The Dish: Aqua Al 2 on Capitol Hill

The story behind the opening of one of Washington’s latest Italian restaurants, Acqua Al 2 on Capitol Hill, is as unusual as its location.

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Photo provided by Dominique Fierro.

Photo provided by Dominique Fierro.

Situated on 7th Street Southeast just opposite the imposing Eastern Market that includes a provoking assortment of pigs trotters and chicken feet among more common edible offerings, the eatery has its namesake in Florence and a branch in San Diego. The truly offbeat part of the story is the background of chef/owner who, at 27 (with a birthday in July – a Leo no doubt), went from being a Maret School dropout to playing soccer professionally in South America and Europe before apprenticing himself as a would-be chef. Backing for his venture comes in part from a friend he met in kindergarten when he was a wee tike growing up on Capitol Hill, the son of a Democratic Congressman from Connecticut.

The Acqua Al 2 name refers to the street address of the original restaurant in Florence, now eight years old and reputedly popular with the locals. Young Mr. Gejdenson began his entrepreneur’s life by starting an American diner in that city where he then met up with  his rival of sorts, Acqua Al 2’s owner. The two became friends, which led to Mr. Gejdenson’s apprenticeship and now his budding entrepreneurship. His signature dish, he says, is the tasting sampler — five pastas as a single course. There is also an ‘assaggi’ (tasting) of salads and entrees. Curiously, there are a goodly number of meat dishes on the menu from a chef who declares himself a vegetarian.

Photo provided by Dominique Fierro.

Photo provided by Dominique Fierro.

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3 Responses to “The Dish: Aqua Al 2 on Capitol Hill”

  1. NotesOnMyBathroomMirror says:

    Never, EVER hold an event here. I tried to have a small work event at one of the tables in the front of the restaurant. First, whenever I would call the restaurant, the owner, Raul, was always “asleep” or “unavailable”. I NEVER talked to the same person about my event twice and had to make multiple calls to firm up all my details. The event itself was okay, but when it came time to make the payment, Raul would not accept the check my company had written him because he “didn’t like the way it was made out” (The restaurant name was incomplete, something I wrote in and initialed as correct.) He chased my boss out of the restaurant and argued with her about the check in the street (in front of clients and a Congressman!) and insisted that she LEAVE her credit card with him. He said I could come back tomorrow with a re-written check to get her credit card at 10 am. When I arrived at 11 am, his cook staff informed me that, yet again, Raul was “asleep” and despite trying to call him three times, they could not get him to wake up. (I should note that the cook staff tried their hardest to be helpful. They deserve better leadership!) It was only after I had gotten all the way back to my office and called Raul that I finally heard from him…around 11:30am. He said he was there now and that I could come exchange the check for the credit card “anytime”. For the second time that day, I traveled all the way to SE to finally resolve the situation. I will NEVER be working with Acqua Al 2 DC again.

  2. Ari Gejdenson says:

    I am the owner of Acqua Al 2. My name is Ari. First of all, we have no one employed here by the name of Raul. Other than that, I apologize that your party did not go to your satisfaction. We hold around 10 large events per week, and this is the first I have heard about someone not being satisfied. Unfortunately, we dont accept checks, period. Not to mention one that has been written out to someone else, scratched out, and re-written to us. I don’t know any restaurant that would accept one that looked like yours. I apologize again, but the fact that there was an exception even being made to accommodate your payment needs, should be noted. Furthermore, in the future, if you would like to set up a credit account, please let me know, so we can avoid any problems in the future.

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