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Pines of Florence, Italian Cafe on King and South Payne Street in Old Town Alexandria


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So the confusing tale and changing character of Toscana Grill changes again:  This place is now a Pines of Florence restaurant, with the long runnning Pines of Florence menu in full and several staff that had been at POF along the Rosslyn to Ballston corridor for probably over a decade.

For a long time they had a location on Wilson Blvd in Courthouse.  At some point in the early 2000's they knew they were going to lose the Courthouse location and simultaneously arranged to have a relative (son or nephew) open Toscana Grill, primarily based on the POF formula.

POF moved to the Virginia Square location on Fairfax Ave. in the mid 2000's, and vacated last year.

Now back to the long ugly saga of Toscana Grill.

From the time it opened (circa 2000 to 2002 range) it was IMHO pretty bad.  The operator/relative just didn't have it.  Mediocre (but on face value) acceptable type POF food, made dramatically worse by some of the worst customer service one could imagine.

Toscana, either through this initial owner or through a different operator (under a management agreement), tried a different concept/ theme emphasizing vegetarian dishes.   That didn't fly.

Then the operator I liked, Joe came in about 2-2.5 years ago, rebranded it w/ a NJ type Italian flavor and actually picked up business volume.

More than anything the strongest selling point at that period was that the operator, Joe, would easily star as a supreme hospitality, make you feel good, encourage regulars type of general manager.  He drew regulars.  His menu featured Italian more in keeping with NY/NJ style flavors in pizza and pastas than before.  

Still not great but decidedly better and incredible customer service levels on his part.

Then he wanted to/needed to move...and his departure caused an ugly rift between lease holder and original operator and Joe.

Now the folks that may have inspired the original Toscana Grill and may have guaranteed the original lease back around 2000 are now operating the restaurant in its entirety.

I had one meal.  It's menu is Pines of Florence through and through and some of the faces are folks that were at POF for the last 10-15 years.    That makes it "acceptalble mediocre" in my book....but at least customer service will be on the ball.

I suppose its a long term saga of mediocre Italian food....and now in a brutally challenging location.   Good luck fellas.

Okay, given your post, and this thread (and this thread!), this situation is now bewildering to me.

Are there now two (and only two?) Pines of Florences?

And are they both under the ownership of Shafi Khan?

Toscana Grill's old number, (703) 465-2100, gets forwarded to their mailbox which is full.

Pines of Florence on Columbia Pike isn't answering their phone, (703) 243-7463, on a Saturday afternoon when they're supposedly open, and there's no mention of anything on their website about a second (?) location.

I wonder if Michael Landrum didn't buy this chain just to mess with me.

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Okay, given your post plus this thread, this situation is now bewildering to me. ........

I wonder if Michael Landrum didn't buy this chain just to mess with me.

It is bewildering.

The lease for Toscana Grill has been under the control of a younger family member of Shafi Khan for many years.  Its always struggled.  Its a tough tough location inside that courtyard.

Anyway through twists and turns the restaurant is now operated by Shafi Khan and the menu and the tastes I had in one visit were completely representative of Pines of Florence.   ( I don't know in whose name the lease is).  As far as if POF is operating in both Columbia Pike and in Courthouse;   I wouldn't know.

I think you and Mr Landrum should meet there for some pizza and a beer.

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Anyway through twists and turns the restaurant is now operated by Shafi Khan and the menu and the tastes I had in one visit were completely representative of Pines of Florence.   ( I don't know in whose name the lease is).  As far as if POF is operating in both Columbia Pike and in Courthouse;   I wouldn't know.

Hmm, well I guess for now, I'll suppose the Columbia Pike Pines of Florence is still open, and assume this is a two-restaurant chain.

Thanks, Dave, for looking into this mess. I'm actually *trying* to find these places, and can't - that's not necessarily a good sign.

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It (Courthouse) was closed today when I walked by around 12:30 pm, which I thought was odd since the posted hours show an 11:30 am opening on Saturday.

You know, we keep tabs on virtually every restaurant in the DC area here - this is the single most problematic one.

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Is the Kalorama Pines of Florence no more? Although I live around the corner from it, I almost never happen to walk along that block. It was still in business last I noticed, but that may have been five or six months ago. I suppose I could walk over there and look; maybe when I walk my dog later this evening.

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I was referring to Toscana Grill, which is still at that location with signage of that name.  I thought the menu and the execution reminded DaveO of the Pines.

[My apologies - I thought there *was* no Toscana Grill anymore. I'll get everything in the right thread when this is all figured out.]

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Gee, I really should try to keep up. The Pines of Florence on Connecticut Avenue just south of Kalorama Road is most definitely gone, my dog and I have just confirmed. Apparently, it was going to reopen as something called the "Jambalaya Room", featuring some simulacrum of Louisiana cuisine, but is now slated to become a Japanese restaurant called "Ogawa". The marquee over the entry walkway already has the "Ogawa" name up along with what I take to be Kanji characters that mean nothing to me. There is very little information here.

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Okay a bit more on the Pines of Florence, Va/Arlington and their "cousins" Toscana grill.

I stopped by Toscana for takeout the other night and asked one of the staffers about the situation.

According to him they closed the Columbia Pike location.

Now as to the relationship with Toscana Grill I'm going to update in the Toscana thread

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Pines reopened this past Sunday in the old Portobellos spot on North Pollard Stret off Langston Boulevard in Arlington.  I went on Tuesday evening and believe that the place needs more time to become worth visiting.  A lot of the food seemed to be overaged and not fresh and not really heated enough.  The place was also cold and many diners wore their coats throughout their meals.

I guess the moral of this story I’d wait awhile until a place gets most of the kinks out.

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