Mirabelle, a French-influenced fixture for prix fixe meals near the White House since 2017, will not reemerge from a pandemic-induced closure. Instead, owner Hakan Ilhan is flipping the glitzy space at 900 16th Street NW into an Italian restaurant with a more approachable price point. Il Piatto, which means “the dish” in Italian, is expected to open in August.
“Comfort food is never out of style, and during the pandemic there was [even] more evidence of that,” Ilhan says. “We felt that Italian is something people can relate to very easily.”
New executive chef Christ Lanydrek was most recently executive sous chef at the Annapolis Yacht Club and previously cooked at Le Grenier on H Street NE. Lanydrek was born in the Republic of the Congo, graduated from Académie Culinaire de France in Paris, and learned to cook Italian food while working in restaurants in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
Il Piatto will serve starters in the $10 to $18 range, including crispy zucchini flowers and fried burrata. Mains ($18 to $35) for fettuccine alla bolognese, tagliatelle carbonara with truffle garlic cream, and penne a la vodka with salami and sausage. There will also be protein-centric plates like meatball cacciatore, chicken Parmesan, veal Milanese, and grilled chicken marsala. A desserts section will include Italian favorites like chocolate panna cotta and tiramisu. A ricotta veloute will be served with porcini mushroom broth, and a seafood broth cioppino comes with salmon fricasse, shrimp, Italian sausage, and tomatoes.
Along with Italian aperitifs, Aperol spritzes, and Campari cocktails, wines from both Italy and America will run $35 to $250 by the bottle and $8 to $21 by the glass. A weekday happy hour (4 p.m. to 6 p.m.) will slash prices on small plates and flatbreads topped with ingredients like prosciutto, artichoke and spinach ricotta.
Ilhan says Italian food is his personal favorite. His portfolio already covers the cuisine at upper Northwest’s Al Dente — a takeout favorite of Dr. Anthony Fauci during the pandemic. He also runs Turkish-inspired Ottoman Taverna and French-themed Brasserie Liberté in Georgetown.
The 4,300-square-foot space’s original midcentury look from Norris Design Studio will largely stay the same. Glamorous touches include red reptilian upholstery, mirrored and gold accents, and a custom brass and wood chandelier hovering above a Carrara marble floor installation.
Mirabelle’s fine-dining pricing mirrored its ornate look over the course of its lifespan, famously opening with a $26 ham and butter sandwich for lunch under James Beard Award-winning chef Frank Ruta, who made a controversial split just a year later. Following a staff shakeup, Alinea alum Keith Bombaugh stepped in with prix-fixe menus ($75-$195) full of French, Mid-Atlantic, and New England flavors. Mirabelle has been closed since D.C.’s first dine-in ban last year.
Ilhan says the pandemic taught him that a pricey, special occasion place serving theatrical and time-intensive meals would need to change its model in order to survive, which included targeting more than just an expense account crowd. He describes the forthcoming restaurant as “not expensive, but [still] sophisticated, and approachable to many walks of life.”
The restaurant’s location at the corner of 16th and Eye Street NW puts it right on the border of year-old Black Lives Matter Plaza, which Ilhan says creates an opportunity to capture a new crowd of tourists.