In June 2011, Chef Mike Isabella opened Graffiato, an Italian-inspired restaurant in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, DC. The 130-seat spot allows Chef Isabella to interact with guests while he crafts comforting dishes from seasonal produce and locally cured hams, hand-rolled pastas and marinated vegetable accoutrements. The two-story layout features an open ham bar on the second floor and a large wood oven tucked behind a U-shaped counter with 15 bar stools on the first floor. Both stations encourage dialogue between the guests and chefs.
Chef Isabella serves seasonal, artisanal pizzas and small plates inspired by the food he grew up eating in New Jersey prepared by his Italian-American grandmother. With heavy influence from Chef Isabella's Mediterranean and Latin culinary training, Graffiato is anything but a traditional Italian eatery. Roasted potato gnocchi, chicken thighs with pepperoni sauce, bone marrow with cured lemon, and king crab legs with sea urchin and guanciale are a few of the signature wood oven-roasted dishes. Warm made-to-order fresh-stretched mozzarella and spiced red beets with pork fried almonds are popular first plates. When the kitchen closes, the oven will stay fired to feed Washingtonians looking for a late-night bite. Food, wine and beer are sourced domestically, and often from the East Coast. Look for unique cocktails, domestic wine and Prosecco served straight from a tap.
About Chef Mike Isabella
Mike Isabella is the Chef/Owner of Graffiato, which opened in June 2011 in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The 130-seat Italian-inspired spot features small plates, locally cured meats, artisanal pizzas, and pastas with seasonal ingredients influenced by the food Chef Isabella grew up eating in New Jersey prepared by his Italian-American grandmother. Chef Isabella was named FOOD & WINE'S The People's Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic winner for 2012.
Before opening Graffiato, Chef Isabella was the executive chef of José Andrés' Zaytinya. During his three-year tenure, Chef Isabella generated accolades and national attention for Washington, D.C.'s Mediterranean powerhouse restaurant.
Chef Isabella's formal training began at The Restaurant School in New York, taking classes and cooking his way through some of New York City's finest establishments. After honing his skills in the Big Apple, he travelled down the coast to Philadelphia, first as a sous chef for James Beard Award winner Douglas Rodriguez at Alma de Cuba, then at a host of other Stephen Starr restaurants. At El Vez, Chef Isabella learned the true craft of Latin cuisine under the direction of Jose Garces, and as Executive Sous Chef of Marcus Samuelsson's Washington Square, he educated himself on the strenuous yet exciting task of opening a fine dining establishment.
While Philadelphia proved to be an incredible learning experience and launching ground, Chef Isabella still needed to find his niche. That niche came when he moved to Atlanta and joined Buckhead Life Group's top-notch Greek restaurant, Kyma. As Chef de Cuisine of the seafood-inspired menu, Chef Isabella learned the slight flavors and techniques of Greek cooking and immersed himself in the traditions of one of the oldest cuisines in the world. While traveling through Greece and parts of the Middle East, Chef Isabella learned the nuances of these cuisines. Talking to locals and sifting through the daily markets gave Chef Isabella a chance to truly understand these foods and helped to form a base for his culinary imagination.
Outside the kitchen, Chef Isabella appeared on Season Six of Top Chef, and he was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars. In September 2012, he published his first cookbook with Da Capo Lifelong Books titled, Mike Isabella's Crazy Good Italian. In 2013, Chef Isabella plans to open the Greek concept, Kapnos, and Italian sandwich shop, G. These will be his third and fourth restaurants in Washington, D.C.