The Blue Door’s secret

By Posted on Oct 12 2018 | By

Flint Hill restaurant rapidly losing hidden jewel status

The lyrics to the classic rock and roll hit “Green Door” centered on, “…what’s that secret you’re keeping?” But the secret behind a local dining establishment opened just five months is: it has no secrets.

Unless, of course, you’ve yet to discover its flavorful menu.

The latest casual dining establishment in the area is gaining a reputation for quality food, quiet ambiance and focused service.

The Blue Door Kitchen & Inn, located in the village of Flint Hill, opened in May and its owners Andrea Pace and Reem Arbid have quickly secured a warm spot in the tummies of local and Northern Virginia diners.

The restaurant could well have been called The Green Door except for a whimsical exchange between the two business partners shortly before opening.

“We kept coming up with names that neither of us cared for and I told Andrea, ‘You know, it doesn’t really matter. People change the name of restaurants all the time. For all that it matters, we could just call it The Blue Door,’” said Arbid.

“Hmmm, I kinda like that name,” responded Chef Pace. “So do I,” answered Arbid. Bingo. The restaurant had a name.

The color of the front door is a rich, deep blue and easily catches the eye of travelers passing by. But Pace did not want to be permanently locked into just a single color of blue. Arbid told him not to worry. “There are 50 shades of blue,” she assured him.

But the color of the door is of minor importance to those who have dined there. Walking through the door and enjoying its varied menu is their focus.

Old World experience
The heart of any eatery is the individual behind the range. Chef Pace, 52, is a native of South Tyrol, Italy, located in northeastern Italy on the border with Austria; he speaks both Italian and German. As a young man he studied at an Italian culinary school and then worked in a restaurant called Villa Mozart where he was further trained by a Michelin star chef.

Later his mentor moved to New York City to open a restaurant and Pace joined him as a sous chef. For nearly 20 years Pace worked at various restaurants in the Big Apple until he moved to D.C. in the early 2000s to continue his career.

In 2007, his extensive experience led Pace and Arbid to open Villa Mozart in Fairfax City. The fine dining establishment was named in honor of his original mentor and gained a wide following and critical acclaim.

Last year, he closed Villa Mozart with an eye toward establishing a causal dining restaurant in Northern Virginia. Successful fine dining reaps acclaim but it’s also a lot of work. The new goal was to ease the workload while continuing to draw on his extensive kitchen experience.

But a new location was not quickly forthcoming. Then one day they received a call from a previous customer who was traveling through Flint Hill and spotted the former Public House restaurant for sale. “Reem, I’m out here in Rappahannock county and I’m looking at a place that has your name written all over it,” said the ad hoc real estate agent.

“We had no clue where Rappahannock County was but we arranged to see the building. Our first reaction was, ‘wow,’”, said Arbid. The building was larger than they needed and included four upstairs guest suites, “But we fell in love with it.”

It also included an herb and vegetable garden, something Pace has always wanted to nurture as part of a restaurant. While a rainy spring and summer has been a gardener’s challenge, the future is colored green for more estate grown produce to be gracing menus.

In understanding the early success of the restaurant, keep the “past is prologue” in mind. Pace was trained in classic Italian cooking with an emphasis on simplicity and freshness.

“Andrea does not try to cover a plate with 16 different ingredients. His uses only four or five at the most. He tries to stay true to each ingredient. If there is artichoke in the dish, you will taste the artichoke,” said Arbid.

The chef’s menus fuse old world cuisine with modern technique and flair and include slow-cooked sauces and handmade pastas and pastries. Prices are moderate.

A major boost for The Blue Door was a recent positive review by the Washington Post’s food critic Tom Sietsema. The resulting publicity alerted many of their former customers of the new location and generated a spike in business.

“The nice thing about the review was a lot of our previous customers who we had not seen for a while came out and dined with us. It was fun seeing so many people from our past,” said Arbid.

Their goal, however, is to build clientele from the local community. Having never operated in a seasonal impacted business, the owners know winter months in a rural area can be a difficult business proposition. Local guests need to be converted to loyal diners.

There are no plans to expand beyond the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday service hours; Fridays and weekends include both lunch and dinner service.

“Our staff is young and it’s not large. When you come in we want to be able to give our customers great service and great food. We don’t want them to wait two hours for something to come out of the kitchen. We want to stay focused on excellent food and service,” said Arbid.

For information on reservations, hours, and lodging step through The Blue Door at https://thebluedoorkitchen.com/


Published in the October 10, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES