Owner of iconic Georgetown restaurant reveals secrets of 25-year success

WASHINGTON — Cafe Milano, a beloved Italian restaurant in Georgetown, first opened its doors in 1992, on the day former President Bill Clinton was elected to his first term. Since then, the restaurant has thrived in a difficult industry, serving nearly 100 heads of state and becoming a favorite among celebrities.

In the 25 years since Cafe Milano’s opening, D.C. has gained a bustling restaurant scene, and owner Franco Nuschese has some advice that may be useful to budding restaurateurs.

A restaurant should offer more than just food. According to Nuschese, the entire dining experience matters, including quality of service, music and ambience.

“Because you should always be able to accommodate all sorts of clients, the people who love the energy of a restaurant and people who don’t. People who maybe want to choose a quiet corner … the idea is to be able to accommodate everybody in the best way that we can,” Nuschese told WTOP.

Cafe Milano’s versatility has paid off in its diversity of clientele. Restaurant diners include Barack and Michelle Obama, Alex Ovechkin, Tina Fey, Jill Biden and Dave Chapelle. The Clintons are such regulars that when former President Clinton was honored with an award for public service from the Sons of Italy Foundation, Nuschese introduced him.

Prestige and notoriety aside, you don’t need a lot of fancy or intricate ingredients to make a decent dish of pasta.

“If you have a great brand of pasta, great tomato, obviously, and good, good olive oil, it makes an amazing pasta,” Nuschese said.

The D.C. area seems to agree with Nuschese’s approach. Cafe Milano produces 40 pounds of pasta daily and serves over 3,750 dishes of pasta every month.

Geography is hardly a restriction for this D.C. staple. Cafe Milano also has a branch in Abu Dhabi and imports its tomatoes from a small farm in Campania.

WTOP’s Jack Pointer contributed to this report.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up