An Italian restaurant based in Alexandria is expanding with a second location at the Mosaic District in Merrifield, but patrons will have to wait a little longer than anticipated to try a sub or slice of pizza.
The Italian Place had planned to welcome customers to its new spot at 2985 District Avenue (Suite 190) this Saturday (July 24), but the grand opening will be delayed to August because more time is needed to prepare, owner and CEO Adriana Penachio-Sifakis says.
The restaurant confirmed the delay on Tuesday (July 20) on Facebook.
“We wished we had more hours in the day to prepare for our opening, and with thousands of RSVP’s for our upcoming grand opening ceremony, we will be postponing our opening by another week or so!” Penachio-Sifakis told Tysons Reporter by email.
She added that they hope to announce an exact opening date within the next week.
Penachio-Sifakis opened The Italian Place at 621 Wythe Street in Old Town Alexandria in September 2016, inspired by the traditions and values imparted by her grandparents, who were the children of immigrants from a small province outside Naples, according to the restaurant’s website.
A photo of Naples adorns one wall of the new Mosaic District site, which also features an espresso bar.
“We are humbled by the love and appreciation our customers have for our food!” Penachio-Sifakis said. “They come back and they tell their friends about us and that really keeps us going!”
Encouraged by the restaurant’s warm reception in Alexandria, Penachio-Sifakis started exploring the idea of franchising in early 2020. She says her team “really fell in love” with the Mosaic District when they visited after the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, citing the development’s “outdoor walkability” and the quality of the brands there.
“[Mosaic District property owner EDENS] is led by a woman which impressed me and certainly persuaded me to expand my operation to a professionally and well-run community that has so many exciting plans for their residents and their visitors,” she said. “They have been enjoyable to work with and we look forward to a long-term relationship with them and have also viewed some of their other successful properties.”
The Italian Place’s menu features pizza, a variety of Italian subs, paninis, salads, and pasta. There are also breakfast options and soup specials, along with a new “secret” menu that includes a tuna melt sub, an Italian grinder, and a Mosaic classic sub with salami, provolone cheese, hot pepper spread, and other toppings.
The Italian Place will expand the Italian dining options at the Mosaic District, which currently has Alta Strada, Matchbox Pizza, Oath Pizza, and Dolcezza Gelato.
The Mexican restaurant Urbano, another import from Alexandria, opened there in December. The development will also get the first Virginia location of the D.C.-based Carribean eatery Colada Shop in conjunction with a small Bloomingdale’s store called Bloomie’s that is expected to open in August.
Vienna has hosted many tenants at 175 Maple Avenue East over the years, from a gelato shop to a Persian rug store and America’s arch support experts, but the southwestern corner of Maple Avenue and Park Street hasn’t seen anything quite like Lily’s Chocolate & Coffee.
Owner Saifalden Alobaidi and his sister Lily Alobaidi wanted to share a taste of their native Iraq with their adopted home, but knowing that many potential customers might not be familiar with the treat, they decided to add their own touch, substituting the traditional honey or date syrup coating with a drizzle of chocolate.
“It’s a family-owned business,” Saifalden told Tysons Reporter. “We’re just trying to bring our culture from back home, from Iraq, introduce it to the community here…and make a friendly place, so people can come to a different vibe, a different coffee shop style than normal.”
The lokma, which can be filled with peanut butter or nutella, isn’t the only thing that distinguishes the Town of Vienna’s newest eatery, which operates from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.
In fact, just about everything in Lily’s Chocolate has been specially designed, from the cardamom-spiced hot tea and Belgium-imported chocolate to the mousse, cakes, and other bakery-style desserts that Lily makes herself each day.
The coffee is a blend of Guatemalan and Brazilian beans that the Alobaidis developed through “a lot of coffee tasting,” Saifalden says. The beans are roasted by Grace Street Coffee in Georgetown, which has formed a partnership with Lily’s Chocolate.
Even the cafe’s tables, chairs, lighting fixtures, and other furnishings were custom-made by Saifalden, who also works as a civil engineer and owns a construction business. This is his first venture into the food service world.
“We’re trying to be unique so it’s not repetitive,” Saifalden said. “Even the coffee taste we have, the pastry we sell, the style of the place, we’re trying to be different than what’s in the market.”
The Alobaidis immigrated from Iraq to the U.S. — specifically to Arizona — in 2009, according to Saifalden, who obtained a master’s degree in engineering management from the University of Arizona before entering construction work.
