Washington, D.C. chef and restaurateur Mike Isabella will open Kapnos Kouzina, a home-style Greek restaurant, in Bethesda, Maryland, on March 7. The new eatery marks Isabella’s first in Maryland and an expansion of his Greek concepts, which also include Northern Greek restaurant Kapnos in D.C. and coastal Greek spot Kapnos Taverna in Arlington, Virginia. Kapnos Kouzina is located in a 5,200-square-foot space at 4900 Hampden Lane in the Bethesda Row development, and is now accepting reservations for lunch beginning March 7 and dinner beginning March 11.
“We’re excited to join the Bethesda community and bring a home-style version of our Greek restaurant to this casual neighborhood setting,” Isabella says. “While there are similarities between Kapnos Kouzina and its sister restaurants, the vibe here is a little more laid-back and the food more reminiscent of what you would eat for Sunday dinner in a Greek home.”
Drawing inspiration from regional cooking traditionally found on the Greek family table, executive chef/partner George Pagonis turned to his own experience growing up in a big Greek family and working at his father’s Greek diner in Alexandria, Virginia. He has built a menu of comforting Greek classics with a focus on rustic small plates and sharable platters for two to four guests. Expect dishes that span from coastal Aegean influence to inland flavors, all reflecting regional traditions of Greek home cooking. Signature items include Fried Half Chicken with Preserved Lemon Brine and Burnt Honey Mustard; Moussaka with Roasted Eggplant, Allspice-Cinnamon Braised Mushrooms and Béchamel; Charred Octopus served over Beluga Lentils, Slow-Roasted Tomato and Heirloom Carrots; and a range of Greek spreads served with flatbread. An Express Lunch is also available on weekdays for $15, featuring signature gyros with a choice of side and a selection of house-made sodas.
Kapnos Kouzina offers an expansive bar program with a large wine list highlighting a diverse selection of new and old world wines with a particular focus on the wines of Greece, Israel, and the Eastern Mediterranean. The bottle- and can-only beer selection features local brews, as well as those from the West Coast of the U.S. a aond Greece. Beverage director Taha Ismail has cultivated a cocktail list mixing classic tipples with favorites from Kapnos and Kapnos Taverna, drinks like the Hollywood (Old Forester Bourbon, Dolin Sweet Vermouth, Benedictine, Luxardo Cherry and Angostura Bitters) and Make It Happen (Vida Mezcal, Pineapple, Lime, Kummel, Hellfire Bitters and Egg White). Greek and kosher coffee and espresso drinks, as well as house-made sodas like Five-Spice Ginger Beer and Pineapple-Lemongrass, round out the beverage offerings.
Kapnos Kouzina’s interior design is light-filled and cozy, with warm honey oak and white-washed wood surfaces and dark olive green accents. The restaurant features a large open kitchen with a white marble backdrop, and a horseshoe-shaped bar with an oak butcher-block counter top that is central to the space.
Natalie Park Design Studio and Eimer Design are behind the interior, which offers approximately 160 seats, including a 12-seat communal table, a 24-seat bar and chef-counter seating for 12, as well as additional patio seating.
George Pagonis is executive chef and partner at Mike Isabella’s regional Greek restaurants, Kapnos, Kapnos Taverna and Kapnos Kouzina. Washington D.C.’s Kapnos put inland Greek cuisine, including daily whole animal roasting, on the map in the nation’s capital when it opened in 2013. Kapnos Taverna expanded the brand to Arlington and added a maritime flair to the menu with dishes exploring the cuisine of the islands and coastal regions of the Aegean.