Since January, 2003
 Sliding from Before to After

As was first reported on Twitter by loyal JDLand reader @Minnesota_Nicer, a scribbled sign went up on the door of Il Parco at Canal Park last week saying that the restaurant was "closed for renovations," a message met with some level of skepticism. A more imposing sign has since arrived, and I have confirmed with WC Smith that the restaurant is indeed closed, and the space's relationship with restaurateur Xavier Cervera is now over.
The hunt is now on for what Brad Fennell of WC Smith called an "operator who will fully embrace the park and all of its potential," and meetings with interested parties are apparently already underway.
Il Parco opened in early 2016 as a retool/replacement for the Park Tavern, which opened in April 2013. Neither restaurant ever seemed to capture the fancy of residents, office workers, or Nats fans, and it will be interesting to see what might come into that location next and how a new operator will approach the space and its surroundings.
Comments (36)
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GoNavy says: (8/16/17 9:40 AM)
Sad news about Il Parco. It's really an odd location that I am sure most people don't even know exists from the street. For what I have heard the service has never been great. I went there once for drinks and really didn't have a desire to go back.

conngs0 says: (8/16/17 10:15 AM)
GoNavy, I think you've got Il Parco exactly right. It really is unfortunate that they weren't able to overcome the awkward location (although Five Guys seems to be doing ok across the street) and strange building (it takes some pretty special architectural genius to create a restaurant in the middle of an open space that isn't obviously a restaurant to those walking on M Street).

But despite doing a good job with the pizza (that huge oven is a tremendous asset, their staffing decisions were truly mystifying (super friendly people, but not very well trained and never provided with enough support). I still have hope that some purveyor will be able to take advantage of that huge outdoor eating area, proximity to the Metro and (in the winter) ice skating rink that's increasing in popularity, to be successful there.

walt says: (8/16/17 10:44 AM)
Re: Il Parco and Park Tavern before that. My completely uneducated opinion: This would be a fantastic place for a casual restaurant if the management were better.
1. Sell pizza by the slice. And cheesesteaks. and Burgers. That's it. Nothing fancy. Look at the people who are there at the ice rink or at the fountains. Mostly kids, and they're just craving calories after playing.
2. Hire staff that cares and that have some brains. The customer service has been a zero here since it opened.
3. Have enough of the ingredients to actually make the items on your menus. If you sell pizza, don't run out of cheese, then serve it to the customer and hope they don't notice (I have noticed...every time).

No, I've never run a restaurant, but I have been to this one on a few occasions and I am acutely aware of what makes my lip curl every time I walk by it. no interest at all but will gladly give the location another shot if the concept, staff, menu, and attitudes change.

JES says: (8/16/17 11:16 AM)
Park Tavern sucked, but I actually liked the pizza at il Parco (despite the subpar service and horribly stale interior decor). But obviously that restaurant group had no idea how to properly market or monetize that space, and I'll look forward to someone who knows what they're doing taking it over...

JD says: (8/16/17 11:18 AM)
I don't often do this, but I moved the Il Parco comments made earlier this morning from the previous thread to this one.

willinrm says: (8/16/17 12:05 PM)
I dont know how any of Xavier Cervera restaurants stay open,their food is par at best and their prices are always just a little too much for the quality. And the service... oooh boy. I'd like each and every restaurant that he owns to be taken over.

Pacifico Cantina (514 Eighth St. SE), The Hawk'n'Dove (329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) Molly Malone's (713 Eighth St. SE), Lola's Barracks Row Bar & Grill (711 Eighth St. SE), The Chesapeake Room, Senart's Oyster & Chop House, Willie's Brew & Que (300 Tingey St. SE); and II Parco (200 M St. SE).

keith18 says: (8/16/17 12:17 PM)
The only surprising thing is how long it took for it to close. The pizza was fine but the service was abysmal, the acoustics were worse, and the space is unwelcoming in the extreme. I worked in the DOT building for six years, and I'm super lazy, but I'd walk to Justin's to get a beer after work a million times rather than go to il Parco. I once saw a large group of children ice skating eating Pizza Bolis. I mean, if you are adjacent to an ice rink and can't sell your pizza to the kids ice skating, you need to re-examine things.

