As the gateway to Springfield emerges with features like the Courtyard Marriott, the Town Place Suites and the award-winning design of the Amherst Street bridge, Buca di Beppo restaurant made significant steps recently to become part of the landscape along Brandon Avenue.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and the zoning office approved plans for the new restaurant, which now needs only a building permit for construction to begin, said Bob Gray, former chairman of the Central Springfield Area Revitalization Committee (CSPARC).
"They were granted expedited processing," Gray said. "They want to open by June."
The building site is in Lee District, just west of I-95 near the Commerce Street bridge and the Town Place Suites construction site. Linda Waller in Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) office is familiar with the undertaking.
"This area's beginning to change," Waller said. "One of the things we hear a lot is people would like to have more restaurants."
Even though Springfield is flooded with fast-food places and carry-out, Gray agreed on the need for more places where the motif is on the formal side.
"We don't have enough really nice dining spots now, a restaurant that is a draw in itself," Gray said.
Buca di Beppo already has two restaurants in the area. One is at Florida and Connecticut avenues in Washington, D.C., and the other is in Gaithersburg.
ACCORDING TO the restaurant's Web site, Buca di Beppo is "a family style, immigrant southern Italian restaurant," and the name is translated into "Joe's Basement." The very first "Buca" was a basement restaurant opened by the grandfather of the company's chairman, president and CEO Joe Micatrotto, in Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood.
Italian restaurants are further categorized into northern and southern cooking, which are different. Southern Italian cooking from Campania, Apulia, Sicily and the rest of southern Italy produces dishes like spaghetti marinare, chicken cacciatore, linguini frutti di mare and Neapolitan pizzas. Making the distinction between southern and northern Italian food is a big factor, according to Rene Payes, the manager of Il Buon Gusto, another Italian restaurant located about 1 mile south along Backlick Road. That restaurant specializes in northern Italian cooking, with veal and chicken dishes for specialties.
"It's more delicate, more gourmet food. More wine sauces," Payes said of his restaurant's northern style dishes.
Il Buon Gusto has been there for 13 years and has acquired a clientele, but Payes feels the southern Italian cuisine has been done.
"There's a lot of restaurants doing that," he said, naming Paradiso on Franconia Road as one.
Payes heard of Buca di Beppo from their other locations but was not aware of the new plans.
A block away from the new restaurant location is Mike's American Grill, a well-known name in restaurants around Springfield. Mike's manager Craig Yoon was happy to hear of the plans.
"More restaurants bring more people," Yoon said. "We're definitely American, we don't serve Italian."
Another thing Mike's doesn't do is take reservations, which is a way of life around Buca di Beppo. One Fairfax Station customer was in Mike's making special arrangements with the management, and she wasn't happy with their policy. She did not give her name.
"We need places you can call and make reservations on a Saturday night. That's a real need," she said.
Buca di Beppo will be located between the Town Place Suites and I-95, with parking along Augusta Drive, which parallels the highway. The restaurant will have a sign facing the highway. Augusta Drive is not part of the Virginia Department of Transportation highway system, according to Gray.
"There will be some parking places along the road," Gray said. "It's still going to be a private road."