McLean’s Assaggi restaurant to close after lease negotiations with landlord fail

The Italian restaurant Assaggi Osteria & Pizzeria will close Christmas Day at McLean Square (via Google Maps)

Christmas will be a somber day for the owners and patrons of Assaggi Osteria & Pizzeria.

The upscale Italian restaurant will permanently close its doors that day after more than a decade at 6641 Old Dominion Drive in McLean, owners Kenneth and Madge Gazzola said on Monday (Dec. 13) in an email to supporters.

The establishment’s last day of operations will be Dec. 24.

According to Madge Gazzola, the decision to close comes after six months of failed negotiations for a lease extension with their landlord, McLean Square Associates President Georges Tawil.

She says the dealbreaker was Tawil’s insistence on a personal guarantee that they would pay the full lease, even if the business closes. Though Assaggi has grown its customer base over the past couple of years, it would’ve been a huge, risky investment, especially in the uncertain environment created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I understand it’s something that’s fairly common in real estate leases, commercial leases, but that is something we felt we could not do,” she said. “So, we could not come to an agreement, and we will leave the space instead, sadly.”

McLean Square Associates, which has clashed with tenants before, declined to comment when contacted by Tysons Reporter.

Assaggi arrived at the McLean Square Shopping Center in 2009.

The Gazzolas got involved in 2016 as one of three couples who invested in a renovation planned by the owner at the time. When the owner ran out of capital halfway through, the Gazzolas assumed ownership and completed the project.

Assaggi reopened after eight months of renovations in August 2017 with a more casual pizzeria added next to its fine dining-focused main room.

Specializing in fish and pasta dishes, Assaggi has made Northern Virginia Magazine’s annual list of the region’s 50 best restaurants three times since it reopened, including in 2021.

Gazzola says the team has looked at moving elsewhere in McLean, but they haven’t found an appropriate space and currently have no immediate plans for the future.

Her and her husband’s primary focus right now is finishing the restaurant’s last couple of weeks and supporting their staff. She particularly highlights chef Francesco Pescatore as someone worth watching, noting that he’s only 30 years old and “quite talented.”

“These last two years, we’ve been able to develop a very fine team, and we also have been a neighborhood restaurant that is warm and friendly and welcoming,” Madge Gazzola said. “So, it’s very hard to move on from that and not understand why we can’t come to a reasonable agreement on something that is positive, good for the neighborhood, good for the community.”

Photo via Google Maps

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