte wrote in an email, “so they schedule as they see fit.”

When Tramonte announced that a second location of his popular grocery/takeout restaurant business would take over the Westover 7-Eleven in December 2013, he planned to open May 2014. Permitting issues held up the start of construction until the summer, when Tramonte said he hoped to be open before the holidays.

Construction was in full swing on the interior when looked in on the shop this morning. When the new store does open, it will feature a seating area for customers to eat and drink, an expanded grocery section and an Illy espresso bar. Last August, Tramonte described his plans for the location as “The Italian Store on steroids.”


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