By Evan Milberg
When Frank Smiley took over Village Bistro a year and a half ago, the place needed fixing. “There were lots of problems, from the interior design to the quality of the food, everything,” says Smiley. He would often receive requests from neighbors to change the name and start off with something new. So less than two weeks ago he changed the name to Mele Bistro.
“The neighbors would say ‘You are not the same management and owner, there is no way for us to know unless you change the name,'” says Smiley. “They said we should change the name so everyone can know we are not the same restaurant.”
To begin, Smiley started with the interior design. The ladies room has a brand new design. The kitchen will be getting a pasta machine imported from Italy. Smiley says he will unveil the new sign outside in a few weeks. Once everything is set with the interior, Smiley says that Mele will change its interior decorations every two months so “people don’t get tired of it.”
The theme of the restaurant will still be French and Italian food, but there will also be changes to the menu. Among the new items, Smiley is particularly enamored with Mele’s poulet rouge, which is organic, imported from North Carolina and according to the owner, “will change your experience with chicken forever.” They are working on a mussel bar, with fresh mussels imported from Canada, as well as a special “five chocolates from five countries” (France, Italy, Germany, U.S. and Colombia) option on the menu for the desserts. Prior to owning Mele Bistro, Smiley worked at Pisces, a nightclub in Georgetown and owned La Petite Fontaine, a French restaurant in Adams Morgan.
There will also be a change in the overall approach to food. For example, the chicken, burgers and steaks will only be made with grass-fed beef. There will also no longer be any from-frozen food or canned tomatoes. Smiley also refuses to use soy products, MSG, food coloring or meat tenderizers.
In Latin, mele means apple. Smiley is very proud that the apples used at Mele Bistro are locally grown throughout the year. He chose the name Mele because it represents the restaurant’s commitment to healthy and high quality food. Smiley’s focus on healthy eating is due partly to the fact that not too long ago, he lost a friend to breast cancer. “I don’t want anyone to go through what she went through,” Smiley says. “I just want everyone to be happy and healthy.” / Mele Bistro, 1723 Wilson Blvd. Arlington