By Emily Cook
Carluccio’s, a London-based Italian restaurant and market first opened in 1999, now claims more than 100 locations across the United Kingdom, Ireland, Turkey and the Middle East. Its first of three U.S. locations opens today in Old Town Alexandria.
“When we visited the States and when we visited Washington and Alexandria, it seemed to us to be the best opportunity for us to start a new business and grow,” says Carluccio’s chairman Simon Kossoff, who is in town from London for the grand opening. Its second location will open in Bethesda in the fall, and although the third location hasn’t yet been confirmed, Carluccio’s hopes to open in the District.
Founder Antonio Carluccio developed his passion for cooking when he discovered the joy people derived from his food. As for his entrepreneurial spirit, it came much later. “For 40 years I was cooking for myself, for friends and so on. I saw also that people could appreciate the food of Italy, so I decided to become an ambassador of Italian food,” Carluccio says.
His namesake market offers ingredients imported from Italian artisans and hand-picked by Carluccio himself. The family businesses that supply Carluccio’s, most of which do so exclusively and have been doing so since its nativity, have grown in tandem with Carluccio’s. “Mothers and daughters are still packaging the cookies you’ll find on the shelves of our market,” says Cory Waldron, Carluccio’s U.S. CEO.
The market—full of take-home goods like pasta, nuts, chocolates and oils in addition to a bakery and meat and cheese display case—is on the first floor of the King Street location, along with a full bar and seating for the sit-down restaurant. The second floor is dining only and features seating around the open kitchen. The menu offers dishes such as caponata, a sweet and sour eggplant stew; a sweet pea and goat cheese agnolotti in a light butter sauce; and osso buco served with saffron risotto. Pastas made in house include ravioli, tortellini and agnoli, plus focaccia bread.
Although Carluccio’s will be importing many of its ingredients from Italy, it will also source from local farmers markets and vendors.
The market-restaurant concept has been designed to appeal to both shoppers and diners at the same time. “The thing about Carluccio’s is that you can come here at any time of the day and you can have whatever you like. If you want to sit here and just have a coffee, you can have that. We don’t mind,” Kossoff says.
As for the location’s past restaurant failures—100 King, Red Curry—Carluccio is unperturbed: “People said there must be a ghost. I said I talked to it, it’s gone.” / Opening today, Carluccio’s, 100 King St., Alexandria