After traveling from state to state for a while, he moved to McLean in 2016, and he and Lily came up with the idea for a lokma shop, signing a lease for the Maple Avenue spot in October 2020.
Though he now lives in Reston, Saifalden says he loves the Town of Vienna for its family-friendly atmosphere and an increasingly diverse population that embraces different cuisines and cultures. The town’s central location within Fairfax County and efforts to support small businesses heightened its attractiveness.
Getting Lily’s Chocolate off the ground was not without its challenges, though, as the COVID-19 pandemic delayed shipments and prolonged the licensing process and other preparations.
Saifalden also allows that he has gotten a few comments about the availability of parking at the site, which is prominently but awkwardly situated at the intersection of two busy streets with little room for drivers to manuever into or out of spaces without blocking traffic.
The building does have additional parking in the back, and he says the cafe is working to put up a sign to make that clearer to passersby. He also anticipates getting reliable foot traffic, including from pedestrians and bicyclists coming into town on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.
According to Saifalden, Lily’s Chocolate drew over 300 people between 6 and 9 p.m. for its grand opening, which offered free pastries, tea, and coffee. The cafe has also gotten some social media buzz, thanks in part to the popular Vienna VA Foodies Facebook group.
Expansion plans are already taking shape. A friend has expressed interest in starting a franchise in Georgia, and the Alobaidis are looking at a possible location in Georgetown to complement their partnership with Grace Street Coffee.
“We’ve been getting a lot of feedback from people about the place, the design, the location, the scene, the quality of the coffee, the pastry or the lokma that we are serving, and a lot of reviews on Facebook, on Instagram as well,” Saifalden said. “We appreciate everybody’s business here.”
Tysons Corner Center welcomed its latest restaurant last week with the opening of Istanbul Kitchen.
Run by Feride Ozkan and Arzu Ozen, who also own Ozfeka Catering, Istanbul Kitchen joins a number of other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern eateries at the mall, from Cava Mezze Grill to The Halal Guys, but this is the only one to specialize specifically in Turkish cuisine.
“You can find all kinds of international food in the mall and we thought ours would be a great addition,” Ozkan said.
Ozkan says Istanbul Kitchen serves “homemade gourmet and healthy selections of Mediterranean cuisine,” including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options so there is something for all dietary preferences.
There is also a variety of desserts, including baklava, rice pudding, cookies, and Turkish coffees and teas.
“We are hoping to become one of the best restaurants in the mall with exceptional quality of foods and customer service,” Ozkan said.
Istanbul Kitchen is located on the first level between McDonald’s and Pokeworks.
“We are pleased to provide small and independent eateries like Istanbul Kitchen the opportunity to showcase their global cuisine with Tysons Corner Center as the backdrop,” said Matt Barry, the assistant vice president of property management for Tysons Corner Center.
Tickle your taste buds at the newly open Istanbul Kitchen here at Tysons Corner Center. They offer an array of Turkish and Mediterranean dishes, pastries, as well as Turkish coffee and tea ❤️ 🍽️ pic.twitter.com/x1cXI4A6N9
— Tysons Corner Center (@ShopTysons) July 9, 2021
Big Buns, which specializes in making different styles of burgers and also provides craft beer and more, filed for Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control beer, wine, and mixed drinks licenses around May 28 and June 1.
“We couldn’t be more excited about these locations,” founder Craig Carey said in an email to Tysons Reporter, noting that the eatery is also working on sites in Franklin Farm and Fairfax.
Big Buns plans to open in Vienna on Sept. 1. Its hours of operation will be from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, according to a state ABC application obtained by Tysons Reporter.
Patch reported that the organic-focused chain Elevation Burger closed its Danor Plaza location in March. A sign still posted to the door notes that its Arlington location remains open (2447 Harrison St. N.).
Big Buns’ planned fall opening depends on permits, construction, and hiring, but Carey believes the timeline should be doable.
“We would love more patio seating but will need to see what the county comes back with in terms of occupancy after they review our plans,” Carey wrote about possible changes from Elevation Burger’s setup.
The chain seeks to have indoor and outdoor seating, with 14 tables outside for 28 people and a full capacity for over 55 seated customers, not including a counter/bar area, according to its state ABC application.
Carey and his business partner Tom Racosky started the chain in Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood in 2007 with the goal of providing a variety of burgers as an alternative to “best burger” restaurants that each focus on their own specialty.
Those seeking jobs at the Vienna location can start at the Reston Big Buns (1908 Reston Metro Plaza) now and will transfer over to Vienna as part of a grand opening team, Carey wrote.
