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.
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 Ari Gejdenson 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.