A La Carte

Georgetown Via Umbria

September 28, 2014

When the owners of an Italian lifestyle shop explain that "a truffle hunter we know helps guests pick their evening meal at our Umbrian villa," you know you're in the right place.

Marc Ulep with Lucia (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Marc Ulep with Lucia
The Georgetown Dish had the chance to sit down with Suzy and Bill Menard on the eve of the opening of Via Umbria. Their tag line is 'Discover, Savor, Share' and for these informal ambassadors of Umbria, a passion for all things Italian has been turned into a business. "It's the right place, the right time and the right audience," they explain. Locals may remember the charming Bella Italia in Bethesda, which the Menards ran for 10 years. At Via Umbria, the shopping experience expands exponentially: from ceramics and gifts to an Italian market, cooking classes, a book club, art gallery, chef events, and yes, customized food and wine tours of Umbria.

Geribi ceramics from Umbria (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Geribi ceramics from Umbria

Through their longstanding relationships with local artisans, the Menards have access to the very best indigenous products straight from the source. 

And they have also made their idyllic farmhouse, Fattoria del Gelso Casa in Cannara (Umbria’s artistic, cultural, historic, culinary and oenological center), a rental! Whether hosting visitors themselves or merely designing customized itineraries, they're able to offer an intimate experience of the striking landscape and the traditions they've come to know and love so well.

Fattoria del Gelso Casa (Farmhouse with Mulberry tree) (Photo by: viaumbria.com) Fattoria del Gelso Casa (Farmhouse with Mulberry tree)

Having recently bought the Georgetown building (formerly the Tari boutique which has reopened at 1742 Wisconsin Avenue), the Menards are here to stay. Now through the end of the year, the first floor is a holiday pop-up boutique filled with imaginative and useful gifts for cooking and entertaining, and an enormous collection of Geribi, their favorite Umbrian ceramics. From authentic cooking tools for making pasta in all sorts of shapes and handmade local pottery, to iconic Alessi designs. All things Italian, and everything made in Italy.

Ceramic wine bottle corks (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Ceramic wine bottle corks

"Our sense of discovery has led us to seek out amazing things, and enjoy wonderful company," says Bill, a former lawyer. Clearly commited to the concept of sharing, the Menards also own a butcher shop in Rome. Imagine the artisanal gourmet treats that await us.

Benvenuti in Georgetown!

Via Umbria is located at 1525 Wisconsin Avenue. Tel: 202.333.3904


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Amina Rubinacci Celebrates Italian Style

September 24, 2014

(Photo by: Judith Beermann)

"What I love about the line," says owner Merribel Ayres, "is that Amina Rubinacci's clothes make me feel so good." In March of this year, the Naples-based designer debuted her luxury Italian fashion in Georgetown with her signature boutique.

Known as "The Queen of Wool" since 1967 when she  first opened her atelier in Naples, the Amina Rubinacci label has been found only in high end boutiques in Italy and here in the U.S. in New York, Palm Beach and Carmel. With wool in the genes, Rubinacci's father was tailor to many of the 20th century's European monarchs. And the designer continues to this day, involved with every season's designs and fabrics.

Claudine Sorel and Merribel Ayres (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Claudine Sorel and Merribel Ayres

Ayres explains why Rubinacci chose DC for her newest location, "Women need more choices than they traditionally have had. This is a great city of fabulous women." And one of those fabulous women, handbag designer Claudine Sorel, has recently partnered with Rubinacci to offer her exclusive line of POSTES handbags, patterned after the French postman's mailbag but in vibrant colors and exotic skins, made only from the finest Italian leathers. "POSTES is the perfect fashion accessory ... We're a good fit for the brand," says Sorel, "Rubinacci is elegant and sophisiticated, with structured, supple lines ... like our bags."

POSTES bags (Photo by: Judith Beermann) POSTES bags

To celebrate the new season, Amina Rubinacci invited VIP clients and friends for a "Fashion Night Out" Tuesday evening of cocktails and a sneak peek at the new fall collection. The evening's festivities included professional make-up application session upstairs and scarf tying demonstrations by author (50 Ways to Wear a Scarf) and stylist, Lauren Friedman.

Amina Rubinacci is located at 2822 Pennsylvania Avenue in Georgetown. Tel: 202.965.2822

Claudine Sorel in the Amina Rubinacci Georgetown window (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Claudine Sorel in the Amina Rubinacci Georgetown window

Lauren Friedman with her scarf book (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Lauren Friedman with her scarf book

Claudine with her 'Mirage' wedding purse (Photo by: Judith Beermann) Claudine with her 'Mirage' wedding purse


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Join the Crowd at Georgetown Piano Bar

September 9, 2014

"Washingtonians like to get involved,"says Bill Thoet, one of the partners of the city's latest music venue, Georgetown Piano Bar opening this Friday, September 12th. Promising world-class live entertainment showcasing two of the area’s most recognized pianists, Hunter Lang and Spencer Bates, the establishment will be open seven days a week starting at 5:00 pm.

Having procured one of Georgetown's six coveted tavern licenses earlier this year, and spurred by the closing of Mr. Smith's, and Modern lounge space being available, the group decided to "build a piano bar."

Those with a favorite tune are welcome to request it here andlyric books will be made available to encourage sing-along. Guests itching to get up and perform solo will have the opportunity to do so as well. Thoet, an Executive Vice President of Booz Allen Hamilton, is an avid piano bar goer himself. He enjoys singing Frank Sinatra hits and famous show tunes.

Guests can look forward to live piano music beginning at 9:00 pm until closing time seven nights a week. There's no cover charge to enter and enjoy the entertainment, centered around the red piano with three keyboards! Guests can relax, gather, mingle and sing. “Georgetown Piano Bar is not going to be one of those places where a piano player is the background music for people having high-end cocktails,” Thoet assures.

The bar's design plan allows for one or two piano players to perform together. It also incorporates seating for guests to sit directly across from the piano player or to listen while lounging on custom upholstered built-in benches just across the bar.

Georgetown Piano Bar’s weekend performer, Hunter Lang, is a singer/songwriter and pianist who oiginally playing by ear, and later studied classically with Lithuanian Virtuoso Broniaslavia Kimel and the brilliant Memphis musician Joan Gilbert. Hunter plans to release his first album in December 2014.

Guests at Georgetown Piano Bar can look forward to Hunter’s interactive show, which delivers an emotional and physical performance. Classically trained, he has an extraordinary skill playing the piano, producing a sound that is all his own.  The World Music Society has stated “that if you combined Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Joel, and Mozart, you would have Hunter Lang.” His unique voice, timbre, and vibrato leaves the crowd wanting more as Hunter is a showman who uses humor and charm to woo his audience.

Georgetown Piano Bar’s weeknight performer, Spencer Bates, is a DC-based singer/songwriter, and piano entertainer. He will be performing Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings as well as the first, second and fifth Wednesday of every month. For over a decade, he has played nightly at solo and dueling piano bars, universities, and other venues across the country, including an eleven year, three night a week gig in Georgetown, DC. Completely self-taught, Spencer has written, recorded, and released three solo albums.

Georgetown Piano Bar is located at 3287 M Street. Tel: 202.337.187


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