The chain, which typically has a staff of 25 full and part-time workers at each location, is offering $500 sign-up bonuses for workers on their 100th day.
After years of working as a chef in restaurants throughout the region, Thomas Harvey will launch his own restaurant in downtown Falls Church later this year.
The eponymous Harvey’s is slated to open in early September at 513 W Broad Street. Harvey is an Alexandrian, but he says in a press release that Falls Church was the ideal spot for his latest venture.
“Chef Harvey’s goal for his new 2,600-square-foot counter service restaurant is that it will become the neighborhood’s local spot,” the press release said. “…Harvey’s will serve true American cuisine in the sense that it will encompass multiple different cultural dishes, from sandwiches to house-made pasta dishes, and banana splits to Russian pastries. Locally sourced seasonal ingredients will drive the menu.”
The restaurant will serve daily breakfast, lunch, dinner, and weekend brunch in a 48-seat main dining room, a 12-seat beer and wine bar, and an outdoor patio with 70 seats, according to the announcement.
Breakfasts, like croissants, buscuits, or scrambled eggs and sausage are expected to be between $7 to $12. Sandwiches at $12 to $18, entrees at $13 to $28 and desserts from $8 to $12. Among the deserts spotlit in the press release are Russian Honey Cake, along with the classic eclairs and tiramisu.
The restaurant will also have vegetarian options, like the Beyond Burger substitute.
The press release noted that Harvey’s will have beer and wine options as well, with beer selected primarily from local breweries.
According to the press release, the restaurant will also be supplemented by a retail market showcasing signature items from its pantry, along with prepared foods packaged for grab-and-go customers. The market will be open seven days a week with the same hours as the restaurant.
Courtesy Heather Freeman PR
Bloomingdale’s is setting up shop at the Mosaic District — with a culinary twist.
The clothing retailer announced today (Wednesday) that it will launch a new concept for a smaller, more tailored store at the Merrifield mixed-use development on Aug. 26.
Dubbed “Bloomie’s,” the 22,000 square-foot venue will feature a rotating assortment of fashion brands as well as the first Virginia location of the Colada Shop, a Caribbean eatery and cafe that started in D.C. in 2016.
“Our new Bloomie’s store will deliver everything [customers] love about Bloomingdale’s in a highly edited, convenient, and unexpected way,” Bloomingdale’s CEO Tony Spring said in a press release. “We’ve been part of the Washington, D.C., metro area community for decades, and we are excited to welcome new and longtime customers to Bloomie’s to be the first to shop this fresh and casual experience.”
Bloomingdale’s plans to introduce a small-store concept at the Mosaic District this fall were first reported in January by the fashion magazine WWD and its sister publication Footwear News. The Mosaic District confirmed the news through social media.
According to Footwear News, Bloomie’s is part of a broader effort by Macy’s Inc. — Bloomingdale’s parent company — to adapt to an uncertain retail landscape that was shifting away from traditional department stores even before the tumult brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Macy’s Inc. laid off about 3% of its workforce last summer, including hundreds of Bloomingdale’s executives, and is in the midst of a three-year downsizing plan that involves shuttering 125 stores and eliminating 2,000 positions, moves that the company projects will save $630 million annually.
Bloomingdale’s Director of Stores Charles Anderson says the company’s familiarity with the D.C. area, which includes a store in Tysons Corner Center, made the Mosaic District a logical place to introduce the Bloomie’s concept.
“We have two powerful existing Bloomingdale’s stores in the area and a vibrant online business, so Bloomie’s enters a market where customers know our brand,” Anderson said in a statement. “We chose this first Bloomie’s location within Mosaic District…because it provides an approachable and convenient location for customers.”
According to Bloomingdale’s press release, the Mosaic District store will emphasize fresh styles, with deliveries of new apparel coming in multiple times a week.
A centralized front desk will provide various customer services, including a returns dropbox, in-store and curbside pickups for online purchases, and customization and alteration services. The fitting rooms will also be outfitted with digital intercoms that customers can use to request assistance.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect of Bloomie’s, however, is its partnership with Colada Shop, which will have an outdoor patio seating area in addition to its indoor dining room.
The restaurant serves coffee, cocktails, and a variety of Caribbean food, including Cuban sandwiches and empanadas, depending on the location. It currently has two sites in D.C. and one location in Potomac, Maryland.
