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 ARLnow.com 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.
Next Saturday, neighborhoods like Clarendon, Bluemont, Westover and Barcroft are each holding events intended to bring neighbors together and celebrate their immediate surrounding area.
In Clarendon, county officials will gather to celebrate the now-upscale neighborhood’s time in the post-Vietnam War 1970s and 1980s when it was known as “Little Saigon” for its high population of Vietnamese immigrants. At 1:30 p.m., former Little Saigon residents and historians will narrate a tour of the area, displaying historic and still-standing businesses from the era.
The whole event, called Echoes of Little Saigon will run from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., and will include displays of Vietnamese art and Lemongrass food truck, a frequent Arlington visitor during lunch hours, will provide the country’s cuisine.
Below is a list of the neighborhood day events from other areas of the county, via the Department of Parks and Recreation (all events are on Saturday, May 9).
- Bluemont: Bluemont Park (601 N. Manchester Street), 9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. The annual Walk for the Animals fundraiser for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington is back for Neighborhood Day. The 20th anniversary walk has already raised more than $50,000, and this year will include its first “pet festival.” The festival will include vendors, food trucks, photos with pets, adoptable shelter dogs available to play and more.
- Westover: Westover Branch Library (1644 N. McKinley Road), 3:00-5:00 p.m. A “family fun afternoon” with activities that include face painting.
- Penrose: Penrose Park (2200 6th Street S), 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. The south Arlington is hosting “Family Fitness day,” holding activities for nutritional and fitness awareness, a moon bounce and fitness classes for all ages.
- Yorktown: Chestnut Hills Park (2807 N. Harrison Street), 11:30 a.m. Celebrate the ribbon-cutting on the renovated playground with neighbors. FitArlington will be on hand promoting its new website and fitness initiative. Children can participate in the free scavenger hunt for prizes.
- Barcroft: Barcroft Elementary School (625 S. Wakefield Street), 4:00-6:00 p.m. The Barcroft Elementary Spring Fair is intended to be an early evening of pure fun, with activities likea bounce house, games and a cake walk, all for prizes.
- Old Glebe: Gulf Branch Nature Center (3608 N. Military Road), 10:00-11:30 a.m. The north Arlington nature center will join the neighborhood to “welcome back hummingbirds.” Each family will make its own feeders as the birds with the fastest wings in the world migrate back to the county. Register online.
- Glencarlyn: Long Branch Nature Center (625 S. Carlin Springs Road), 7:00-8:00 p.m. The nature center will host families in the amphitheater for a campfire discussion about snakes. Games, songs and s’mores will all be in abundance.
Sephora Coming to Clarendon — Skincare and cosmetics retailer Sephora has signed a lease at Market Common Clarendon. The company plans to open a store at the shopping center later this year. [Washington Business Journal]
Contractor Causes Flood in Rosslyn — A contractor on a backhoe caused a mini flood on Wilson Blvd yesterday afternoon, after striking a fire hydrant line. The incident also caused several hours of water service disruptions in the area. It’s at least the second time in the past few months that someone at the construction site hit a water line and caused flooding. [WJLA]
New Website for Rep. Beyer — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) launched a newly redesigned website this week. The site features a background image of Rosslyn and the Potomac River. [U.S. House of Representatives]
Village Sweet Bakery Opens — Village Sweet, a new bakery in Westover, opened for business on Tuesday. Owner Dawn Hart decided to open the brick-and-mortar store as an expansion of Monster Cookie Co., her online, customized sugar cookie business. The bakery is located at 5872 Washington Blvd, next to Lost Dog Cafe. [Facebook, Washington Post]
McAuliffe Signs Auditor Bill — Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has signed Del. Patrick Hope’s bill that will allow the Arlington County Board to hire an independent auditor. The bill will become law in July. Board members Jay Fisette, Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt say they support the hiring of an independent auditor. Board member Walter Tejada, who’s retiring at the end of the year, has expressed reservations about the position. [InsideNova]
Signature Casts Wesley Taylor — Shirlington’s Signature Theatre has cast Wesley Taylor — who has held prominent roles on NBC’s “Smash” and Broadway’s “Rock of Ages” — in its upcoming production of “Cabaret.” The show will run from May 12 to June 28. [Associated Press]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Same-Sex Marriage Stats in Arlington — One in nine marriage license applications in Arlington — 11 percent of the total — have been from same-sex couples since October, according to Circuit Court Clerk Paul Ferguson. The first legal same-sex marriage in Arlington took place on Oct. 6, 2014. [InsideNova]
Disease False Alarm at Lubber Run — County officials were informed last week that two children in a preschool program at Lubber Run Community Center had been diagnosed with Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. In response, parents of children in the preschool and a daycare program at the center were notified, toys and surfaces in facility were disinfected, and toys that could not be disinfected were thrown away. Within a day, however, county officials say they were told that the diagnosis was wrong and that the children did not, in fact, have the disease.