Daedam says: (8/16/17 12:24 PM)
I agree with the previous comments. I always liked their pizza, but I'm surprised Il Parco lasted as long as it did. There was never anyone in there, and although the staff was always friendly, there was high turnover and they were often totally clueless. (One bartender had never heard of a gin martini and had to go ask someone else.)

Given the location next to a park that caters heavily to families/kids, this venue needs something that has "can't resist" appeal. @walt had the right idea; it needs to be simple and relatively inexpensive, and if it has a bar, it should have a good happy hour.

jdc says: (8/16/17 12:25 PM)
Speaking of Willie's, any sense of how that place is doing? Ever crowded? I still have not gone inside, somewhat wary of spending my dollars at a potential hit-or-miss spot.

Capitol Hill SE says: (8/16/17 12:59 PM)
@jdc On beautiful day last spring I took a walk with my mother-in-law and wife down to the Yards Park, but once we got there it started pouring rain and everyone made a beeline for the restaurants. We tried to get a table somewhere but every place had hour+ waits, except for Willie's which was completely empty. We ended up eating there and it was about what you'd expect (you'd think a place that only has BBQ on the menu would be good at BBQ).

GoNavy says: (8/16/17 1:13 PM)
@willinrm That's absolutely wild! Those are all the restaurants that I had mentally put on a list that just seem to be a step below everyone else. Multiple times Pacifico Cantina has been understaffed even when it was almost completely empty. Chesapeake Room was really underwhelming, expensive and really dark for some reason. Went to lunch at Willie's and $13 for a mediocre sandwich and chips was just not cutting it. The whole restaurant ground needs to step up their game or downsize.

jdc says: (8/16/17 1:50 PM)
Just spent some time viewing the demolished buildings gallery. Wow. What a different JD Land this was, especially when everything was empty near the end and waiting for wrecking ball.

RMP says: (8/16/17 2:52 PM)
Il Parco was never really on my radar. I don't know what kind of restaurant could go there that I would really seek out, now that we've got pretty much everything we need, restaurant-wise.

Last time I went to Willy's was on one of those seasonably warm winter days when everybody was desperate to sit outside. Willy's patio was completely full, but they were woefully understaffed for it. The experience was pretty miserable.

Westnorth says: (8/16/17 3:15 PM)
I remember once trying to arrange a holiday party (I think 70 people showed up) at Il Parco. They simply wouldn't return our calls -- for months. We eventually got through and it was a blast to have an indoor-outdoor event in December. I've usually only gone as a "well, if I need somewhere that isn't crowded" option, i.e., friends who insist on driving in and need easy parking, or a large group after the Women's March.

One unusual aspect about the location: there isn't really a sit-down restaurant cluster north of M St to tap into. If someone wants to compare a bunch of restaurants, they're going to the Yards Park area.

conngs0 says: (8/16/17 3:34 PM)
jdc, my view of Willie's is that it's pretty solid for BBQ and I consider myself a fan. I'd actually hold their ribs up against anyone's. The nachos and mac n' cheese are also good. They've also shown some willingness to make improvements (e.g. their outdoor patio is vastly improved this year compared to previous summers).

However, I do notice some of the same drawbacks that others have outlined in their descriptions of Il Parco (same restaurant group). Willie's frequently gets caught understaffed, and their (incredibly personable) personnel aren't always up to the challenge of dealing with an influx of customers. Consequently, there's a chance you will experience some oddities like taking thirty minutes to change out an empty keg or a waiter more or less disappearing for what seems like an excessive amount of time.

