clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Seafood Institution Pesce Returns to Dupont Under New Ownership

Longtime employee and artist Judita Doliveira reimagines the underwater gem in the old Brine space

Fishy plates overlook Pesce’s new dining room.
Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

Iconic seafood house Pesce reemerges in its original Dupont neighborhood on Thursday, February 1. Newly named Pesce Seafood House takes over the prime corner most recently home to Brine, the short-lived raw bar that served its last oyster on November 11 along with its original locale on H Street NE.

Judita Doliveira, Brine’s former general manager and a longtime Pesce employee, steps in as the sole new operator. She says she maintains a “wonderful relationship” with building owner Aaron McGovern, the D.C. restaurant vet who long ran Russia House in the same site before replacing it with his critically acclaimed Brine last year.

The nautical newcomer continues to seat 47 across two dining rooms and a bar, plus a seven-seat private patio out front (1800 Connecticut Avenue NW). “We are a small fish, but a very strong fish,” Doliveira tells Eater.

Pesce brings back its famed calamari.

Pesce was first founded over 30 years ago by famed French chef Jean Louis Palladin and Roberto Donna, who Doliveira worked under for two decades until 2018. Chef Andrew LaPorta took over the first Pesce until his untimely death in 2021, which resulted in its ultimate closure.

Doliveira calls Regine Palladin, Jean Louis’s widow, one of her “biggest mentors.” With Palladin’s blessing to revive the historic Pesce name, Doliveira plans to pay homage to the storied classic with a “little more twists and menu choices.”

Think lots of glistening crudo, tartares, and fresh sardines and anchovies. Grilled sardines prepared with butter and garlic were a longtime hit at Pesce, as was the calamari marinated in thyme, rosemary, and olive oil. Also look for a short selection of oysters alongside a list of bivalve-friendly beers, wines, and cocktails. Profish will continue to be one of its seafood purveyors.

“We want to offer amazing food with great quality,” she says.

Flavorful mussels at Pesce.

Chef Jose Benitez followed in Doliveira’s same path, having also worked at Pesce before cooking at Brine. Pesce 2.0 will also introduce a 5-seat chef’s table at its small central bar, featuring five to eight courses with optional wine pairings.

Painted ceramic tiles overlook the small bar.

Doliveira is lifelong painter and ceramist with big artistic ties to Miami’s South Beach, where she also holds extensive experience in restaurant management. Faces are her forte, and she’s working on a series of fish-eyed murals made of charcoal and acrylic to surround the space.

“Pesce combines my two loves — food and art,” says the Venezuelan-Portuguese owner. “I’m grateful to the universe that all the hard work over the years has paid off.”

Brine’s old home got an artistic refresh for its new life as Pesce.

The Romanesque and Classical Revival townhouse, built in 1906, welcomed Russia House as a private club in 1991 before opening to the public in 2003. McGovern performed a sizable renovation before swapping in his essential seafood spot Brine in early 2023.

A food-and-drink happy hour will run from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. every single day to accommodate longtime neighborhood regulars who can’t make it in time during the week due to work, she says. Pesce will offer both reservations and walk-ins.

Pesce’s former P Street NW address, located a few blocks away from the reboot, recently welcomed modern Mexican restaurant Amparo Fondita. Donna, meanwhile, went on to open Roberto’s Ristorante Italiano in Vienna, Virginia in 2022.