Story by Alexandria Lindstrom | Photography by Gianluca Marzano & Submitted by Osteria Marzano
There’s a certain expectation of loving food and being able to create beautifully flavored, robust dishes that comes with being Italian. It’s part of the culture, running deep within their veins, which is why these are a people known the world over for their cuisine. The handmade pastas, the complex sauces, the herbaceous and balanced flavor profiles…It’s all there, in every dish, no matter how simple or elaborate, from the so-called peasant foods passed down from generation to generation to more refined plates that show attention to detail and sophisticated techniques. The Italian way is to love and understand food and what it represents—not just the ingredients, but also its power to people together at the table as they share a meal and forge bonds. That love and understanding is almost palpable in each bite, and for Carmine Marzano of Osteria Marzano, it’s what drives him as a chef and restauranteur and keeps his guests coming back for more.
Born in Calabria, Italy, Chef Carmine is as authentically Italian as you can get, having learned the ways of the kitchen from his father and developing his love for creating food at a very early age. Naturally, that love led him to pursue professional training at Istituto Alberghiero Statale di Pienerolo before he went on to become the executive chef at the exclusive Ristorante Giudice in Turin, Italy, where he held the prestigious position for three years. And when critically acclaimed Chef Roberto Donna later opened his restaurant Galileo, Chef Carmine followed him to America and served as his sous chef for four years.
As fate would have it, the move to America also brought with it the chance for love, and he soon met—and married—a fellow Italian, a young woman whose father had made a name for himself in the industry as the owner of Washington’s famous Luigi’s restaurant. When the time came to venture out on his own, Chef Carmine opened Ristorante Luigino and successfully ran it for 17 years before shifting his focus back to Luigi’s.
A family man to the core, it stood to reason that Chef Carmine’s next restaurant venture would be one launched with his daughter, Elena Pouchelon, who had the visionary eye to create the look and feel of the restaurant space and worked closely with her father to bring that vision to life in every aspect, from the finishings to the furnishings, and paid attention to every last detail. What they achieved was nothing short of spectacular, attaining a level of beauty that matches the dishes her father creates.
The restaurant began simply enough, a serendipitous meeting of timing, opportunity, and—of course—financial backing that prompted Pouchelon to approach her father in 2012 and propose opening a restaurant together. “My dad is my best friend, and I knew we could work together,” she says. Much to her relief, the idea was met with wholehearted agreement from her father. “She has young ideas—fresh ideas,” he says.
Those fresh ideas culminated in the design of Osteria Marzano itself, which features a granite-topped bar so massive that it offers seating for nearly forty guests, rightly holding pride of place in the center of the long, narrow restaurant. Add to that an Alabaster White 3Form Stone liquor display, walls accented with natural walnut wood, rich fabric ceiling panels, and even tufted-panel walls painted in high gloss red in the bathrooms, and it’s clearly evident that Pouchelon has a keen sense of style and understands how to stand out from the rest.
Standing out from the rest, however, couldn’t come at the cost of alienating guests looking for a place that still felt casual, and finding that balance that would make them seem elevated yet intimate and traditional was a tricky undertaking. Fortunately, Osteria Marzano has managed it quite well. “We wanted to create a neighborhood spot that was trendy and serves authentic Italian food,” Pouchelon says simply. “We wanted to create an atmosphere where guests felt welcomed into our home and had a second family.”
'My dad is my best friend, and I knew we could work together... We wanted to create an atmosphere where guests felt welcomed into our home and had a second family.' - Elena Pouchelon | Co-Owner
Naturally, a large part of creating that feeling rests squarely on the shoulders of Chef Carmine, whose talent in the kitchen is responsible for bringing the flavors of Italy to the plate and transporting his guests back to the land of his birth. “I love creating dishes that mentally transport people to Italy when they close their eyes and take a bite,” he says. From the first taste of antipasti to the delicate handmade ravioli, signature pizzas, and beautifully cooked seafood entrees to the last sweet morsel of tiramisu, crème brulee, or their famous Nutella Pizza, a trip to Italy is only one bite away.