“My team and I are incredibly excited to become part of one of the DMV’s most innovative retail and entertainment communities,” Colada Shop CEO and co-founder Daniella Senior said. “Not only are we energized to bring the Caribbean way of life to Virginia, but we are also honored to be side-by-side with our partners at Bloomie’s and committed to create the most vibrant and sophisticated experiences for our guests.”
The store will mark its arrival in the Mosaic District “pre-opening activations” throughout the month of August and various festivities during the week of its grand opening on Aug. 26, the press release says.
General Assembly to Hold Special Session in August — “Governor Ralph Northam today [Wednesday] issued a proclamation calling the members of the General Assembly into special session on Monday, August 2. A special session is necessary to fill judicial vacancies and allocate more than $4.3 billion in federal relief funding.” [Office of the Governor]
British Pub Opens Doors in Vienna — Hawk & Griffin had a long-awaited soft opening this week for its 435 Maple Avenue West venue, which is now open for reservations and will start allowing walk-ins on Friday (June 25). The British pub has been in the works since February 2020 but delayed opening due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [Patch]
Tysons Boulevard Lane to Close Again — One northbound lane of Tysons Boulevard will be temporarily closed for a second year to give pedestrians and bicyclists access to a half-mile stretch of road in the Tysons Galleria area. The closure will begin on July 6 with no set end date, though it could be reassessed depending on traffic conditions. [Fairfax County Department of Transportation]
Scott’s Run Trail Project Awarded — A new asphalt pedestrian trail and two bridges over Scott’s Run were named Project of the Year for Transportation in the under-$5 million category by the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the American Public Works Association (APWA). The project started construction in July 2019, and Fairfax County held a ribbon-cutting on Feb. 4. [Fairfax County Park Authority]
Vienna Hosts George Mason University President — GMU President Dr. Gregory Washington will discuss the paradox of Mason’s role as a key figure in American history and as a slaveholder at the Vienna Community Center at 5 p.m. today. The event will also feature a panel discussion as part of the Town of Vienna’s Liberty Amendments Month celebration. [Volunteer Fairfax/Twitter]
Rosslyn-based Taco Rock is planning to open its third location — and its largest to date — in Falls Church this fall.
In a press release, Chef Mike Cordero announced yesterday (Tuesday) that the new Taco Rock will open at 1116 West Broad Street in October.
“The former retail space will be transformed into a 2,815-square-foot fast casual taqueria and tequila bar that replicates its Rosslyn and Alexandria locations,” the press release said.
The restaurant will seat 85 guests and feature a 25-foot tequila bar. The menu will match the existing Arlington and Alexandria locations with the eponymous tacos on blue corn tortillas and churros, along with tequila and Mexican beer.
The new Taco Rock will be located in Falls Plaza Shopping Center, which has been rebranded as Birch & Broad in conjunction with ongoing renovations to the property. Existing retailers include a remodeled Giant, CVS Pharmacy, Starbucks, and Jersey Mike’s.
“Team Cordero is excited to expand Taco Rock‘s footprint in Northern Virginia with the opening of our largest and third location,” Cordero said in the press release. “The newly renovated Birch & Broad shopping plaza makes a perfect fit for our establishment and we anticipate the Falls Church community will welcome our concept.”
(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Despite the uncertainty introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Tysons Corner Center has welcomed several new retailers in recent months, and a handful of newcomers are slated to move in within the foreseeable future, the shopping mall announced last Friday (June 4).
Tysons Corner Center Senior Marketing Manager Todd Putt says the mall has seen a “large volume of shoppers returning” as the pandemic has started to recede in Fairfax County.
“Clearly, shoppers are ready to move past the pandemic and we are seeing shoppers from across all age demographics,” Putt said in a statement to Tysons Reporter. “After being forced to stay close to home, individuals are looking for better experiences and services when they shop. Specialty retail brands are eager to get back on track launching their concepts and we are excited to be a partner to make that happen.”
Tenants waiting in the wings include Chopathi India Kitchen — a fast-casual Indian restaurant that currently has locations in Dulles Town Center, Ashburn, and Hanover, Maryland — and Fantasticks, which makes custom gelato bars and pops. This will be the artisan gelato shop’s third location, coupled with one in Gaithersburg and a pop-up at One Loudoun in Ashburn.
The mall also confirmed that Lucid Motors is still set to open a studio on site. The electric car company announced in July 2020 that it will move into Tysons Corner Center as part of plans to expand with 20 new studios and service centers in North America by the end of this year.
