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The next restaurant from Jackie Greenbaum and Gordon Banks was almost at The Wharf—the buzzed future dining destination in Southwest, D.C. “We withdrew from it because in the end, we decided it wasn’t our thing,” Greenbaum says. So what is their thing? Neighborhood restaurants that move beyond being a mantra to being a mission.
“Our strong suit is delivering a surprisingly superior product in a casual setting in a neighborhood that is sort of up-and-coming. That’s who we are.” You know the duo from El Chucho, Bar Charley, and the now shuttered Jackie’s. “We try to create smaller, stylish places that are super welcoming—where you feel you can let your hair down and claim it as your own,” Greenbaum continues.
With Little Coco’s opening tomorrow at 3907 14th St. NW, the new neighborhoods Greenbaum and Banks are targeting are Columbia Heights, Petworth, 16th Street Heights, and upper 14th Street. The 115-seat restaurant that includes an expansive roof deck will focus on pizza and pasta. Greenbaum says the kitchen is reuniting “the A team” from Jackie’s, including General Manager Paul Lee Martinez Executive Chef Adam Harvey. With Harvey at the helm, the menu is a little more “chefy” than El Chucho or Bar Charley.
Starters ($7-$15) include ahi tuna with avocado sorbet, ‘nduja and fresh melon with buratta and pea tendrils, and brandade fritters with egg yolk aioli. The pizzas ($12-$16) are also gourmand. Think “Fools Gold” with prosciutto, fig, honeycomb, and pistachios or “Meat & Potatoes” with ramps, gold potatoes, pancetta, gorgonzola, and sherry.
But that’s not to say they won’t have a little fun. Little Coco’s will serve “Pizza Fritto Classico,” or fried pizza, inspired by a staff research trip to Naples, Italy. There, Greenbaum and team discovered the dish that calls for a Margherita pizza to be rolled like a snake and deep fried. “It tastes like a doughnut,” Greenbaum says about what will likely become the restaurant’s signature drunk food.
Other menu highlights include five pastas, a few entrees that could be shared by two people including a grilled market fish that changes daily, and desserts like home-made gelato and cannoli. Greenbaum says they’re covering all the bases by appealing to families, people who just want a beer, a shot, and a pizza, and couples who want to get “something pretty fine” in their neighborhood. Like Jackie’s, the atmosphere will feel casual even if the plates aren’t.
As far as drinks, the cocktail crew will lean heavily on bitter Italian liqueurs called amari. Most notably, Banks spent the summer befriending amari collectors, according to Greenbaum, and so there will be a number of rare bottles for customers to try that they can’t get anywhere else. Additionally, expect numerous takes on a Negroni, a frozen peach Bellini garnished with a burnt rosemary sprig, and 70 bottles of Italian wine.
Little Coco’s will open with dinner seven nights a week, followed by Saturday and Sunday brunch in about three weeks. Five weeks from now the goal is to operate around-the-clock by serving as a cafe in the morning serving Parmesan truffle scones, La Colombe espresso, and Ceremony coffee and later, lunch in the form of pizzas and sandwiches. It’s all part of the plan to be a true neighborhood place. “We like to be a building block in neighborhoods as opposed to going to the famous neighborhoods or addresses,” Greenbaum says.
Little Coco’s, 3907 14th St. NW; 202-853-9889; facebook.com/littlecocosdc