Sweet Leaf Now Open in Ballston — The Sweet Leaf Cafe at 650 N. Quincy Street in Ballston opened last week. The cafe is open Monday through Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and on Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., according to owner Arita Matini.
Storytime with Caps Player at Library — Washington Capitals forward Eric Fehr stopped by the Westover Branch Library Monday night for a reading of his new children’s book, The Bulliest Dozer. Fehr signed books, hockey sticks and at least one library card. [Arlington Public Library]
The much-anticipated opening of The Italian Store‘s location in Westover has been pushed back again.
Owner Robert Tramonte told ARLnow.com 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 ARLnow.com 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.”
(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) Arlington County Police have confirmed that the two people found dead in a Westover apartment yesterday died as a result of an apparent murder-suicide.
Police say the bodies of Kristy Flowers, 31, and Ray Savoy, Jr., 29, were found in an apartment on the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street on Monday afternoon. Officers were called to the apartment to check on the welfare of the residents, who had not been heard from for a couple days.
Police say they believe Savoy shot Flowers, then turned the gun on himself. The two were a couple, lived together in the apartment and posted photos together on Facebook as recently as November.
“Awesome weekend in NYC with my LOVE BUG,” Savoy posted, along with a collection of photos featuring Flowers, on Nov. 22.
“There was no history of domestic violence at this location nor did either resident have any previous domestic violence arrests,” police noted in a press release this afternoon.
“To me, they were like the perfect couple… there was nothing to indicate that he was a violent person,” Kristy’s mother Patricia Flowers told the Washington Post. However, the Post also reported that Savoy “drank a lot and talked of the gun he kept in his car.”
A window was open in the couple’s second floor apartment at the time of the shooting, which is believed to have happened over the weekend. There were no reports of gunshots in the area, despite the presence of several apartment buildings immediately adjacent to and across the street from the scene.
“Officers and detectives have canvassed the area… we find it very unusual that no one reported it,” ACPD spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm told ARLnow.com.
Flowers is originally from Elyria, Ohio and was studying law at American University, according to social media pages. She worked as an analyst at Reston-based Leidos, the defense contractor formerly known as SAIC, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Savoy’s Facebook page says he’s an Army veteran and a native of Aquasco, Maryland.
Photo via Facebook
(Updated at 10:30 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating a possible homicide in the Westover neighborhood.
A man and a woman were found dead this afternoon in a garden-style apartment building on the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street, three blocks from Swanson Middle School. Homicide investigators are on the scene, taking photos and gathering evidence.
Police believe the deaths are suspicious. It’s possibly a case of murder-suicide, but that has not yet been confirmed, a police source tells ARLnow.com. According to ACPD spokesman Lt. Kip Malcolm, “there’s no immediate threat to the community.”
Police initially responded to the scene around 4:00 p.m. for a call to check on the welfare of an apartment resident, Malcolm said. According to the building’s landlord, who declined to be identified, a window in the apartment had been open “for a few days” and the tenant had missed the last rent payment, which was “not like her,” he said.
It has been more than two years since the last murder in Arlington. The last confirmed homicide in the county was the death of 87-year-old Mack L. Wood on Oct. 13, 2012.
Police are not releasing the identities of the deceased nor the cause of death until family members can be notified. ACPD issued the following statement about the investigation Monday night.
The Arlington County Police Department’s Robbery/Homicide Unit is investigating the suspicious deaths of two Arlington County residents.
