2014 | Dine

Mike Isabella to Open Greek Restaurant in Bethesda

Celebrity chef taking over Vapiano space

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Celebrity Chef Mike Isabella plans to open Kapnos Kouzina this summer in Bethesda.

Photo via Graffaito website

It’s official: Celebrity chef Mike Isabella is coming to Bethesda.

This summer Isabella will open Kapnos Kouzina, a 160-seat Greek restaurant, in the former Vapiano space at the corner of Woodmont Avenue and Hampden Lane.

“We’ve had our eye on Bethesda for a long time,” Isabella said in a statement. “When we began preparations to move into Virginia, we knew Maryland couldn’t be far behind. We are so excited about the spot in Bethesda, we see a real opportunity to build something that the neighborhood has been lacking: casual, chef-driven dining that is as good for after-work get-togethers as it is for special occasions. Those familiar with the original Kapnos are going to find something different in Bethesda, it’s a little more casual, a little more traditional and a little more neighborhood-y.” 

The press release described Kapnos Kouzina as “a sister restaurant” to Kapnos, Isabella’s Northern Greek-inspired eatery, which opened in Washington, D.C., in 2013, and the forthcoming Kapnos Taverna, set to open this month in Arlington. 

“While Kapnos draws inspiration from inland Greek flavors, and Kapnos Taverna focuses on coastal and island cuisines, Kapnos Kouzina will serve a home-style take on regional Greek cooking that is more traditional and classic than its sister restaurants,” the statement said. “Kapnos’ executive chef/partner George Pagonis will draw heavily from his experience growing up in a big Greek family, and working at his father’s Greek diner in Alexandria, Va., to build a menu of comforting Greek classics.”

Like the other Kapnos restaurants, Kapnos Kouzina will feature small plates as well as “large-format platters meant to be shared by two to four guests,” the statement said. “Signature dishes will include Greek spiced crispy chicken with attiki honey, braised lamb top round served with lentils, eggplant, tomato and harissa and whole roasted branzino in a spicy clam broth with tomatoes, peppers and pearl onions. The Kapnos Kouzina menu will also include some signature dishes from the original Kapnos, notably the stone bread and Greek spreads, which are among the restaurant’s most popular dishes.”

The statement described the Bethesda restaurant’s décor as being “washed in deep, earthy tones with copious natural wood and olive green and gray accents.”

The 160 seats will include a 14-seat communal table, a 31-seat bar and chef-counter seating for 12. There will be an additional 94 seats on the patio.

Isabella, a New Jersey native, opened his first restaurant, Graffiato, an Italian concept, in 2011 on Sixth Street in the District. Prior to that he served as executive chef at José Andrés’ Zaytinya in the District.

Isabella gained national attention after he appeared on season six of the Bravo cooking show Top Chef and later was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars in 2011. Food & Wine readers voted him “The People’s Best New Chef” in the Mid-Atlantic region in 2012. Since then he has opened Kapnos, and a sandwich shop, G by Mike Isabella, in the District; and a second Graffiato in Richmond.

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