The pop-up restaurant phenomenon is taking over DC, but if you are looking for a place to pop your taste bud cherry, here it is. From March 21-25, three incredibly young and talented chefs are taking over the new Living Social event space for a unique culinary collaboration to showcase what they have in store for us at their upcoming restaurant, SŪNA. The triple threat team is made up of Chefs Johnny Spero (Komi and Townhouse), Erik Bruner-Yang (Toki Underground), and Ari Gejdenson (Acqua Al 2). SŪNA, due to open at the end of this year in Eastern Market, will offer Spero’s unique perspective on modern progressive cuisine that reflects both his professional and personal experiences. I was invited for a sneak peek of the pop-up menu and witnessed firsthand how chef Johnny Spero literally creates art, of the tastiest kind, on a plate. Not only are the dishes aesthetically beautiful, but they are also creative, delicious, and given the same attention in every detail. This is what a pop-up experience should be made of– energy, dedication, innovation.
Chef Johnny Spero will be spearheading the SŪNA project and continuing his strong focus on sustainability, supporting local farms and cooking seasonally as he and his co-chefs develop the menu and concept. Chef Spero’s culinary resume is impressive; he worked at Komi here in the District and Townhouse in Virginia, and has traveled the globe to stage at some of the best restaurants, including NOMA in Denmark (oh hey, it was rated #1 in the world), and spent a week at Alinea in Chicago.
Tickets to this coveted culinary event are priced at $120 and include an 8-course meal with 4 pairings. For a visual tasting of what to expect from it, read (and drool) on…
Clearly I’ve been on a bit of an Italian food kick lately. As well as a ragu binge. But is there anything better than a huge, warm pot of zesty, savory tomato sauce cooking away while it’s cold outside? Chef Ari Gejdenson’s recipe for beef ragu at Acqua al 2 is simple and delicious. Click through for the full recipe.
Watching executive chef Ari Gejdenson swiftly expedite plates at Acqua al 2, you’d never guess that he was previously an international soccer player and that the sport was what got him into the restaurant industry. For starters, playing soccer allowed the young chef to travel and be exposed to all different kinds of cuisines in foreign countries. And it was soccer that took Ari to Florence where he began his unorthodox journey to the kitchen. Not long after moving to Italy, he wound up opening Ari’s Diner, an American-style eatery. “I saw a gap and that it was something that was needed in Florence,” he says, adding that a lot of the clientele were American students who were studying abroad.
For Ari, playing soccer and running a restaurant aren’t so different, as he explains that in both arenas your job is to entertain people. “These homesick kids would come in[to the diner] upset. And they would come to this place that reminded them of home and they’d leave happy,” he says. “The whole idea of bringing people into a moment by heightening their tastes was what made me want to become a chef.” At Acqua al 2, you can see him work the room with ease, transitioning from calling out food orders to the kitchen to shaking hands and hugging regular customers.
After running Ari’s Diner with his childhood friend, Ralph Lee, who is a co-owner of Acqua al 2 in Eastern Market, Ari started working at the original Acqua al 2 in Florence and eventually served as the chef for several years there. Gejdenson says it’s hard to be in Italy and not get swept up in the incredibly rich food culture. “The passion for food in Italy is a different thing. You’d have to have a blindfold on not to notice,” he says. After years of living and working in Florence, the Washington native returned home to open the second U.S. location of Acqua al 2.
courtesy of ‘willsfca’
The holiday season has arrived, and it’s the perfect time to start thinking about how to give back. It gets easier and easier every year – bring cans to work, send a text contribution, add an extra dollar to an online bill payment – you really have no excuse. Food lovers have a simple way to contribute as well. In the next few months many of my favorite restaurants are teaming up with local charities and coming up with creative ways to raise money. All you have to do is eat. Here are my top 3.
So many things, all wonderful and joyous, come to mind when I think of beer. So what better way to ease back into your week after Thanksgiving with some complimentary beer tastings?
Acqua Al 2 in Eastern Market is kicking off their new beer program with a week of free Italian craft beer tastings at the bar from 5:30 PM til 7 PM on November 28th til December 1st. Acqua Al 2 has more than 13 Italian microbrews available by bottle or on draft, including Moretti, Torbatta, Strada San Felice and more.
If one week isn’t enough, you can make a reservation for their Italian Craft Beer Dinner on December 5th at 7 PM. To secure a spot at the dinner, call the restaurant at 202-525-4375 or email Ralph at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One year later and I still want to call this fantastic Italian restaurant Acqua Al “Two,” so apparently I still need to brush up on my grasp of languages. Acqua Al 2 came to Capitol Hill a little more than one year ago thanks to DC natives Ari Gejdenson and Ralph Lee. The first location is actually in Florence, Italy and the other is located in San Diego.
Acqua Al 2 is long and narrow. You just can’t imagine how far back it goes when looking at the small front. Still, good luck trying to come here during dinner hours and not have to wait – it’s impossible. Thankfully, you have a bar to your right to hold you over (with extra seats). Or walk around looking at the plates encased in glass and signed/decorated by patrons.