President Trump cuts a controversial figure — perhaps especially in the nation’s capital — but the owners of some of Washington’s hottest restaurants say they’ll gladly open their dining rooms to him.
“Absolutely,” Spike Mendelsohn says without missing a beat when ITK asks if the commander in chief would be welcome to chow down at one of the “Top Chef” alum’s famed eateries.
“There’s no reason for me to refuse anybody that wants to have a meal at my restaurant,” says Mendelsohn, whose D.C. culinary empire includes Obama family favorites Good Stuff Eatery; We, The Pizza; and Bearnaise.
“I could only imagine what people would think if I discriminated in any shape, way, or form any human being to come in my restaurant,” he says.
But he adds that he recognizes the hyperpartisan times we’re in.
“This being a little more closely attached to what your political views are, I have to say we’ve always been kind of a bipartisan establishment. We think food is bipartisan. Everyone has to eat.”
Restaurateur Maria Trabocchi says the president, or any member of his administration, can choose to eat at one of her and her husband’s many dining hotspots.
“Of course, we welcome any president in our restaurant,” says Trabocchi, who runs a number of high-profile D.C. spots — Casa Luca, Fiola Mare and Fiola, just to name a few — along with chef and husband, Fabio Trabocchi. “It’s an honor always to have a president, whoever it is.”
Whether it was a birthday celebration last year at Fiola Mare in Georgetown or a pre-Valentine’s Day dinner in 2013 at Penn Quarter’s Fiola, former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaNew year brings more liberated Joe Biden After the loss of three giants of conservation, Biden must pick up the mantle Kyrsten Sinema's courage, Washington hypocrisy and the politics of rage MORE and his wife, Michelle, were practically fixtures at the Trabocchis’ restaurants.
“We have already seen Ivanka [Trump] here at Fiola Mare,” Maria Trabocchi says.
But she predicts the president and new first lady may not hit the dining scene in Washington with the same voracity the Obamas did.
“I think the Obamas were very different and they welcomed the city in a different way,” says Trabocchi. “I don’t know if they will go out as much,” she says of the Trumps. “But then again, it’s totally unpredictable anyway.”
“I don’t think he’s going to be going out as much as the Obamas did,” says Mendelsohn, who recently hosted one of Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaThe Memo: 2024 chatter reveals Democratic nervousness Michelle Obama announces push to register 1 million new voters ahead of midterms Michelle Obama to promote When We All Vote during 'black-ish' cameo MORE’s holiday parties for her staff at Capitol Hill’s We, The Pizza.
The kitchen pro reasons that while the District was very much a home to the Obamas, with Trump, “I think we don’t really know how much time he’s going to spend in D.C. We’ve heard things about him splitting his time between New York and Washington.”
“And I also think he’s the oldest president to take office, and I feel he’s kind of over that hump of going out into the scene and going out dining. He’s probably a little set in his ways and he has his go-to spots,” Mendelsohn says of the 70-year-old Trump. “And you can’t really ignore the fact that he’s opened up a brand-new hotel, which I’m sure he’ll be spending a lot of time at.”
Trump International Hotel opened on Pennsylvania Avenue last fall. BLT Prime by David Burke, the hotel’s signature restaurant, debuted amid a highly publicized legal battle with José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian after the two celebrity chefs backed out of working with the hotel because of Trump’s disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants.
A publicist for Andrés, the force behind several popular D.C. eateries, told ITK he was unavailable for an interview for this story.
But if Trump ventures beyond his hotel or the White House kitchen, Trabocchi says her establishments will be ready to whip up some signature dishes — or anything, really.
“I can totally see maybe the first lady showing up one day with her girlfriends and having the ‘Maria Lunch,’ ” Trabocchi says of Fiola’s Mediterranean diet-inspired lunchtime menu option.
And what about the president, who’s known as more of a meat-and-potatoes fan than a caviar-and-foie gras kind of guy?
“If they want something that’s not on the menu, like anyone else, if we have it in the house, we can definitely cook it,” she says with a laugh.
While some restaurants will vie for a visit from a sitting president, there are those who might fear bad press from hosting Trump.
“I think people will get over it,” Trabocchi says, noting it would be “more controversial” to host a fundraiser.
“When they go out, I think it becomes more like ‘them.’ It’s not as political anymore. I feel like people are the most natural when they eat.”
Besides, Trabocchi says, “If they were just coming for dinner, by all means, who am I to say no to anyone, really?”