Just in time for the holidays

Just in time for the holidays

Two new dining places, Fresco and Italian Deli, are worth checking out.

WHEN TED AND WENDY ARMINIO finally opened The Italian Deli earlier this month, they didn’t have to worry about advertising. Within hours, customers had found them. Customers who work nearby, customers who had been waiting anxiously for them to open or just customers who saw the sign and decided to check it out.

In any case, these new customers found a very special new take-out restaurant featuring sandwiches, prepared frozen foods and homemade foods, including eggplant, lasagna and ravioli.

“It was a soft opening but it was like we advertised the heck out of it,” said Ted Arminio. “It’s been really busy — nice and steady.”

Scheduled to open in June, the opening of the deli in Belle View Shopping Center was delayed due to permit and parking issues with Fairfax County. Now that he has finally opened the restaurant, Arminio is making up for lost time. He said that all of his products are doing very well. Although the store closes at 7 p.m., he had to stay open a little later a few nights to accommodate all the customers. He’s already thinking about extending the store’s hours.

The homemade meatballs, sausage and lasagna are popular, as are the homemade pastas and sauces. Lunchtime shoppers enjoy the 20 or so types of sandwiches available. With names like “Banda,” “Anello,” “Uncle Carmine” and “Ruggiero,” sandwiches can be ordered on different types of breads with different garnishes. Fresh mozzarella cheese and cheesecake are selling well, as are imported oils and vinegars, prosciutto and other Italian specialties. The fresh bread that is delivered daily goes quickly.

Customers can purchase Boar’s Head meats and cheeses by the pound. Arminio said that he is applying for a liquor license so that they can sell beer and wine; they are also considering selling Italian coffees. While he hasn’t started the catering part of the business yet, he said that he wouldn’t turn business away if somebody had a special holiday request.

FRESCO opened in Old Town at 631 King St. Monday, Oct. 17. While it has a whole new look and feel, there is one familiar aspect. Lolita Arce, who owned Café Mezzogiorno with her husband for many years before he became ill, is managing the new restaurant.

“I’m happy here, I’m not going to retire,” Arce said. “Customers are happy to see me — we’re doing very well.”

Said Oudghiri, owner of Las Tapas, has taken over ownership of Fresco. They spent $30,000 to renovate the restaurant which now is bright and airy with a Mediterranean feel.

“We wanted to take the success of Las Tapas and make a small, neighborhood place,” Oudghiri said. “We are taking it step by step, but keep upgrading the menu, adjusting as we go.”

Oudghiri said that they plan to start introducing more of their hot, signature dishes soon and will extend their hours to accommodate the dinner crowd. The restaurant has seating for 16 inside and 20 outside (in warmer weather). All items are available for carry-out and Arce said the business was currently split pretty evenly between carry-out and dining in.

“Nothing is fried, everything is fresh,” Arce said.

Fresco specialties include various kinds of ceviches, empanadas and tortillas. They also have salads, soups and sandwiches. Oudghiri said that they have all different kinds of coffees including espresso and cappuccino. They also serve iced coffees and smoothies. For breakfast, there are bagels, croissants, sandwiches, muffins and scones.