When one door closes, another one opens. Such is the case with celebrated Vienna restaurant Blend 111, which will close on Saturday, August 12. In its space on charming Church Street, renowned chef Roberto Donna and his wife, restaurateur Nancy Sabbagh, will open a new pop-up French bistro called Le Bistro.
“We decided, let’s do a pop-up — Le Bistro — and let’s see how the community receives it,” Sabbagh says. “We’re really just planning to have some fun with it.”
Sabbagh currently owns Roberto’s Ristorante Italiano, also on Church Street, where her acclaimed chef husband leads as executive chef. The couple will take on this new restaurant concept in addition to keeping their current eatery, with the goal of opening the new French restaurant in a few weeks. Their vision is to offer classic French cuisine in a quaint, comfortable setting. Think steak frites, fish, pâté, chicken, snails, and salads. Main courses will cost less than $35.
“There’s going to be a small menu, high quality,” Donna says. “What we are trying to do is not to go crazy with the prices and keep it affordable.”
Roberto’s racked up fans from across the DMV, popular for its housemade pastas and inventive cuisine. Donna’s 40-year career as a famed local chef at DC’s Galileo and, more recently, Al Dente, brings instant name recognition for local in-the-know foodies.
Despite lengthy legal challenges by Donna over the years and a turbulent culinary landscape, Roberto’s opened last year and earned praise, including being named one of Northern Virginia Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2022. The couple hopes to leverage a loyal client base to introduce this new endeavor just down the street from their other restaurant.
“We just love Vienna,” Sabbagh says. “It’s just a very nice community and we’ve been very well received.”
For now, Donna and his wife will divide their time between the Italian trattoria and finalizing the French pop-up. They say if the new business is a success, Le Bistro may be here to stay. After the first few weeks, Donna plans to turn over daily cooking duties at Le Bistro and remain executive chef at Roberto’s.
“We still have a couple of years left in us to be working, and why not?” Sabbagh says.
Donna notes that many of his friends are French chefs, and over the years he’s taken ribbing from them about their culinary differences.
“I’m going to show them how an Italian can cook French,” he says.
Feature image by Rey Lopez
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