Young and Hungry

The Latest on Roberto Donna and the Resurrection of Galileo

It has been four months since the Post's Tom Sietsema reported that Roberto Donna would resurrect his once-powerhouse Italian restaurant, Galileo, in the old Butterfield 9 spot on 14th Street NW. Enough time has passed, in other words, to crank the gossip mill to a fevered pitch. One source told Y&H that the landlord of Hamilton Square, the historic building that housed Butterfield 9, no longer wanted Donna because of the chef's checkered financial past.

Bill Miller can only shake his head in mock disgust at the rumors. Well, that's the impression I got yesterday evening as I talked to Miller, the director of retail leasing for Transwestern Commercial Services, who's handling negotiations for the Butterfield 9 spot. Miller's a pro; he's been working in the restaurant world for 25 years. Neither he nor the landlord are naive about Donna's history, Miller says, which includes the recent shuttering of Bebo Trattoria.

"Roberto went to culinary school," Miller says, "not accounting school."

Which is why one of the city's signature toques will have a business partner this time around, someone to handle the financial side of the operation. Miller says the landlord is also structuring the deal "to set [Donna] up for success." What that means, Miller adds, is that the landlord is willing to accept a lower rent to attract someone of Donna's caliber.

In this economy, Miller says, it's important that a restaurant can attract patrons, and despite his well-documented financial problems, Donna has a track record of bringing diners to the table. [Note: Y&H can only assume that most folks blame Bebo's underwhelming performance on its location, not its operator.] The landlord has entered into this deal with his "eyes wide open," Miller says.

The retail agent is hopeful that a deal will be signed within a week to 10 days. The restaurant, Miller says, will indeed be a resurrection of Galileo.

Photo by Charles Steck

  • Anon.

    "Roberto went to culinary school," Miller says, "not accounting school."

    So that's why he can't manage to pay his kitchen staff and is constantly getting protested and sued for minimum wage and overtime violations?

  • Dan Riley

    He's a scumbag and his "business partner" will soon see the error of his/her ways.

  • Sean

    Location was not the issue...and the landlord of Bebo would probably agree. Was told by a friend who works at a neighboring restaurant that Bebo, named for Roberto himself - Bebo=Roberto's Nickname - that employees reported to work on the day of the "closing" and were locked out because the landlord had changed the locks and evicted the "Iron Chef" after sealing the deal with a new soon to open restaurant. According to Facebook (Donna Daze) sounds like Donna might have bigger issues than just not being able to run the front of the house...Perhaps all the unpaid vendors and tenants should host a dinner at the new Galileo - and walk out and not pay the check - show Roberto a fair share of what he has done to them...

    http://www.washingtonian.com/blogarticles/restaurants/bestbites/12207.html

  • Anontoo

    Investing in this man or his new restaurant would be like supporting a new Bernie Madoff venture. Transwestern WILL get screwed and so will each and every employee that "does time" working for Donna... not to mention the customers who will experience the same terrible service issues that are the trademark of this chef's restaurants.

  • Anex

    Shame on those that allow him to continue to do business in this city - and to anyone considering working for him in the future, perhaps you should be aware of the lawsuit filed by many former Bebo and Galileo employees - be warned, it WILL happen to you too.

    http://tinyurl.com/robertodonnalawsuit

  • Maddy

    ANYONE WILLING TO GIVE THIS SCUMBAG MONEY IS DOOMED WITH THE UNAVOIDABLE FLAMES OF BANKRUPTCY, LAWSUITS AND PROBABLE JAILTIME. THE ILLEGAL AND SHADY WAYS THAT HE DOES BUSINESS AND THE ILLEGALS THAT HE ALLOWS TO DO BUSINESS FOR HIM ARE NOT WHAT WE WILL TOLERATE HERE IN AMERICA. GO BACK TO ITALY IF YOU WANT TO RUN YOUR "BUSINESS" THAT WAY!!! Whats the saying??? Fool me once shame on you. Fool me twice...shame on me!!

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  • http://webscucinando visco stefano

    un soluto da un vecchio amico

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