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Tenured D.C. Chef John Melfi Is Leaving Modena for a New Life in Italy

Plus, a flashy Greek eatery in NYC signs at the Wharf, a D.C. Starbucks closes over safety concerns, and it’s last call for an Eater DC-designed sandwich

A portrait of Modena executive chef John Melfi.
John Melfi, the executive chef at downtown’s chic pasta place Modena since 2019, makes a big exit from D.C.’s fine-dining world.
Rey Lopez/Eater D.C.
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

One of D.C.’s most celebrated chefs is packing up and moving to Italy. John Melfi, who’s led the acclaimed kitchens at Fiola Mare, Blue Duck Tavern, Fiola, and since-shuttered Vidalia and Oval Room, will soon live in the actual Northern Italian region he artfully showcases on plates at downtown’s modern Modena. (His last day is Wednesday, July 20, he tells Eater, and Knightsbridge Restaurant Group’s Ashok Bajaj will announce a replacement next month.) D.C. simultaneously loses a pastry pro this summer. Melfi will make the big move with Claudia Barrovecchio, the pastry chef at Michelin-rated Fiola since 2018. The two met while working at the Fabio Trabocchi flagship five years ago, and their YOLO leap to Europe reads much like a romance novel. The culinary power couple plans to buy a 35-year-old pasticceria in Vinovo, an idyllic town in the region of Piedmont, where Barrovecchio’s family is from. The pair set up a GoFundMe page to help update and expand the local favorite that baked Barrovecchio’s first birthday cake.

The Wharf nets a fancy Greek restaurant out of NYC

Rockefeller Plaza’s showy Mediterranean mainstay Limani is the latest big-name tenant to sign on at the Southwest Waterfront mixed-use development, reports Washington Business Journal. The 6,712-square-foot, seafood-centric location will sit at the foot of a glassy new office building (670 Wharf Street SW) anchored by law firm Williams & Connolly. Other newly announced tenants include Kinfolk from the team behind La Vie and Blank Street Coffee. The Wharf’s 1.15 million-square-foot second phase, set to pop in October, also includes blockbuster arrivals from celebrity chefs Gordon Ramsay and Philippe Chow.

Thaiverse to replace Darlington House

Starbucks to shutter in Union Station over safety concerns

Starbucks will permanently close 16 U.S. stores by the end of July — including one in D.C. inside Union Station — due to unsettling crime complaints related to drug use, stealing, and attacks. Starbucks says “challenging incidents” are making certain locations unsafe for employees and customers. Closures will also occur in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia.

In bread battle news...

It’s last call to try the “Summer Tierkey” — a smoked turkey and salami melt on ciabatta constructed by yours truly, Eater DC editor Tierney Plumb — at Baker’s Daughter in Ivy City and downtown’s Eaton Hotel. The debut Sammie Standoff series between food media personalities pitted Plumb’s sandwich against Washingtonian food editor Anna Spiegel’s “The Notorious BLT” for the past month ($10 each). Starting Friday, July 15, chef Matt Baker’s friendly carb competition continues with two new contenders: Tim Ebner’s “Bologna & The Baker” and Nevin Martell’s “A Lotta Muffaletta”.

For a D.C. sandwich from an actual Food Network contestant, Buffalo & Bergen owner Gina Chersevani offers a riff on the same winning dish she made for Guy Fieri on last week’s premiere episode of Guy’s Grocery Games Summer Tournament. The $12 special piles fried shrimp, heirloom tomatoes, red onion, and basil on a griddled bagel with garlic and butter.

Buffalo & Bergen owner Gina Chersevani’s winning recipe is available at the Capitol Hill location through Friday, July 15.
Buffalo & Bergen