Young and Hungry

Palena Restaurant Is Closing (Updated)

1208468307_m_eat_ruta_palnena-1Palena Restaurant, a fixture in Cleveland Park for more than a decade, will close this weekend. A day after Y&H reported that Palena's landlord is seeking to evict the restaurant, chef Frank Ruta announced his plans Friday afternoon. Here's a statement he gave to Eater D.C.:

Palena will be closing its doors this weekend after 13 years. We have had a great run serving the Cleveland Park neighborhood and the Washington, D.C. area and are sincerely grateful to the many that have supported us.

While we are proud of the high degree of critical success Palena has achieved over the years, we take even greater joy in your patronage and that we have been able to share life's special moments with you. Cooking is what I love, and hopefully I will find a way to serve you at another venue in the future.

I want to especially thank my remarkable and loyal staff who has given Palena its special ambiance, and my equally loyal pool of investors who have been steadfast through thick and thin. Without either, Palena could not have been possible.

And finally, a heartfelt "thank you" to all who have dined with us over the years.

The closure comes after a few months of litigation with its landlord over unpaid rent, court documents show.

The landlord, Federal Realty Investment Trust, initially filed a lawsuit in the Landlord & Tenant Branch of D.C. Superior Court in 2011. The case was settled at the time, but reopened at the beginning of this year. An eviction notice dated Feb. 6 states that the restaurant owed a total of $125,779 in rent and other fees as of Jan. 31. The court approved a writ of restitution—which allows the landlord to take possession of the property—on March 7. Per that order, the U.S. Marshals Service must schedule an eviction within 75 days of that date. (See court documents below.)

Federal Realty Investment Trust provided Y&H the following statement:

Thank you for reaching out to us. Please understand that as part of our corporate policy we do not comment on the specifics of any lease terms.  Palena has been a merchant at Sam’s Park & Shop  for almost 20 years. Federal Realty values long-standing partnerships such as the one we have with Palena and we have enjoyed their tenancy.

Y&H contacted the restaurant Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, and chef/owner Frank Ruta was not available and didn't return several messages. "He probably won't want to give any comment. He usually doesn't like to," said the woman who answered the phone Wednesday, who added that she couldn't say yes or no to a question about whether Palena is closing. "I'm sure if Frank wants to announce it, or if there's anything he has to clear up, he will make the call himself."

Ruta has earned much acclaim since the restaurant opened in 2000. The former White House chef won a James Beard Award for the Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic in 2007. The next year, Washington City Paper also named Ruta and Palena "Best Chef/Best Restaurant." And in our Best of D.C. issue this year, Palena Coffee Shop earned the honor for Best No Bullshit Doughnut.

Stay tuned for more updates.

Photo of Frank Ruta by Darrow Montgomery

  • SYSM

    I wonder if kitchen staff is getting correctly paid. When this sort of thing happens, it's usually the lowest-paid workers at the restaurant who get stiffed on their paychecks, first. (See, e.g., Roberto Donna.)

  • Sysm

    It also appears that staff was not aware
    Of the situation.
    What a disappointment, now the entire staff
    Is jobless

  • P

    I wish they could be held criminally accountable for actions like these.

  • PD

    I don't understand what's criminal about this. The owners of the restaurant were not paying their landlord. That's a commercial matter for the courts to adjudicate. As for the employees, there are no reports that they have been stiffed. Indeed, if anybody got stiffed, it was the landlord.

  • JCHILLTOPPERS

    thank god, nothing like getting rid of a place that charges 25 dollars for a hamburger and fries so satly that eating them results in a cure for sweating.

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