Young and Hungry

Is Mike Isabella Distancing Himself From Bandolero?

Chef Mike Isabella appears to be trying to distance himself from Bandolero, the poorly reviewed Georgetown Mexican restaurant he helped open that's been the subject of extensive litigation with its landlord.

The websites for Isabella's restaurants Graffiato, G, Kapnos, and just-announced G GrabandGo in New Jersey reference each other but make no mention of Bandolero. Cached versions of the Graffiato website from last year, though, show that Bandolero used to be mentioned in Isabella's bio. Bandolero was also advertised on the Graffiato homepage until at least March 4.

Bandolero's website and Isabella's Twitter page still list him as a "chef/partner," although both Isabella and owner Jonathan Umbel have previously stated he is not an owner there.

"Mike owns Graffiato, Kapnos, G, etc. As has been disclosed from the beginning, he does not own Bandolero. It's a management contract. So he chooses to only list the restaurants he owns," says Isabella's publicist Jennifer Resick Williams via email.

When I pointed out that it was a strange omission, especially considering that Isabella's bio on the Graffiato site mentions his "third and fourth restaurants" without naming the second one, Resick Williams responded, "We have answered your question. There will be no further comment on this."

Resick Williams and Isabella declined to say how often Isabella visits Bandolero.

Here's a shot of the Graffiato homepage on March 4 showing the Bandolero promo:

Is Mike Isabella Distancing Himself from Bandolero?

Isabella is not involved in the litigation at Bandolero, whose landlord is trying to evict the restaurant and Umbel's next door restaurant Tackle Box. Early last year, the landlord sued Umbel and his wife Bethany Umbel for unpaid rend and taxes and a series of other grievances. The Umbels also sued the landlord, saying their eviction and default notices were unfounded and that the landlord interfered with repairs to the properties after a fire shut down Hook (now Bandolero) and Tackle Box in June 2011. The legal battle is ongoing. Read more about it here.

UPDATE: Isabella's bio at the bottom of his press releases also now omits Bandolero. Check out this press release from Dec. 17, 2012 about Graffiato's gem tasting menus and monthly industry takeover nights (emphasis added):

Mike Isabella is a Washington, D.C.-based chef and restaurateur, owner of Italian-inspired small plates restaurant, Graffiato, and partner of Bandolero, a modern Mexican concept in the heart of GeorgetownMike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian, his first cookbook, was published in September. Isabella was named FOOD & WINE magazine’s The People’s Best New ChefMid-Atlantic for 2012. Before opening Graffiato, Isabella was the executive chef of Jose Andres’ Zaytinya. Previously, Isabella worked under Marcus Samuelsson, Jose Garces, and a host of other decorated chefs. Outside the kitchen, Isabella appeared on Season Six of Top Chef and was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars. In spring 2013, Isabella plans to open Greek concept, Kapnos, and Italian sandwich shop, G, both in Washington, D.C.

Now, take a look at the press release sent this morning about the opening of G GrabandGo. The bio is nearly identical, except that there's no mention of Bandolero:

Mike Isabella is a Washington, D.C.-based chef and restaurateur, owner of Italian-inspired small plates restaurant, Graffiato, forthcoming Greek concept, Kapnos, and Italian sandwich shop, G. Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian, his first cookbook, was published in September 2012. Isabella was named FOOD & WINEmagazine’s The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic for 2012. Before opening Graffiato, Isabella was the executive chef of Jose Andres’ Zaytinya. Previously, Isabella worked under Marcus Samuelsson, Jose Garces, and a host of other decorated chefs. Outside the kitchen, Isabella appeared on Season Six of Top Chef and was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars.

Photo by Jessica Sidman

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