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Posted at 4:31 PM ET, 07/10/2009

Stefanelli Named Bibiana Chef; 701 to Close Temporarily

By Tom Sietsema

Washington restaurateur Ashok Bajaj served me two heaping helpings of food news this afternoon.

Scoop No. 1: Bajaj has tapped Nicholas Stefanelli to be his executive chef at Bibiana Osteria-Enoteca, a 120-seat Italian restaurant expected to open at 1100 New York Ave. NW in early September. Best-known for having worked in the kitchen of the late, four-star Maestro in Tysons Corner, Stefanelli most recently cooked at Mio downtown.

The decision to take the job was an easy one for the 29-year-old chef, who says Bajaj "has a long and successful track record in D.C." Further, "D.C. really needs a good Italian restaurant." Bibiana will focus on simple flavors and rustic preparations -- spaghetti carbonara, offal, pizza -- although Stefanelli will also offer a tasting menu (and hopes to squeeze in white and black truffles when they're in season).

The physical changes to the restaurant space are moving forward, too. "We're closing the ceiling today," says Bajaj. "The pizza oven came yesterday."

Update: Tim Carman reported in February that 701 will temporarily close this summer for renovations. Today Bajaj gave me the planned start date and news of a new chef there.

Scoop No. 2: Bajaj says he's temporarily closing 701 for 10 days starting Aug. 2. The Penn Quarter restaurant will get its first major renovation since 2000 and a new chef in the process. Adam Longworth, the former chef de cuisine of the acclaimed Gotham Bar & Grill in New York, is replacing Bobby Varua.

Construction workers and others will work in three shifts to prepare the restaurant for its quick reopening. "You won't recognize the place," promises Bajaj, who has scheduled new carpets, window treatments, color schemes, bathrooms, private rooms and an overhaul of the kitchen. A semi-enclosed lounge will also take the place of 701's caviar bar.

-- Tom Sietsema

By Tom Sietsema  | July 10, 2009; 4:31 PM ET
Categories:  Restaurants  | Tags:  Tom Sietsema  
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"Bibiana’s Chef Stefanelli certainly sounded pompous when he stated "D.C. really needs a good Italian restaurant"... On the contrary, DC has a number of Italian restaurants that are OUTSTANDING! Stefanelli's new restaurant has stiff competition before it even opens. Obelisk and Palena are always delicious. Even D’Acqua and Dino serve some great dishes. Café Milano is, well, Café Milano, and many adore it. And a couple of fabulous Italian restaurants were nominated by their peers and featured in this year’s 2009 Restaurant Assn of Metropolitan Washington (RAMMY) Awards. Teatro Goldoni was honored with the RAMMY "Your Favorite Restaurant" Award. Executive Chef Massimo Fabbri of Ristorante TOSCA and POSTO, was one of the five nominees for the "Chef of the Year" Award. Both of Fabbri's restaurant's have received recent acclaim from the likes of The New York Times, Rolling Stone, Forbes Traveler, US News and World Report, Politico, The Washington Times, and The Washington Post, not to mention great reviews in numerous blogs. So sorry, Chef Stefanelli. You're just plain wrong, and with an attitude like yours, I don't think I'll have the desire to try out your new place; I already have plenty of favorite Italian restaurants in town!

Posted by: foodieindc | July 15, 2009 6:15 PM | Report abuse

I'm so relieved to know that there will be a caviar bar available for the lobbyists for Goldman Sachs.

Posted by: fluxgirl | July 17, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

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