Philotimo, chef and restaurateur Nicholas Stefanelli’s soaring downtown tribute to Grecian food, wine, and culture, rebooted service on Wednesday, November 1 after a year-plus hiatus.
At Philotimo 2.0 (1100 15th Street NW), which joins lauded Italian (Officina, Michelin-starred Masseria) and French (Le Clou) eateries in Stefanelli’s Creative Food Group portfolio, he continues to cultivate his fine-dining skill on the fertile terrain of his Greek ancestry.
The glossy Greek restaurant framed with soaring windows first opened in downtown’s shiny new Midtown Center in January 2022, only to close six months later due to a fire. Now it’s back with a refreshed look and many of the same creative takes on regional Greek dishes — but without its original $108-per-person prix fixe model. The new all-a la carte menu romps around various Grecian corners—from lush northern craggy peaks to desert, sun-baked islets—that Stefanelli encountered on visits to the idyllic country.
Philotimo now kicks off the meal with homemade breads served with new-harvest Greek olive oil, house-cured meats, and a plethora of small plates. Think taramasalata (a creamy roe spread); tirokafteri (a spicy mash of feta cheese); dolmades (grape leaves stuffed with rice); loukanika (pork and lamb sausage with leeks, orange, and coriander); and beef tripe soup in a luscious avgolemono-style broth.
Stefanelli, whose ancestry is both Greek and Italian, birthed Philotimo as a way to “start telling the other side of my family through food and wine.” Through his journeys, he cultivated relationships with various artisan beekeepers, olive grove cultivators, sea salt collectors, cheesemakers, and others across Greece from whom he sources products for the restaurant.
“I want to show the depth and beauty of Greece,” says Stefanelli. “We’re here to tell the story of past and modern-day Greece, and bring it to the nation’s capital.”
One returning dish is mantia, tiny, veal-stuffed dumplings cloaked in a umami-rich brown butter sauce with a swoosh of yogurt. Mains also include a filet of dorade royale paired with tomatoes, capers and olives; grilled Mediterranean octopus with black eye peas, basil and chili; roasted Shenandoah Valley lamb with lemon and oregano; stuffed quail; and olive-oil braised pork belly with cabbage. Newly named chef de cuisine Blaine Welsh was most recently was executive chef of Destination Unknown Restaurants (Destino, Ghostbuger).
For dessert, a “Greek breakfast” riffs on the way the Greeks start their day: coffee and a cigarette. Philotimo’s take features chocolate sorbet, coffee mousse and chantilly cream layered in a mug with a rolled chocolate ganache on the saucer. Homemade phyllo dough helps construct baklava and a vanilla sundae layered with a pistachio praline crumble and phyllo crisps.
Philotimo’s original designer Grupo 7 went back in to tweak its white stucco look with materials like burlap, rope, crystals, and metal. Structural additions include a second bar upstairs, an expanded event space accessed via a private elevator, and DJ booth that provides the music on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
The Philotimo team includes general manager and wine director Sotiris Bafitis, who has a 4,000-bottle cellar to fill with all sorts of imported Mediterranean varietals.
Beverage director Joseph Kocjan works with Greek exports at the bar like mastiha, a liqueur made from the mastic tree that only grows on the Greek island of Chios. Cocktails include the “Graydon Carter” (Metaxa 5 Stars brandy, Greek mountain tea, honey, lime and sparkling rose) and “If I Were in Mykonos,” with gin, Mediterranean tonic, fruit, herbs and spices.
The restaurant’s name recalls the Greek words “filos,” meaning friend, and “timi,” meaning honor, for a rough translation of “honor your friends.” Stefanelli, however, notes that in Greek culture, the term conveys hospitality and a sense of caring for and connecting with friends, family, neighbors, and community.
Reopening hours are Tuesday to Friday, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., with brunch coming soon. Its next-door nighttime bar Kaimaki, which also temporarily closed with Philotimo, will come back soon as a sleek, all-day cafe that transitions from coffee in the morning to cocktails and wine at night.
Philotimo returns just as D.C. welcomes a surge of fresh Mediterranean options. NYC import Limani just opened along the Southwest Waterfront and Greek-themed Balos is scheduled to debut in Dupont in early December.
While Philotimo went dark last year, Stefanelli debuted modern French brasserie Le Clou at the foot of NoMa’s Morrow hotel. His anticipated cocktail-and-caviar lounge Vesper will be opening up top soon.
—Evan Caplan contributed to this report