White pizza with loroco
White pizza with loroco

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Late last week, Ivy City welcomed a new restaurant serving wood-fired pizza and charcoal chicken under one roof. Mindful Restaurant Group founder Ari Gejdenson partnered with Lady Abarca, formerly of Corduroy, to open Via at 2000 Fenwick Ave. NE. Abarca’s husband, Danis Blanco, is the executive chef. The 48-seat restaurant, painted a shocking shade of blue, is starting small and will continue to add to its menu over time. 

For the Peruvian-style charcoal chicken, Blanco brines the birds (quarter, half, and whole) in garlic, thyme, and black pepper and marinates it with rosemary, oregano, cumin, garlic, ginger, lime juice, vinegar, annatto, black pepper, and soy sauce. It’s served with traditional spicy green sauce and yellow aji aioli. The sides, which are still under development, include rice with mixed vegetables, black beans with bacon, fried plantains, fries, and fried yucca.

Fans of the pizzas at Ghibellina, one of Gejdenson’s other restaurants, may see some similarities at Via. “The dough is similar to Ghibellina,” Gejdenson says. “It’s a mix between a Neapolitan pizza and a New York slice. It has a chewy, higher crust, but is thin and crunchy across the bottom.” Some may have Latin touches. Blanco tops one with loroco—a vine with edible flowers eaten across Mexico and Central America that often mixes with cheese inside pupusas.

The partners landed on the name because “via” means both “street” and “go” in Italian. “It’s a more casual place than we’ve done in the past,” Gejdenson says, noting that the decor evokes a “street theme.” “It’s also our best to-go option,” he continues. “I think the ever-growing delivery market is something that’s extremely interesting. Pizza and chicken travel well.” 

Those who dine-in will order at the counter and receive a number. This style of service, sometimes called “fine casual” or “fast fine,” is gaining traction in D.C. It requires less man power. “This operation, even on a busy day, takes about five employees to run,” Gejdenson explains. “Traditionally I’ve needed 60 people to run a restaurant.” That said, seating at the bar and the pizza bar will be full service.

With Via, Gejdenson is upping his footprint in Ivy City. He operates La Puerta VerdeAri’s Diner, and Dock FC nearby. But this set-up is a little different. “The way I see it, it’ll be a family run restaurant,” Gejdenson says, referring to Abarca and Blanco. “But the challenge for family-run restaurants is all the things that can distract you from running the business. With me being an investor, they have the support of a restaurant group behind them. Danis has got to be, in the 16 years I’ve owned restaurants, the most talented cook I’ve ever had. I don’t want to get in his way too much.”

Via is currently open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. (This differs from what’s currently listed on the website, which is also in progress.) Drinks include Jarritos sodas, other soft drinks, a couple of beers on draft, classic cocktails, and a white and red wine. 

Via, 2000 Fenwick Ave. NE; viapizzadc.com