Lucid is also planning to bring a store and service center to Tysons Galleria, but its special exception application for that location is not scheduled to go before the Fairfax County Planning Commission until Oct. 20.
The clothing retailer Primark announced on April 28 that it will make its entry into Virginia with a two-story, 37,100 square-foot store at Tysons Corner Center. The London-based fast fashion company has opened 12 stores in the U.S. since September 2015 and anticipates launching in Tysons sometime between September 2023 and September 2024.
The final announced upcoming retailer is Fabletics, which sells sportswear, footwear, and “athleisure” accessories. The company primarily operates online selling subscription memberships, but it also has over 50 brick-and-mortar stores and plans to bring that number up to 74 stores in 2021.
Tysons Corner Center also announced that the following retailers and eateries have recently opened:
Psycho Bunny — a New York City menswear brand known for sophisticated styles that stand apart from the rest, with an unconventional logo, unexpected detailing and expressive pops of color that together offer an escape from ordinary.
Therabody — World-leading percussive therapy massage devices. Everybody experiences soreness, tension, or tightness — whether it’s from sitting at a desk, working out, or just living life. Therabody’s products make it easier than ever to feel better on your schedule and on your terms.
Diesel — Known for its long and storied history of strong, ironic, and playful campaigns, the Italian retail brand reopened in its new location on Level 2 of the mall and sells denim, clothing, footwear, and accessories.
Roll by Goodyear — a popular pop-up concept by Goodyear that says goodbye to garages and waiting rooms and brings tires to you.
Ardene — a family-owned Canadian value fashion retailer based in Montreal, Quebec. Founded in 1982, Ardene started as an accessories and jewelry retailer, and has since added clothing, shoes, brand collaborations, and licensed apparel into its product mix.
3DEN — Flexible urban amenity spaces and work lounges. 3DEN Tysons Corner has cozy nooks everywhere, space to work, space to lounge, plus free coffee and lightning-fast WiFi. Guests only need the 3DEN app and to access the lounge for just $5 an hour or $99 a month for unlimited access.
Minte — provides a high-end, natural plant and mineral-based teeth whitening experience in a relaxed setting.
Squishables — a popular toy store known for its soft, cuddly, and adorable plush products.
Tysons Reporter previously reported that 3DEN had opened in Tysons Corner Center’s BrandBox space in March.
The pandemic has hit shopping malls hard over the past year, with The Washington Post reporting in April that nearly 200 department stores have closed and another 800 locations are projected to follow suit by the end of 2025.
According to Retail Dive, the pandemic accelerated a shift toward online shopping, and the retail industry saw a significant decline in foot traffic throughout 2020, though numbers started to improve in June as states like Virginia started to ease public health restrictions.
Primary Voter Turnout Expected to Follow Pre-Pandemic Trends — “While tens of thousands of Virginians already voted early ahead of the primary election on Tuesday, the turnout for people casting ballots in person is expected to look more like it did before the coronavirus pandemic. ‘I suspect that the bulk of the voters will be voting tomorrow as they traditionally have,’ said Fairfax County General Registrar Scott Konopasek. [WTOP]
Capital One Hall Announces More Performers — After revealing its first confirmed performer last week, Capital One Hall announced today that the rock band Kansas and comedians John Crist and Taylor Tomlinson will join country singer Clint Black in the Tysons performing arts venue’s inaugural season lineup. Tickets for all of the shows announced so far will go on sale at 10 a.m. on Friday (June 11). [Capital One Hall/Twitter]
Texas Jack’s Ranch Eyes September Opening — Texas Jack’s Ranch plans to open at the Lumen apartments near the Greensboro Metro station this September, about a year after previously anticipated. The Italian restaurant is owned by the same team behind Texas Jack’s Barbecue in Arlington, and the team of international chefs will be led by ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ finalist Declan Horgan. [Patch]
County Board to Vote on Demolishing McLean House — Today’s Fairfax County Board of Supervisors meeting will have several spot blight abatement public hearings, including one for a house at 1045 Bellview Road in McLean that’s currently owned by the Embassy of Qatar but has been abandoned for the past five to six years. The building caught fire last Halloween, and there are plans to replace it with a new house. [Patch]
Regional Coalition Recommends Economic Development Strategy — A coalition of D.C. area government, business, nonprofit, and education leaders called Connected DMV released a report on how the region can work together to encourage economic growth. The report included data illustrating drastic differences in economic mobility between the east and west sides of I-95, with Fairfax County ranking high and the District on the low end. [The Washington Post]