Photos of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have covered the outdoor dining tents and topped a Christmas tree at Floriana since November, but customers braving the cold got a real glimpse of the politician last night at the long-running Dupont Circle Italian restaurant.
Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff showed up in plain black masks on Monday, January 4, to support the 41-year-old pasta place and snap a selfie of the still-standing Christmas tree on 17th Street NW festooned with American flags, blue ornaments, and cutouts of Harris and President-elect Joe Biden.
“Our small businesses have really been hurting across the country so we want to come out and just celebrate them and encourage everyone to support our small business until we get through this,” Harris reportedly said at the scene.
Congress is scheduled to meet Wednesday, January 6, to certify Electoral College votes that deliver the presidency to the Biden-Harris ticket. At least 14 Senate Republicans plan to oppose the process, a desperation move supporting claims of voter fraud from President Donald Trump that have been debunked at every turn. Pro-Trump protesters have rallies scheduled in D.C. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Let me just tell you something. We’re going to be inaugurated, period,” Harris said at Floriana, according to the Daily Mail.
This winter, Floriana adopted a “Kamala la-la-la-la la-la-la-la” Christmas theme with the attention-grabbing tree. A Harris cutout, not Biden, got the star position at the peak of the pine, and seven different posters of the VP-to-be hung from the sides of tents covering the restaurant’s expanded streetside dining setup. The Daily Mail reports Floriana’s festive tree also had ornaments with the slogan of first lady Melania Trump’s “Be Best” initiative.
Floriana owner Jamie Branda tells Eater that bar manager Dito Sevilla “was the genius behind this and all Floriana trees.”
“We chose Harris for the theme because of all of the excitement that comes with her new position in the administration and in DC,” Branda wrote in an email.
Although the posters appear to have been removed in recent weeks, Branda says that’s because several tents were destroyed by heavy rainstorms. The photos went back when new tents arrived to replace placeholders.
Branda says Floriana received less than an hour of advance notice that Harris would be visiting the restaurant.
“The Vice President-elect specifically asked after our staff and wanted to make sure they were getting through all of the current troubles,” Branda writes. “We also discussed cooking and how families have had their mealtimes shifted with work and school from home. It sounds like the second gentleman makes a good chicken. I offered him some shifts in our kitchen.”
While Trump famously did not visit any D.C. restaurants besides the one inside his downtown D.C. hotel, Biden and Harris are expected to bring an Obama-like presidential buzz back to the District’s dining scene.
This post has been updated to include comments from Floriana owner Jamie Branda