(Updated at 6 p.m.) After a 20-year hiatus, The Italian Oven has returned to Old Dominion Drive in McLean.
The Italian restaurant officially opened on Monday (June 21) at 6852 Old Dominion Drive, moving back into a spot it had first occupied in 1985.
The Esposito family has been serving authentic Italian cuisine in Northern Virginia for over 40 years. Although the restaurant has operated under multiple names, the main attraction has been their wood-burning oven shipped from Italy, which reaches 800 degrees and cooks pizzas in about two and a half minutes.
Salvatore “Sal” Esposito, the former owner of the original Italian Oven, was a “pioneer of installing wood-burning ovens in Arlington, Fairfax, McLean, and Georgetown,” according to his son, Robert, who will own and manage the eatery’s latest incarnation.
A native of Naples, Italy, Sal Esposito was trained in the hospitality industry in Germany and England before coming to America.
His uncle, Franco, was a chef trained in Long Island, New York, and the first member of the Esposito family to open a restaurant in the U.S., starting with a small hole-in-the-wall in Arlington. They had lines out the door after the first few months of business.
Health complications led Sal to retire early in 2000, leaving the restaurant in the hands of five managers. Eventually, Moe Jebali became the sole owner and renamed the restaurant Pulcinella.
Now, Pulcinella is moving to a new location, and Robert Esposito has decided to buy his father’s old restaurant and refurbish it to reopen The Italian Oven.
A graduate of Langley High School, Robert is also deaf and has strong ties to the deaf community in McLean, according to his father. He is committed to making The Italian Oven a welcoming environment for members of the deaf community.
There are still remnants of the old Italian Oven. A mural depicting a scene from Italy is still intact in the lower dining room, and the original wood-burning oven is still cooking as well. Certain pictures and menu items remain the same too, all waiting for guests to come back and enjoy.
“The people of McLean have been coming through the door saying, ‘Welcome back. We love you and welcome back,'” Sal said.
Questions and concerns about the restaurant can be directed to 703-570-4975.
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