In my view, these negatives don't rise nearly to the level that they were with Il Parco. Plus, the layout of Willie's (although a bit stale also) is far superior inasmuch as all of the TVs make it a great game-watching spot. Accordingly, I still eat at Willie's on a quasi regular basis and still have hope that it will be successful.

conngs0 says: (8/16/17 3:44 PM)
Agree with the comments previously made about the next purveyor of the Il Parco / Park Tavern spot. I'll be interested to know to what extent the developer will be willing to renovate the space to help monetize it and also give a little more life to the park area. I think a first step would be to relocate the bar. Rather than stifle all movement of people and sightlines within the restaurant, it'd be nice to have a bar that can simultaneously service the indoor and outdoor components.

tspaquin says: (8/17/17 9:32 AM)
I can't believe it took so long for WC Smith to make this call. Very refreshing that they are looking for a restaurant owner willing to embrace the park. Park Tavern/Il Parco never even remotely embraced their location in Canal Park and their potential clientele. How many of us there for weekend ice skating lessons with our kids would do a coffee/food run elsewhere because not only was the restaurant closed, but even if they had opened early on a Saturday morning, they didn't serve to-go coffee and food, which are a no-brainer profit stream in this location. How often have I walked past the bar from the metro, thinking it would be nice to have a happy hour beer and a slice of pizza on the way home, but no happy hour, no pizza by the slice. The lack of self-awareness was so bad at one point, during a very busy session of evening ice skating the restaurant was blasting outdoor music that was competing with the music of the ice rink! I recall a stress-inducing cacophony of Ariana Grande overlayed with Justin Beiber. Step one in creating a successful restaurant here is implementing some common sense measures that reach for very low-hanging fruit.

JES says: (8/17/17 11:06 AM)
I just wonder what they're gonna do with that fancy pizza oven... I hope someone puts it to good use, whether it stays here or moves on to a new home.

conngs0 says: (8/17/17 1:53 PM)
JES, one of my favorite spots in NW is Cleveland Park Bar and Grill (I'd love for them to relocate down to Navy Yard because I think their casual atmosphere, multiples TVs, and relatively inexpensive but tasty menu would do well here). Their space was formerly an Italian restaurant with a huge brick oven. CPBG has used that oven to make some pretty solid pizza and other dishes to complement their other menu items. Hopefully the next occupant of Il Parco can do the same!

VelocityChris says: (8/17/17 8:13 PM)
I don't disagree with a lot of the critiques, but I will say my wife and I spent several glorious spring afternoons there when it was clear, sunny and cool enough to sit outside with a pizza, olive appetizer and bottle of wine for a couple hours!

I've thought for a long time that any restaurant short of a destination draw of the Bluejacket level was going to struggle until those lots to the east fill in with some residential. There's just not good density there. And the building with CVS in it blocks off the park from people coming out of the metro who head immediately south towards the Yards Park without knowing anything is on the other side. As you're crossing M, even if you happen to look back, from that angle it looks like a dead area with the empty lots and the setback from M of the Il Parco building.

malatesta says: (8/17/17 8:38 PM)
Yea, given the location, a restaurant in canal park needs to be a neighborhood joint, not just making money off the ballpark crowd. Il parco just never seemed to want to be part of the neighborhood, though.

RMP says: (8/18/17 8:22 AM)
Anyone want to start speculating about what could/should take over the former Evo Furniture space?

walt says: (8/18/17 3:21 PM)
Referring to the comments about poor service at some of the restaurants, I want to shout out to Sweetgreen. I have never, ever, ever had anything but a 5-star experience there when it comes to service. The founders/owners put an emphasis on service and it shows. I was part of a multi-month survey where I answered a bunch of questions once a month and got a free salad in return for every survey. I can tell you from the questions they asked that they make service and cleanliness a priority. It matters and it all starts at the top!

Brich says: (8/20/17 1:53 AM)
Willy's is THE worst. It sucks that they get so much ballpark traffic that they're able to stay afloat. They really need to step up the quality of their product and staff people who actually know what they're doing.

stacycloyd says: (8/20/17 12:25 PM)
My dream for Il Parco: second location of Timber Pizza (first bricks and mortar location is on Upshur St. in Petworth).