At 3:57 p.m., Arlington County Police received a “check on the welfare” call for a resident who resides in the 1200 block of N. Kensington Street. Responding officers were able to gain entry into the locked apartment utilizing a key. The bodies of two victims, a 29-year old male and a 31-year old female, were discovered inside. Detectives and crime scene technicians are on scene conducting the ongoing investigation.
At this time, there does not appear to be an immediate threat to the community.
Glencarlyn Park, Sewer Main Upgrades Approved — The Arlington County Board over the weekend unanimously approved a sewer main construction project for Old Dominion Drive. The Board also approved upgrades to Glencarlyn Park, including a rain garden, plaza and bicycle facilities. [Arlington County]
Arlington’s Per-Pupil Spending Tops Region — Arlington Public Schools spends $19,040 per student, the highest such figure of any Washington suburb. On a per-pupil basis, Arlington spends 24 percent more than Montgomery County schools, 41 percent more than Fairfax County schools and 84 percent more than Prince William County schools. [InsideNova]
Loan Approved for Senior Housing — On Saturday, the Arlington County Board unanimously approved a $1.35 million loan to help keep the Culpepper Gardens I apartment complex affordable. The complex include 204 committed affordable units for seniors. [Arlington County]
No New Westover Middle School? — The Arlington School Board has informally voted to remove the Reed School site in Westover from consideration as a potential location for a new middle school. Many residents have said they would rather see the building used for a neighborhood elementary school. [InsideNova]
Board Updates Green Building Incentives — The Arlington County Board voted 4-1 to require higher sustainability standards for its Green Building Incentive Program, which rewards developers for environmentally-sound building practices. [Arlington County]
Local Reporter Travels to Germany for Streetcar Story — WAMU reporter Michael Lee Pope traveled to Germany to report on the use of streetcars in Berlin, tying his findings back to Arlington’s proposed streetcar project. Streetcars run in formerly Communist-controlled East Berlin, but no longer in West Berlin. One interviewee said people ride East Berlin’s streetcars partially out of a sense of nostalgia and the “special feeling” one gets from riding them. [WAMU]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) One of the proposals on the table for Arlington Public Schools’ middle school seat expansion plan is moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed School/Westover Library site, a proposal that has caught the ire of many Westover residents.
The Reed/Westover building currently houses the Children’s School — the early education program for young children of APS employees — and the Integration Station, which serves pre-K students with disabilities. The building underwent a $22.5 million renovation in 2009, by far the most recent project of any of the sites APS is considering for expansion.
A group called “Concerned Citizens of Westover” has launched a Change.org petition asking the Arlington School Board to not move the H-B Woodlawn program to the Reed/Westover building. The petition has amassed 973 supporters as of publication.
“The proposed new HB Woodlawn renovation, would build over the recent costly renovation, displacing The Children’s School, the Integration Station, impacting the current Westover Library and farmers market and would reduce/change the green space and fields in Westover,” the petition states.
Two of the options currently on the table would see H-B Woodlawn move to the building with more construction: one would see the Stratford building on Vacation Lane expanded into a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school, and another would expand the Stratford building to 1,000 seats and build a 300-seat addition somewhere else.
Other options on the table include moving H-B Woodlawn to the Wilson School site and expanding the Stratford site, or building a 1,300-seat neighborhood middle school at the Wilson School site, an option members of the School Board are leaning against.
A recent APS staff presentation suggests that Reed is “underutilized” and may be a suitable location for H-B Woodlawn because it would allow the school to maintain its current size and provide more green space than the Wilson School site.
According to APS staff, the 2009 Reed/Westover renovations were done to allow the building to structurally support future expansion, but expansion was originally planned for an elementary school, considering that Swanson Middle School is about a third of a mile away. Concern about too many students in a two block area of Westover is listed as a “challenge.”
In addition to the petition, Westover residents created a video explaining why they oppose moving the H-B Woodlawn program to the building in their neighborhood. They have also created a video talking about how to “use Reed the right way” (below) — by using it as an elementary school instead of as a secondary school.
The School Board plans to vote on Dec. 18 on which middle school expansion plan to move forward with. The total budget for the 1,300-seat expansion is $126 million, and the Capital Improvement Plan the School Board passed this summer requires those seats to open by September 2019.
