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First Look: Arcuri Eat + Drink
June 12, 2013 | 11:30AM

all words and photos: Brandon Weight

When you’re welcomed into a restaurant with two frozen shot glasses and house-made limoncello, you’ve likely found your new neighborhood hangout. Arcuri, located at 2400 Wisconsin Ave across the street from the Glover Park Whole Foods, is just that, an unpretentious spot serving pizza and drinks that the owners truly care about.

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While the wood-burning oven warmed up, Bryce Gerlach, bar manager, co-partner, and limoncello master, pulled out three containers in different shades of yellow. One, slightly opaque with citrus covering the bottom, another jar the color of J. Crew’s spring chinos, and a final frozen decanter with a rubber stopper ready-to-drink.

“It’s all about balance, getting the bite of the grain alcohol, the sweetness, and the citrus,” Gerlach said.

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Once those components are down, it’s then easier to substitute the three basic ingredients. Beyond the house limoncello, subbing in raw instead of cane sugar, berries or herbs instead of citrus, Gerlach plans to offer rotating specials. Some of which will be frozen in the two large margarita machines lining the back of the bar.

Plus, he added, they have prosecco on tap. By shipping drinks in bags and tapping it themselves, it saves costs, ecologically and economically, making for an inexpensive and quality drink. Add in 14 beers on tap and a wine list that boasts three DOCG wines, and the bar’s completely stocked across the board.

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Whether it’s the bar or the kitchen, each side benefits from the knowledge of their territory that only comes with an intense love for their product. Don’t expect just limoncello, nor just pizza, except more of a learning experience that’ll open guests up to new tastes. Like the pizza, where smoked pepperoni is offered, but so are prosciutto, pork check and pancetta. All coming from an lava-hot wood-burning oven.

“There’s nothing more primal than a wood-burning oven. It’s kind of badass to me,” Richard Jones, the executive chef and co-partner, said.

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After stints in DC and New York, Jones always wanted to return to DC and start up his own restaurant. A McLean native, Jones partnered up with three friends and created Arcuri. With the wood-burning oven on lock, it was time to craft the pizza dough. Working his way through no fewer than 12 recipes, he finally nailed it, a slightly thinner crust, but not quite Neapolitan he mentioned, that way the pizza will actually hold shape during a meal. As the menu builds up, Jones also plans to include more entrees from the oven, including roast chicken.

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While the soft open is this Wednesday, there’s still a few things to iron out in the dining room – a glass divider for the dining area and bar, renovations to the outdoor patio, and tiles in the bathroom. But, it all arises from the partners’ dedication to creating a memorable dining experience.

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Look forward to their grand opening on June 22. And try to spot me on the patio, with limoncello and a grin.

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