For Evo furniture: day care center (I don't have kids but with the number of little ones around it makes sense, especially with the office workers too) or cheap haircut place (greatclips, hair cuttery). Bang is $$$$. Neither are likely but I can dream!

NavyYardNittany says: (8/20/17 12:43 PM)
"willinrm says: (8/16/17 12:05 PM)
I dont know how any of Xavier Cervera restaurants stay open...

Pacifico Cantina (514 Eighth St. SE), The Hawk'n'Dove (329 Pennsylvania Ave. SE) Molly Malone's (713 Eighth St. SE), Lola's Barracks Row Bar & Grill (711 Eighth St. SE), The Chesapeake Room, Senart's Oyster & Chop House, Willie's Brew & Que (300 Tingey St. SE); and II Parco (200 M St. SE)."

Wow. I had no idea those were all his - explains soooo much. Pathetic. Hiring a strong front of house corporate manager to raise standards across all of these would take relatively little investment, yet add so much. They guy invests serious $$ to have the best equipment (the pizza oven at Il Parco, the Southern Pride smoker at Willie's), yet seems to have no clue how to ensure consistent food quality or a even an acceptable level of front-of-house service.

202_cyclist says: (8/21/17 12:02 PM)
I posted on the previous thread and didn't receive any responses-- has work on the second phase of Parc Riverside stalled? I haven't seen anyone at that site in several weeks and it doesn't look like any progress has been made (in fact, it looks like some of the equipment is in a foot of water and/or mud).

BLT says: (8/21/17 1:03 PM)
@202...nothing going on for about 3 wks.

GarfieldPark says: (8/21/17 1:05 PM)
Not sure on Parc Riverside, but the old Micky D's spot is really moving along I feel like. Still waiting on Agora and Whole Foods ETA. Some progress is being made I guess. Any update on Trader Joe's and Vet Hospital by Eastern Market?

VelocityChris says: (8/21/17 8:18 PM)
We got an email update a week or two or three ago about Parc Riverside. They were entering a phase with Pepco and/or DC water or some DC utility which I thought was supposed to last a few weeks. We were told because those entities are free of the noise ordinances and work hours so Velocity and Toll Brother's had no control over when work happened so complaints were basically pointless. Also, I did see a handful of people in reflective vests coming out of the work area the other night when I walked my dog.

Hastings says: (8/21/17 8:36 PM)
I work at 1015 Half Street and we look over/into the Parc Riverside building site. There has been no work at the site for several weeks and much of the site is full of water. The word we heard is that the builder does not yet have a dewatering or pumping permit and therefore can't legally pump water out of the site, therefore all work at the site has stopped.

malatesta says: (8/21/17 9:03 PM)
It seems like requiring people to get a permit before draining a mosquito ridden zika swamp is not the greatest public health idea of the century.

VelocityChris says: (8/21/17 9:26 PM)
There were workers on site working late at night a few nights ago, I assure you I saw them with my own eyes. I believe a fair amount of work is going on that cannot be seen from the street. Some of the details from the email we got were that Pepco has finished their work on Phase III and DC Water is currently onsite.  There will be truck traffic from DC Water, Toll and an Imaging Company for the next two weeks as they work on the StormWater system.  Toll's construction schedule is halted until permits are approved by DC Water however, they will continue working on the Dewatering Well Drilling and construction of the 2nd exit ramp leading out to K Street. DC Water has unrestricted work hours, therefore, neither Toll Brothers nor Velocity can control their hours.

RMP says: (8/22/17 9:36 AM)
District Winery posted on social media that their grand opening is on August 30th.

RMP says: (8/22/17 11:58 AM)
Also Juice Laundry posted again on Instagram that they're stuck in red tape, and yesterday there was a contractor inside jack hammering into the concrete floor. I'm quite curious what that was all about. link

RMP says: (8/22/17 4:31 PM)
Sorry for three restaurant posts in a row, but it looks like Taylor Gourmet is on the cusp of opening. Possibly tomorrow? link

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