Photo via Google Maps
Orange/Silver Line Delays — There were delays on the Orange and Silver lines this morning due to a disabled train at Virginia Square. The disabled train has since been cleared and trains are no longer single tracking around it. [Twitter]
Video: Don’t Put H-B Woodlawn in Reed School — A video created by members of the Westover community urges Arlington Public Schools to reject any proposal to relocate the H-B Woodlawn secondary program to the Reed School. [YouTube]
Design Tweaks for Courthouse Building — Developer Carr Properties has made several tweaks to the design of 2025 Clarendon Blvd, its proposed office building which will replace the Wendy’s in Courthouse. Responding to concerns from county planners, Carr has added a fourth retail bay and replaced most of the terra cotta in the facade with more glass and steel. [Washington Business Journal – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Health Violations at Arlington Restaurants — WUSA9 investigative reporter Russ Ptacek has set his sights on Arlington restaurants that have had food safety licenses revoked, including Mario’s Pizza, Aroma Indian Cuisine, Pedro & Vinny’s and Astor Mediterranean. In Virginia, restaurants get their violations cleared from the public database after getting a new license post-revocation. [WUSA9 – WARNING: AUTO-PLAY VIDEO]
Parking App for DCA — Starting Nov. 1, those parking at Reagan National Airport will be able to pay via a smartphone app. [MWAA]
Sun Gazette Carries Doomsday Ad — The Arlington Sun Gazette recently carried an ad for Disaster Retreat, a doomsday safe haven in central Virginia for “serious-minded families and executives.” The half-page ad was adjacent to a streetcar editorial and ads for window treatments and dog training. [Slate]
If you have a sweet tooth, get ready to spend time hanging out at a new shop coming to Westover. “Village Sweet” bakery is preparing to move in at 5872 Washington Blvd.
Owner Dawn Hart has operated a customized sugar cookie business online since 2006. She had wanted to expand her offerings and to secure a brick-and-mortar location, which would allow her to stop renting commercial kitchen space. It was her dream to open in Westover, the neighborhood where she lives, but she didn’t think any space would open up. It just so happened that the day after she talked to her husband about the prospect of opening a bakery in Westover, he ran into the landlord for the space Village Sweet now will occupy.
“We’re very excited and the location honestly could not be better,” said Hart. “It’s such a happening place.”
Although customers can continue to order the customized cookies Hart made so popular with Monster Cookie Co., the shop will serve a wide variety of sweets. Donuts, guava and cotija cheese pastries, seasonal granolas and dark chocolate cookies with steal cut oats are some of the goodies Hart plans to offer. She’s still playing around with the full menu and will do small recipe taste test events until the shop opens.
“We’re pairing some things a lot of people probably have not had before and opening up some unique flavors,” Hart said.
Something she’s passionate about is making sure the treats taste good, but also are baked on-site each morning with quality, local ingredients. There will be gluten-free and nut-free options for customers with allergies.
“We’re baking foods you’re going to feel good about eating. They’re not loaded with preservatives. They’re the best quality pastries you can possibly get. It’s just an updated version of your’s mom’s baking,” said Hart. “If you’re going to put a doughnut in your mouth, you should feel good about it. It’s so important to me, the quality of what people are eating.”
During the day the shop will have seating for customers, but certain nights will be designated for groups to rent out the space for custom cookie decorating parties. The bakers will come up with custom sugar cookies for nearly any occasion — such as kids’ birthdays, book clubs and holiday parties — and customers get to ice and decorate the cookies however they choose.
Village Sweet does not yet have a firm opening date, but Hart hopes it will be in January. There will be a grand opening celebration once she feels operations are running smoothly.
Trade Roots (5852 Washington Blvd) in Westover has expanded with a new cafe.
The fair trade store recently renovated and opened the cafe, which serves fair trade coffee, tea and baked goods from two local bakeries: LeoNora Gourmet and Vera’s Bakery. Owner Lisa Ostroff, who’s preparing to celebrate two years in business next month, says the cafe will help the store serve the community and boost foot traffic.
“The store has received a warm response from customers throughout Northern Virginia, and we wanted to make Trade Roots even more of a gathering space for the neighborhood,” she said.
The Trade Roots cafe will offer a “cup club” whereby frequent customers can bring in fair trade mug and have it hung on the wall, to be used during their next visit. The club will reduce the cafe’s use of paper products, Ostroff said.
