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Arroz, Three More Isabella Restaurants Shut Down Earlier than Expected

Eater logo Eater 12/16/2018 Tierney Plumb
a dining room table: Arroz will shut down after Sunday, December 16. © Rey Lopez/Eater DC Arroz will shut down after Sunday, December 16.

A bankruptcy filing stated the eateries would operate until Dec. 27

Four restaurants owned by embattled chef Mike Isabella are closing more than a week earlier than previously announced.

According to a person at Mike Isabella Concepts, Pepita Cantina shuttered in Ballston on Saturday, December 15, and Sunday was scheduled to be the last day of service for Kapnos Taverna and Yona — both in the same Arlington neighborhood as Pepita — and Arroz at the Marriott Marquis in downtown D.C.

A manager at Arroz confirmed that the restaurant would shut down after Sunday night, at which point they’d be out of a job. As of Sunday evening, signs were posted at the Ballston restaurants that read, “Unfortunately, our time to close has come.”

a close up of a sign © Missy Frederick/Eater D.C.

With Mike Isabella’s restaurant empire in shambles following a high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit and subsequent settlement with former manager Chloe Caras, MIC filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy last week. As the Washingtonian first reported, the filing included a request for the remaining properties under the MIC umbrella to operate until December 27.

When reached by phone, Isabella spokesperson Edward Segal had no immediate comment to provide on the four early closures. Other MIC properties included in the bankruptcy filing include the Kapnos and G sandwich shop building on 14th Street NW and a Kapnos Taverna in College Park, Maryland, that has already closed.

Two other restaurants founded by Isabella, Kapnos Kouzina in Bethesda, Maryland, and Requin on the Southwest Waterfront, were not listed in either MIC’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy filing or a Chapter 11 filing from September.

“Those two are going to stay open as long as possible,” Segal says, directing Eater to a statement from Isabella he released last week: “We’re fighting to keep those restaurants open, but we don’t know how long they can last. The constant bad press keeps customers from coming in and staff is scared and they quit. You can’t keep any restaurant open with 9 months of negative press.”

While sudden closures of Pepita, Yona, and Kapnos leaves a gaping hospitality hole alongside Wilson Boulevard, the neighborhood is about to get a glut of new dining options with the opening of Ballston Quarter’s food hall.

Other 2018 closures within Isabella’s crumbling empire have included the chef’s food stalls at Nationals Park, and the multi-concept Isabella Eatery.

Here’s a look back at the embattled celebrity chef’s latest venues to shutter:

Pepita

4000 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va.

This Mexican cantina in Ballston was one of the D.C. area’s most anticipated openings of summer 2015, generating lots of buzz for its colorful interior and coastal Mexican cuisine before service even started. The brainchild of Isabella and MIC beverage director Taha Ismail, Pepita had a bar that churned out a lengthly list of cocktails featuring tequila, mezcal, and fruit juices squeezed in-house daily.

Arroz

The star dining attraction inside the Marriott Marquis aimed to bring D.C. a taste of southern Spain and Morocco upon its opening in spring 2017. Arroz marked new territory for the Top Chef contestant, whose existing D.C. footprint largely celebrated Greek and Italian food. The tight, one-page menu covered a lot of ground: meats and cheeses, bomba rice, bigeye tuna crudo, and a 28-oz. bone-in ribeye. All of which helped Arroz score a rare three-star review from Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema. Isabella personally recruited executive chef Michael Rafidi from Michael Mina’s RN74 in San Francisco to lead the kitchen. Rafidi cut ties with the company soon after an explosive Washington Post article detailed Isabella’s alleged sexual misconduct. Rafidid, the Eater D.C. chef of the year in 2017, now plans to open a Middle Eastern restaurant in Navy Yard next summer.

Kapnos Taverna Arlington

4000 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va.

Open in early 2015, the sibling spot to the Kapnos in D.C. offered spit-roasted meats and Greek mezze to Arlington diners.

Yona

4000 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, Va.

After several pop-ups and lots of anticipation, Isabella’s ramen collaboration with chef Jonah Kim debuted in Ballston in 2015 with a Japanese minimalist design featuring wood paneling and mosaic whale wall tiles. Kim cut ties with the company within a year of the opening.

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