When Ciro D’Agostino was growing up just outside of Naples in Italy, his dream was to grow up and own his own restaurant. He dreamed of a place he could call his own, where his friends would gather to eat and talk and enjoy each other’s company.
“I wanted to have a restaurant filled with people,” he said. “And that’s stayed with me.”
When Ciro Restaurante opened its doors Jan. 13 in the Stone Ridge Village Center, D’Agostino’s life-long journey came to an end.
“This really is his dream come true,” Michelle McDonald, the restaurant’s manager, said.
As D’Agostino stands behind the bar in the restaurant, he gestures towards the dining room, the look of pride is clear in his eyes.
“This was an idea I always had, put into practice,” he said. “Everything in life, it doesn’t matter what it is, behind everything we see, everything started with an idea.”
D’AGOSTINO HAS BEEN in the family restaurant business since he was 16 when he went to work in his brother’s restaurant. By the age of 18, he was a partner.
“I have been in the family restaurant business for more than 30 years,” he said.
Indeed, local restaurants are a family business. His brother is the owner of Tony’s New York Pizza, the popular Italian restaurant in Fairfax’s Fair Lakes Shopping Center, and D’Agostino has his own pizzeria in Centreville, Ciro’s New York Pizza.
But when he was in Naples with a friend a few years ago, the two visited a restaurant owned by another of D’Agostino’s friends. The two were in the kitchen of the restaurant, trying various foods, when his friend asked D’Agostino a simple question.
“He asked me, ‘Why don’t you open a restaurant with these flavors?’” D’Agostino said. “And that’s where this restaurant started.”
In 2002, D’Agostino started researching restaurants in the area, eating dinners, visiting locations, looking through menus, and trying to figure what kind of Italian restaurant he could offer.
“With all modesty, I felt I could offer customers something better than what is out there,” he said.
D’Agostino settled on the Stone Ridge Village Center for his restaurant almost by accident. He used to ride his motorcycle along Route 50 and through Loudoun, when he found that the village center had space available.
“I used to ride out here because I love this area so much,” he said. “And now my restaurant is here.”
WHAT SETS CIRO RESTAURANTE apart from other restaurants, D’Agostino said, is the feeling that is behind the food.
“I do this with passion,” he said. “I care about these customers. I care if the food goes out and is perfect because it is my name on the sign out front.”
D’Agostino said that his “sense of life” is what drives his restaurant, his dedication to food and to the people he serves.
“This is very personal to me. I am in this business just because I love what I do,” he said. “Money is only a means to an end. Honestly, we will really be a success and very proud when people leave this restaurant happy.”
D’AGOSTINO AND CHEF DANIEL GUTIERREZ put the same passion into Ciro Restaurante’s food as they do into the restaurant itself. For the two months before the restaurant opened, the two spent every evening trying different foods to figure out what would be best for the menu. Gutierrez’s received his training from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and D’Agostino wanted to combine Gutierrez’s French food with his Italian to create the perfect blend.
“With his academic knowledge, his potential and my passion for food, we can create something really wonderful,” D’Agostino said.
“That’s why the cooking is so tasteful, so good, because we blend so well,” Gutierrez said. “Even the aroma has to match the food.”
Gutierrez said the blending of food allows him to create some unusual dishes and will help to give guests a truly unique experience.
“They’re going to love the food,” he said. “They’re going to get good quality and a lot of fresh things.”
WHILE THE RESTAURANT is designed for fine dining with high-quality food, Ciro Restaurante is anything but stuffy, D’Agostino said.
“We have the same spirit here as we do [at the pizzeria] in Centreville,” he said. “The majority of my customers are friends. They feel comfortable here.”
The restaurant will serve dinner with white tablecloths and lunch in a more relaxed atmosphere.
“Lunch would be perfect for families or children,” he said. In addition, personal pizzas and a few other menu items are available for people to order and carry out.
In addition to the regular menu, Gutierrez makes specials meals, such as veal chops or lobster, which will run for several days at a time.
“Because everything is fresh, we can adjust to meet people’s allergies or dietary needs,” Gutierrez said.
The personal attention on the menu is only the beginning, D’Agostino said. He hopes to be able to give the people of Loudoun a place where they can go for good food and a comfortable atmosphere, whether it is for a special celebration or just a night out to eat.
“Behind the creation of this restaurant is the idea of something special,” he said. “To offer something special to the people who come here.”