Trade Roots carries a variety of goods — including jewelry, clothes and home goods — that are eco-friendly, sustainable and produced by artisans for a fair wage.
Photo via Trade Roots, Facebook
The Italian Store that is coming to Westover is now under construction, and the owner hopes to be open in time for the holidays, before the end of 2014.
Construction was delayed for several months due to permitting issues, owner Robert Tramonte told ARLnow.com, but has been underway for three weeks. Tramonte announced last December that he was planning on opening a second location of his popular Lyon Village shop in the former 7-Eleven space at 5839 Washington Blvd.
The store will be 6,000 square feet, not including an outdoor café, Tramonte said. As opposed to the current Italian Store, at 3123 Lee Highway, the new location will have an on-site liquor license, so customers can drink the beer and wine sold on the premises.
“There are a lot of breweries coming up in Italy,” Tramonte said. “It will be a very eclectic beer list. Wine is kind of my specialty, and we’re going to have about three times as much space for wine as we do now. It’s the Italian Store on steroids, basically.”
The Westover location will have another feature the original does not: an Illy espresso bar, which will also serve gelato, and fresh-baked Italian pastries like cannoli and cornetti.
“I’ve always felt like even in my own store, if somebody asked me where can I get a good Italian pastry, and there’s no real answer to that in this area,” he said. “We have a lot of good sources right now and some that we cook ourselves, but I’ve never marketed them well in a display case. Over in the other store at Westover, we’re going to have the space to merchandise really well and people would see them fresh out of the oven.”
Lebanese Taverna, which began as a single storefront in Arlington operated by an immigrant couple and their five children, is celebrating its 35th anniversary with events and specials over the next two months.
On July 28 and 29 at the Westover location (5900 Washington Blvd) and Aug. 6 and 7 at Pentagon Row (1101 S. Joyce Street), Lebanese Taverna will serve dishes from its 1979 menu with the original prices to commemorate the year the restaurant opened.
The restaurant is also currently taking submissions for a social media contest, in which longtime customers can email the restaurant their favorite Lebanese Taverna memory and then vote on their favorites by liking them on the restaurant’s Facebook page. A limousine will chauffeur the winners to different Lebanese Taverna locations for a five-to-six course meal, Shea said.
“We’re celebrating our uniqueness,” said Lebanese Taverna Vice President Grace Shea, the youngest child of founders Tanios and Marie Abi-Najm. “Thirty-five years is a long time for a restaurant to be open.”
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) will present a congressional proclamation of congratulations to the Abi-Najm family at a private event Friday evening, Shea said. The Westover restaurant will be open Friday at 6:30 p.m. for a kickoff event with the 1979 prices for invited guests from local civic associations and members of the public who happen to stop by.
“I’m proud of my family and what they’ve accomplished over the years,” Shea said. “When my parents came here they had five kids, $500 and spoke no English.”
The Abi-Najm family came to Arlington in 1976 to escape the civil war in Lebanon. Marie Abi-Najm worked as a teaching assistant and Tanios Abi-Najm did odd jobs and painted until they saved enough money to open their own restaurant in 1979, in the same storefront they still occupy just down the street from their house, Shea said.
“My dad always loved food and it was a way for him to bring a piece of Lebanon here to us,” Shea said. Her mother came from Dfoun, Lebanon, a village famous for producing chefs.
At first, Lebanese Taverna served pizza and subs and operated under “Athenian Taverna,” the name used by the previous tenants. Shea’s parents and her four siblings in high school were the only employees during the first year, causing business to suffer, she said.
In 1979, the restaurant only offered shish kabob and hummus as menu specials because they were novelties for most Arlington residents. However, their traditional food starting piquing customers’ interests after their first year in business, inspiring the Abi-Najm’s to change the restaurant’s name and put Lebanese fare on half their menu, according to Shea.
“We’d sit down for our family dinners at the restaurant and customers would say, ‘Wow, what is that? We want some of that,'” Shea said. The restaurant kept its half-Italian menu until 1983.
Once the restaurant was officially Lebanese Taverna, a second location opened in 1990 on Connecticut Avenue in D.C. It later expanded to include the Lebanese Taverna Market in D.C., catering division, six restaurants and four cafés it has today.