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Alexandria is just the first stop for Carluccio's in D.C. region

Wednesday - 5/28/2014, 9:15am  ET

Italian market and restaurant chain Carluccio’s has its eye on more than just one location in the D.C. region.

Carluccio’s said earlier this month it would open its first U.S. location in Alexandria, but the United Kingdom-based restaurant group plans to open a total of three locations here, representatives said last week.

The idea would be to test out different styles of the Carluccio’s concept: an “upscale suburban” location (Alexandria), one in an urban setting and possibly one in a mall, said Simon Kossoff, group chief executive for Carluccio’s, which was founded in the U.K. but acquired by Dubai-based Landmark Group in 2010.

“The plan is to get three up and running and prove the brand which will in turn open up wider opportunities,” Kossoff said. The 125-seat Alexandria restaurant is hoping to open this fall.

Carluccio’s, named for founders Antonio and Priscilla Carluccio, combines a market selling imported Italian products from small, family producers — many of them with the Carluccio’s brand — with a full-service restaurant and cafe. Antonio Carluccio is a noted television personality and cookbook author in the U.K.

Carluccio's U.S. CEO Cory Waldron envisions a space where people hold coffee meetings, stop off for lunch or meet friends for drinks or dinner after the work day is done.

"In the brand, we're very loyal to helping guests enjoy the space in whatever way they want to enjoy it," she said.

They chose D.C. for their first market because of its variety of submarkets, said Mike Keefe, international development director for the company.

“We wanted to be in a market that’s vibrant and growing and to test it in a variety of forms, so we know how the model can be replicated in other cities,” he said.

The U.S. team, led by Waldron and Keefe, along with Phil Baugh of Baum Realty Group, is looking for spaces in the region of between 4,000 and 6,000 square feet in highly trafficked areas.

As they look for other opportunities, buildout is beginning in the 6,500-square-foot Alexandria restaurant space. Plans include a complete interior renovation, including creating an open kitchen, lowering the floors on the ground floor to create a more airy feel and moving the King Street entrance further up the block.

100 King St. has been home to several failed restaurants in the past decade, but Kossoff isn’t worried about opening in a so-called “ cursed space.”

“We’ve opened in a few of those in the U.K., and they’re no longer cursed,” he said.

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.