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Well, that was fast. Earlier this morning, Graffiato‘s Mike Isabella brushed aside the rumor that he would be opening a new eatery inside the fire-ravaged former Hook restaurant in Georgetown. Now, mere hours later, he confirms that, yes, the whole thing is true: Bandolero will be the name of the place.

Why deny the truth the first time that a young enterprising reporter calls out of the blue? Because you’ve probably promised the scoop to WaPo veteran Tom Sietsema. That’s why. “It will be my vision, my food, my way or the highway,” Isabella tells Sietsema about his partnership in the project with restaurateur Jonathan Umbel, who owns the building.

Isabella earlier laughed off the suggestion that his rumored new restaurant would be a “Spanish/Mexican concept.” Turns out, it will just be “modern Mexican.” Clever dodge, there, chef.

Expect “awesome cocktails” and “lots of tacos,” Isabella says.

Full details in press release form below:

Top Chef All-Stars Runner-Up Announces Plans to Open His Second D.C. Restaurant in Early 2012

Chef Mike Isabella announces plans to open his second restaurant in Washington, D.C., in early 2012. Bandolero will open as a modern Mexican small-plates concept in the former Hook restaurant space in Georgetown (3241 M St. NW). Hook has been closed since June 29, 2011, due to a fire. The Bandolero space is owned by Jonathan Umble, restaurateur and proprietor of Hook and Tackle Box.

“My vision for Bandolero is a high-energy, high-volume restaurant to match the bustling vibe of the Georgetown neighborhood and feed the late-night appetite of its college students. The menu will change frequently with my twist on classic Mexican dishes and a large cocktail menu,” said Chef/Partner Mike Isabella. “Jose Garces has been one of the most influential chefs of my career. With Bandolero I’ll draw from my early culinary experience with him learning to create modern Latin American dishes.”

Much like Graffiato, the Bandolero menu will feature sections of small plates including salsas, guacamoles, ceviches, tacos, vegetables and more. Large-format “carbons,” Chef Isabella’s take on fajitas, will be available for the table. Untraditional fillings such as duck, goat and off-cuts of meat as well as surprising flavor combinations will keep the menu interesting and anything but traditional Mexican cuisine. The 5,000-square-foot space will be open for lunch and dinner seven day a week. After the kitchen closes, tacos and guacamole will be available through last call.

Chef Isabella will draw from the Graffiato talent pool to open Bandolero. Plans include moving James Horn, Graffiato General Manager, and mixologist Sam Babcock to the Georgetown restaurant.

The Bandolero beverage list will feature at least two dozen cocktails, including a section for margaritas and modern cocktails made with tequila or mezcal. While the wine list will be significantly smaller than Graffiato’s 60-plus bottles, Prosecco on tap will flow at Bandolero as well.

About Chef Mike Isabella

Mike Isabella is the Chef/Owner of Graffiato, an Italian-inspired restaurant that opened in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., in June 2011 and has already received local accolades and national attention. Before opening Graffiato, Chef Isabella was the executive chef of José Andrés’ Zaytinya. Previously, Chef Isabella worked under Marcus Samuelsson, Jose Garces and a host of other chefs and restaurateurs. Outside the kitchen, Chef Isabella recently appeared on Season Six of Top Chef, and he was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars. In Fall 2012, he will publish his first cookbook, Flavors From a Jersey Italian.

Photo by Chris Shott