Chef Mike Isabella
Mike Isabella is the Chef/Owner of Graffiato, which opened in June 2011 in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The 130-seat Italian-inspired spot features small plates, locally cured meats, artisanal pizzas, and pastas with seasonal ingredients influenced by the food Chef Isabella grew up eating in New Jersey prepared by his Italian-American grandmother.
Chef Isabella was named FOOD & WINE’S The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic winner for 2012.
Before opening Graffiato, Chef Isabella was the executive chef of José Andrés’ Zaytinya. During his three-year tenure, Chef Isabella generated accolades and national attention for Washington, D.C.’s Mediterranean powerhouse restaurant.
Chef Isabella’s formal training began at The Restaurant School in New York, taking classes and cooking his way through some of New York City’s finest establishments. After honing his skills in the Big Apple, he travelled down the coast to Philadelphia, first as a sous chef for James Beard Award winner Douglas Rodriguez at Alma de Cuba, then at a host of other Stephen Starr restaurants. At El Vez, Chef Isabella learned the true craft of Latin cuisine under the direction of Jose Garces, and as Executive Sous Chef of Marcus Samuelsson’s Washington Square, he educated himself on the strenuous yet exciting task of opening a fine dining establishment.
While Philadelphia proved to be an incredible learning experience and launching ground, Chef Isabella still needed to find his niche. That niche came when he moved to Atlanta and joined Buckhead Life Group’s top-notch Greek restaurant, Kyma. As Chef de Cuisine of the seafood-inspired menu, Chef Isabella learned the slight flavors and techniques of Greek cooking and immersed himself in the traditions of one of the oldest cuisines in the world. While traveling through Greece and parts of the Middle East, Chef Isabella learned the nuances of these cuisines. Talking to locals and sifting through the daily markets gave Chef Isabella a chance to truly understand these foods and helped to form a base for his culinary imagination.
Outside the kitchen, Chef Isabella appeared on Season Six of Top Chef, and he was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars. In September 2012, he published his first cookbook with Da Capo Lifelong Books titled, Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian. In 2013, Chef Isabella plans to open the Greek concept, Kapnos, and Italian sandwich shop, G. These will be his third and fourth restaurants in Washington, D.C.