On a recent Friday afternoon, a steady stream of neighborhood regulars and passersby took turns calling out orders for espresso drinks, gelato, and midday snacks at the Italian Bar, a narrow, sun-lit spot for Roman-style delights in upper Northwest D.C.
The Italian Bar (5008 Connecticut Avenue NW), a tiny new next-door counterpart to neighborhood favorite I’m Eddie Cano, is an all-in-one coffee shop and full-service cocktail experience. The cashless, no tipping cafe (an 18-percent charge is added to non-retail items) offers breakfast pastries and quick caffeine throughout the day, along with panini and sandwich options during the afternoon and evening hours. A compact list of alcohol options mostly includes wines and amaro, along with a handful of draft beers and cocktails to keep things easy and casual.
The Italian Bar opens at 7 a.m. daily, and closing time varies (depending on the day).
The cute, catch-all bar is uniquely Italian, says Carolyn Papetti, a sommelier who owns the business with her husband, Massimo. The couple created Italian Bar as an extension of the welcoming hospitality that hit the strip when their mod Italian-American favorite I’m Eddie Cano opened in 2018.
There are no seats other than a small patio, and a mirror on the bar’s back wall ensures that the baristas can see (and chat with) guests while operating the centerpiece espresso machine by hand.
“That’s part of the culture of enjoying the coffee,” Papetti says.
The tight beverage menu features classics made with Lavazza espresso. One Italian favorite served on-site is the caffé shakerato, a frothy jolt of espresso over ice. American drip coffee and cold brew are options, too.
A small tap system will feature wine, beer, and a pair of fizzy Italian cocktails. Expect an Aperol spritz and a negroni “sbagliato,” which uses sparking wine in place of gin. Bar goers can also order from a selection of Italian wines, bitter liqueurs, and other basic liquor drinks as available.
Alongside the coffee program, the Italian Bar’s top-tier Carpigiani gelato maker churns out more than a dozen flavors like pistachio and gianduja, a chocolate-hazelnut mashup. A walk-up window sends out cups and cones of one ($4.95) or two ($5.95) flavors to help beat the D.C. heat on the street.
The same savory items found in cafes and piazzas in Rome fill out the Chevy Chase menu. There’s a rotating selection of light tramezzini sandwiches ($3.25) and “focaccia ripiena,” ($6.25) stuffed with ingredients like smoked salmon and stracchino cheese or mozzarella, tomato, and basil.
The sunny space is tied together with design elements like Roman brick floor tiles, an open window into the gelato kitchen, and a wooden bar top refinished by Papetti and her family. A few shelves stocked with Italian groceries and beverages are on display for purchase as well.
Papetti hopes Washingtonians will embrace the opportunity to socialize and be close to one another again.
“The timing is right,” she says of the opening. “People want to be seen and they want to connect.”
Next up for the couple: planting a neighborhood pizzeria in Glover Park’s old Arcuri space next month.