This story was updated at 3:45 p.m. on Jan. 17, 2022, to add comments from Francesco Ricchi.
Cesco Osteria, an Italian restaurant in Bethesda for nearly 25 years, is closing at the end of the month as its founder, chef Francesco Ricchi, retires.
After more than 30 years in the greater Washington area, Ricchi said in an interview Monday afternoon that he feels like now is the “right moment” to retire.
“It was time for me to close a big chapter on my life that I enjoyed very much and open another that’s going to be very nice …,” he said.
He plans to travel and spend more time with his family in retirement.
Ricchi came to the area from Florence, Italy, in 1988 and opened the Bethesda restaurant, initially known as Cesco Trattoria, on Cordell Avenue in 1997.
The restaurant moved to Woodmont Avenue in 2011, in a space formerly occupied by McCormick & S
chmick’s. It was then rechristened Cesco Osteria.
In May 2017, Cesco Osteria celebrated its 20th anniversary.
Ricchi has won numerous accolades from area restaurant associations and media outlets, including Chef of the Year by the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington, according to the email.
Ricchi said that at any given time, 20 to 25 employees are in his restaurant, most of whom have been with him for the entire 25 years. It’s possible that some employees might open a new restaurant, Ricchi said, but he wasn’t sure.
“If they decided to, it’s their own decision. It’s not mine. I will do everything I can to help them,” he said.
Manager Elaine Sheetz said Cesco typically hosts about 300 events per year. Ricchi fondly recalled the many weddings they hosted. Often, couples came back to celebrate their anniversary, too, he said.
“In the restaurant business, every day can be a special day,” he said. “If you have a guest that’s outrageous, or if you have a guest that’s very important, or if you have a guest that’s a very close friend. … All of these things happen continuously. And in all these 25 years, we certainly were able to host a lot of great events.”
Ricchi and Sheetz said Cesco hosted a number of politicians and foreign diplomats. Ricchi would go to an embassy to cook a meal for an ambassador.
Ricchi wasn’t sure when Cesco’s last day would be, but said he wanted to give the community a heads-up to savor one last meal or glass of wine.
“When you have the restaurant full, many of them become friends,” he said. “They’re customers for a while and after they become friends. A life with so many friends is a good life, right?”
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org