5 Things to Expect at G, Mike Isabella's Italian Sandwich
By Jessica Voelker | February 7, 2013
When Mike Isabella was searching for a home for his new Greek restaurant, he saw potential in a 7,000 square feet space at 14th and W Streets, Northwest. "People said it's a little high up," says Isabella, "but I don't see it that way." The chef was convinced it was a good location, but 7,000 square feet—that's a big restaurant. So he decided to do two concepts in one.
The Greek spot will be called Kapnos, which means "smoke" in Greek—a reference to the spit-roasted whole animals that form the heart of the menu. Adjacent to Kapnos—with decor similar to that at Graffiato, Isabella's Italian restaurant in Penn Quarter—will be the flagship location of what the chef envisions as a chain of Italian sandwich shops called G.
"G is a little sister to Graffiato," says Isabella. He designed the new places to complement rather than compete with each other. Kapnos meats will make their way into the 'wiches at G, and the latter restaurant won't have a bar. "I don't want anything to take away from the bar at Kapnos," says the chef.
Here are five things to expect when G debuts in late spring or early summer.
1) Soups, salads, and sides—some of which will be familiar from Graffiato. Roasted cauliflower and Caesar salad with those decadent cream-cheese croutons—dishes well-known to Graffiato fans—also show up on the menu at G. New offerings include a chicken noodle soup with a soft egg and minestrone. For dessert, look out for the Graffiato rainbow cookies and zeppole served "carnival style" in a brown paper bag.
2) Four sorts of sandwich on the menu. The G menu divides its 'wiches into four different categories. There are the "Italian classics," eight-inch, hero-shop varieties such as eggplant parm, meatball parm, and an Italian sub. Panini (called "pressed sandwiches") include a Cuban with prosciutto cotto instead of ham, and a "spicy mushroom" panino with Taleggio cheese, arugula pesto, and cherry pepper aïoli. In the "fresh and healthy" category will be a turkey sandwich alla giardiniera (with sliced pickled vegetables) on whole grain bread with lemon-thyme mayo. Isabella's wife, Stacy, inspired the chicken salad sandwich with sunflower seeds, sprouts, and avocado on focaccia. Turkey and chicken will be roasted in house. The roasted cauliflower shows up on country bread with arugula and romesco sauce.
And then there are those spit-roasted meatwiches. Suckling pig will be served with broccoli rabe, provolone, and spicy apple mostarda on a sesame bun. Nestled between slices of ciabatta you'll find baby goat with harissa, lemon potatoes, and oregano, or spring lamb with tzatziki, romaine, pickled onion, and mint.
3) Oh, and a breakfast sandwich called the "Jersey Mac." "We took the Egg McMuffin and evolved it a little bit," says Isabella. Served on a duck-fat English muffin, the sandwich combines a duck egg over easy with Muenster cheese and Taylor ham from New Jersey—because Muenster is "what my mom used on her breakfast sandwiches," says the chef.
4) A four-course, $40 tasting menu. At first, sandwiches will be served during the day and on Tuesday nights. Isabella hopes to expand sandwich hours into the evening and eventually get into the late-night game. But when G first opens, evenings at the restaurant will be devoted entirely to a four-course, reservation-only feast that begins with an antipasti made up of six elements—cured meats, cheese, olives, liver, foie gras—followed by a pasta. "It could be gnocchi, it could be linguini," says Isabella. For the third course, diners will opt for fish or meat—rack of lamb, pork shoulder, "whatever we want to do." A dessert course finishes things off.
5) A monthly special inspired by a fellow chef. First up: Scott Drewno. Isabella famously punked the Wolfgang Puck chef by suggesting, in interviews, that people order an off-menu "Mike Isabella" dumpling platter in the lounge at the Source. That they did, much to the chagrin of the kitchen. To make amends, he'll feature a special Scott Drewno 'wich at G. The special sandwiches won't be listed on the menu; follow Isabella on Twitter to stay up to speed.