Carluccio’s, the all-in-one café, full-service restaurant and market with more than 100 locations across the United Kingdom and Middle East, officially opened its second U.S. location Monday morning at Pike & Rose in North Bethesda.
The 4,559-square-foot, 100-seat space, located on 11826 Trade St. near Pike & Rose’s new parking garage, features a main dining area, market and bar.
U.S. Operations Director Sebastiano Ligato said the restaurant, which opens at 7 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. on the weekend, is set up to draw a wide range of customers—including those looking for a casual place to grab coffee in the morning and those looking for a candle-lit dinner setting.
“It’s a casual environment and one of the challenges is for people to understand. You think of Italian restaurants as fancy, they must have white table cloths and so forth,” Ligato said. “But no, you can have your coffee and a croissant and play with your computer and stay here all day. We want to teach people about that.”
The breakfast menu features traditional items, including toasted slices of Italian sweet bread called panettone, and coffee blends roasted exclusively in Italy for Carluccio’s. The market features more than 80 imported products from small producers all over Italy, including the panettone—made from 100-year-old yeast and exported to Carluccio’s restaurants.
The dinner menu includes house-baked focaccia breads, primi, antipasti, soups, salads, pasta dishes and meat and fish entrees.
Top: The "Deluxe" antipasti plate ($23.95). Left: Penne Giardiniera with fried spinach balls ($13.50). Right: Carluccio's Breakfast Magnifica ($12.95).
The restaurant’s founder and namesake, Antonio Carluccio, is a well-known cook in England and former wine merchant who took over ownership of a popular Italian restaurant in London’s Covent Garden neighborhood in 1989.
In 1999, he opened his first Carluccio’s café and market. Investors have since come in to help the restaurant group’s expansion, including the opening of its first U.S. location last June in Old Town Alexandria.
Executive Chef Israel Lopez will be in charge of the kitchen.
Ligato said the restaurant group prides itself on authenticity and many of the small producers in Italy whom Carluccio first tapped to supply his restaurants have grown with the company.
“Every one of the products that we sell in the market has a story behind them,” Ligato said.
The parmigiana-reggiano available for sale in the market comes from a producer in Parma, is cut by hand and is certified as a “protected designation of origin” cheese under European Union regulations. The balsamic vinegar comes from a small producer in Modena.
“It’s super trendy to talk about boutique this and artisanal that,” Cory Waldron, U.S. chief executive for Carluccio’s, said. “Antonio was doing this in the ’70s and when he was finding these people, his motivation at the time was to find the best…of olive oil, the best of balsamic vinegar, the best chocolate. We’ve gotten them to the point where these producers are able to push enough products to England and the U.S. that they’re able to private-label it for us.”
The market at Carluccio's Pike & Rose. Credit: Aaron Kraut
Waldron said customers at the Alexandria location have gradually grown accustomed to the casual, all-day nature of Carluccio’s, and the market has become especially popular.
Waldron expects the Pike & Rose location to be a little bit different, perhaps with less of the touristy vibe that exists in Alexandria.
The location is in a pedestrian walkway next to the Neighborhood Restaurant Group’s beer garden concept that’s set to open later this year. Nearby, construction has started on a boutique hotel and condominium building that’s part of phase two of Pike & Rose, the mixed-use redevelopment project from Rockville-based developer Federal Realty Investment Trust.
“We love being a part of the revitalization of the North Bethesda area,” Waldron said.
The bar at Carluccio's Pike & Rose. Credit: Aaron Kraut