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Matt Adler says parting ways with Osteria Morini is bittersweet. The executive chef has called the kitchen in the Emilia-Romagna-style restaurant overlooking Yards Park home since the doors opened in 2013. “It’s not easy leaving, mainly because of the people I work with every day,” Adler says. “We started from nothing.” He describes watching Navy Yard’s transformation into a bustling residential neighborhood and dining destination as one of his favorite memories from living in the D.C. area.
Adler isn’t moving on to another restaurant, at least not in the immediate future. Instead, he and his wife, Kim Testa, are headed to Europe for two-and-a-half months. They’ll visit Paris, Sicily, San Sebastian, Prague, and London, among other locales. He says the trip is strictly for pleasure. “We’ve had a busy couple of years, so we figure if there’s a time to take a trip, it’s now,” Adler says.
Testa has also been at her job for three years and was ready for a break. This wanderlust is not new for the couple—they did six weeks in Asia before starting jobs in D.C. “This is a goal of ours, to do this every three or four years, taking time now instead of waiting until we’re retired,” Adler says.
It’s possible that Adler will return to the District after his travels, at least he says he hasn’t ruled it out. He felt the community embraced him when he first moved from New York, and that’s a memory he won’t soon forget. “It’s been such an inviting city. Working in New York for so long, it’s much more of a competition. In D.C., everyone wants everyone to be successful,” Adler says, calling noted nice guy Scott Drewno of The Source and Danny Lee of Mandu two of his biggest allies.
Adler will be in the restaurant until the end of August when Osteria Morini’s current executive sous chef, Ben Pflaumer, will replace him. “It’s a perfect transition because he’s been with me since we opened,” Adler says. “He’s excited, ready, and nervous, all those good things.” Before opening Osteria Morini’s D.C. location with Adler, Pflaumer cut his teeth under Mark Vetri in Philadelphia.