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From his perch at El Techo in Shaw, restaurateur Louie Hankins has eyed the space next door. For eight years it belonged to Bistro Bohem, one of the many beloved neighborhood restaurants to succumb to the economic impossibilities of the global pandemic. “I kept looking at the bones of it and the exterior and felt it provided a perfect canvas for an Italian experience,” Hankins says. “I knew I couldn’t achieve my lofty expectations for the space by myself.”
He turned to brothers Salvio and Giovanni Ippolito from Naples, Italy, who have been working in the hospitality industry since moving to the U.S. 15 years ago. Together with a yet-to-be named chef coming from a Michelin-starred kitchen, the four partners will open Quattro Osteria in late spring. Hankins met Giovanni met at a Miami pool party; they connected over a love of house music and grew closer over the course of a decade. “We feel like we can create something and transport people to Italy,” Hankins says.
Giovanni, 37, started as a dishwasher and food runner as he learned English and worked his way into more senior kitchen positions and dining room roles. Local restaurateur Roberta Donna employed him at several of his restaurants in D.C. and Northern Virginia. Most recently Giovanni served as the maître d’ at Tosca, where he says he was tasked with giving the downtown dining room “a younger touch.” Salvio, 47, also worked for Donna before starting a coffee distribution company that supplies restaurants. He was also a co-owner of Takoma Park’s Trattoria Da Lina.
The brothers will finally have a restaurant of their own, much like their father did in Naples. “My mom is not happy, it’s more than happy,” Giovanni says. “It’s almost more her dream than my dream. She knows we’ll have each other’s backs. For the most important things in life, we need to be together.”
Salvio describes Quattro Osteria as a restaurant serving traditional Italian dishes and wines, but with a modern approach. Kevin Banegas, the head bartender at El Techo will create cocktails to pair with a food menu that changes with the seasons and isn’t loyal to any one region of Italy. The chef will make pasta in house.
Look for dishes like Genovese agnolotti with cream of broccoli and cheese from Campania, potato gnocchi with crispy artichoke and a red and yellow pepper sauce, tempura baccalà (salt-cured cod) with pea cream and black truffle, a twist on eggplant parmesan, and roasted lamb with saffron mashed potatoes and pomegranate sauce.
“Now people don’t want to just have a meal when they go to a restaurant,” Salvio says. “They want to have a full experience, be surrounded by cool people, drink alternative cocktails, have good food, and listen to good music. That’s what we’ll try to bring to Florida Avenue.”
Part of the team is currently in South Carolina picking up a 18th century double door that will be the statement piece of the outside of the restaurant that’s currently being renovated. “When you walk up to the front of the building, it will be totally transformed,” Hankins vows. They’re painting it a “Tuscan golden yellow color” so it “really stands out on the corner.”
Hankins is going for an indoor-outdoor feel in the first room of the restaurant by converting the former bay windows into bi-fold doors. That’s where you’ll find a six-seat bar. “If you go to someone’s house in Italy, they don’t have a 20-person bar,” he says. “It fits with the concept. If you’re sitting at the bar you can look over the bartender’s shoulder and see the chef and his team firing up the pasta and cooking the mains.” That initial space gives way to a modern dining room. There will also be wrap-around patio seating.
“Even if it’s a crazy era we have to move on,” Giovanni says about opening a restaurant during a pandemic. “There was a good opportunity and a good chance to take it and we did.”
Quattro Osteria, 600 Florida Ave. NW, facebook.com/Quattro-Osteria-115409630588569