Photo of Enrique Limardo by Irena Stein

The chef behind Alma Cocina Latina in Baltimore—dubbed a “Venezuelan stunner” by Post critic Tom Sietsema—is moving to D.C. to serve as the chef and co-owner of Seven Reasons. Chef Enrique Limardo will helm the open kitchen inside the experimental South American-inspired restaurant bound for the former Piola space at 2208 14th St. NW. It is expected to open in 2019.

Limardo got his first taste of the D.C. restaurant scene when he signed on as the consulting chef for Chicken + Whiskey, but he’s looking to make a more profound splash with Seven Reasons. “This is a big opportunity,” he says. “For me it’s my big step here in the U.S. Baltimore was the biggest trampoline, but now this is the time to do it right and do it in a city where the competition is great.”

Seven Reasons co-owner Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger encountered Limardo’s cuisine at Alma Cocina Latina about a year ago. “My wife is from Venezuela and so we said, ‘This food is amazing,’” Vázquez-Ger recounts. “We want this guy to be in D.C., not in Baltimore. We want to be able to come here every day or every week, not every six months.”

After dinner, the trio chatted for hours. It turns out Limardo was looking to work in the District but needed partners and investors. “I wanted to start something new; build something from scratch,” says Vázquez-Ger. “When I met Enrique, I said ‘I have to help this guy.’” Vázquez-Ger is from Argentina and a former political consultant. This is his first foray into the restaurant business. 

Limardo’s menu will be divided into seven sections. Diners will be able to build a meal from small and medium plates or go in on a family-style course such as a massive Argentinian steak or a whole fish. Limardo will ensure there are surprises sprinkled throughout the experience to leave a lasting impression. “The first thing is something that the restaurant gives to every customer for free that’s going to be a surprise,” he explains. “For me, that is one of the main reasons you go to a restaurant. The surprise.” 

While South America is the theme tying the food together, Limardo has cooked in various countries and will draw inspiration from China, Japan, and the Middle East. There will likely be some chifa dishes that highlight Chinese influence on Peruvian cooking. Limardo is going for the unexpected when it comes to flavor combinations and presentations. He’s most excited to bring Amazonian ingredients to D.C. He’ll be sourcing specialty fruits and cacao from the rainforest region he has frequently visited.

Limardo and Vázquez-Ger say they hope to price dishes on the concise menu of about 20 selections so that Seven Reasons won’t be a special occasion-only restaurant. Drink selections will focus on cocktails starring rum, pisco, and cachaça. They have yet to name who will man the bar. 

The space, including the outdoor terrace that can seat about 35, is getting a makeover from acclaimed designer Alejandro Barrios-Carrero. He received a James Beard Award for “Outstanding Restaurant Design” for his work at Juvia in Miami. Vázquez-Ger hopes the atmosphere will be transportive.

“When people walk in, they forget about everything that’s outside,” he imagines. “They’re transported to a different location. They are not in D.C. anymore. All their problems and their routines are out. When they are there, the only thing they want to do is eat, drink, have a lot of fun, and have great conversation.”

When it opens, Seven Reasons will serve dinner and weekend brunch. Limardo says he will stay on as the consulting chef at Alma Cocina Latina.

Seven Reasons, 2208 14th St. NW