Restaurateur and chef Nick Stefanelli opens Philotimo at Midtown Center, revealing a passion for design that equals a love for Greek cuisine.
The main dining room merges elements of classic and modern Greek design.
Step inside one of Nick Stefanelli’s restaurants, whether it’s the Michelin-starred Masseria (masseria-dc.com) or the bustling and chic Officina (officinadc.com), and it’s obvious the restaurateur and chef worships the tenets of exceptional design. With his recently opened restaurant, Greek-themed Philotimo (philotimodc.com), Stefanelli, who cooked under culinary legends Roberto Donna, Fabio Trabocchi and Thomas Keller—and led Bibiana when Esquire named it restaurant of the year—is back in the design saddle again.
Stefanelli collaborated with DC-based Grupo7 Architecture + Interiors (grupo-7.com), whose team is responsible for the distinct design vernacular of venues like the AKA Hotel, Highline and Fare Well.
At Philotimo, white sandstone lines the entryway and leads guests to the heart of the space: a wood-burning hearth. Adjacent to a 62-seat dining room are an open kitchen, a 1 0-seat bar, a chef’s counter and a table inside the kitchen where the chef treats guests to a range of surprises from the grill.
Local lamb with spinach, tzatziki and sunchokes
Linen banquettes populate the glass-filled dining room, along with eucalyptus branches and rope chandeliers, bridging a modern and ancient Mediterranean aesthetic. Philotimo’s wine cellar will hold 4,000 bottles, focusing on the depth of Greece’s regional terroir. Once the weather warms, Stefanelli will open a 44-seat patio. We sat down with the busy chef to learn how this gorgeous restaurant came together.
Given the breadth of the menu and design details, I suspect you’ve been thinking about this concept for quite some time. How has Philotimo evolved? The idea for Philotimo started six years ago, when I was on a wine trip to Greece. Since that trip—and over these last several years—it’s really been a building process and something that’s constantly growing and evolving. We had been in talks with Carr Properties to go into the building, and it was serendipitous that everything was able to come together to take Philotimo from a dream to a reality.
Even now that we’re open and have brought the restaurant alive, it’s a constant work in progress as we layer in new elements, such as the cafe and wine bar—Kaimaki—which will debut this spring. It will offer breakfast, lunch, light dinner and grab-and-go options featuring the flavors of Greece.
Adjacent to the wine cellar, a semiprivate balcony overlooks the main dining room.
Which design detail in the new space is one you’re keen to show everyone? I truly love the space in general, but if I had to choose a specific aspect, the private dining room is really special. The center of the room features a large, round table made of marble and granite that offers a unique private dining experience. The space, which seats up to 15 people, is also accessible by way of a private elevator entrance.
Two or three standout menu items? I really love the beginning of the experience—the mezze course—which is chosen by the kitchen to welcome guests and is an unexpected gesture. It’s not listed on the menu and offers a primer in Greek gastronomy, showcasing our contemporary influence on classic Greek foods and techniques. The mezze selections, like other areas of the menu, are constantly changing and evolving based on what’s in season.
Photography by: Deb Lindsey