I don’t write many event recaps (because you know, you had to be there). But some things, like Cafe Milano’s 25th-anniversary, deserve to be frozen in time.
On Friday night, street closures and moving flood lights marked the spot. I arrived at a building buzzing with energy and filled with DC’s business and political elite. Actor Leon Robinson zoomed past me to walk the red carpet. More than a thousand guests filled the room, each there to pay homage to one the most well-connected men in Washington, Franco Nuschese.
Franco, the restaurant’s owner, was knighted by the Italian government. He is gregarious and a notable philanthropist– donating money and time to worthy causes.
Cafe Milano has thrived on Washington’s insider culture. Anybody who’s anybody– whether democrat or republican, CEO, professional athlete, actor or royalty– has dined at the restaurant. Nuschese caters to this crowd and is best known for his ability to create an atmosphere of privacy and exclusivity.
The event spared no expense. Guests ordered whatever they wanted at the bar– from top-shelf liquor to champagne, wine, and beer. Caterers passed around decadent hors d’oeuvres like lobster drizzled with orange oil, veal and polenta, and shrimp cocktail. Important looking men talked and laughed while their wives smiled and nursed glasses of champagne.
Mayor Bowser proclaimed it Cafe Milano Day. Then Michael Jordan walked in like it was NBD.
A tribute video for the night featured Wolf Blitzer, Hillary Clinton (calling Cafe Milano an “inspiration”) Alex Ovechkin, Tucker Carlson, Newt Gingrich, Lionel Richie, Bret Baier, Quincy Jones, Dave Chappelle, and more.
When Mr. Nuschese finally reached the podium he had “no words.”
“I always thought Washington was a great circus and I’ve always thought of myself as a great ring master. I’ve really lived the American dream,” says Nuschese.
When I asked Mr. Nuschese if he originally set out to build this bulletproof brand and reputation, he was flattered. But his answer revealed the type of focus and hard work that goes into creating anything worth lasting in this world.
“A solid reputation is all about commitment and discipline, but also hard work and of course a little luck. I firmly believe that we must never be satisfied with the quality of our food and service.”
“We can always do better. There is always room for improvement. You need to be loyal to your friends and your clients – at Cafe Milano, they’re often one and the same. You need to be consistent and, you have to keep improving yourself. Also, you need to be really passionate about your job. I am very blessed because I deeply love my job.”
Photography courtesy of WHCInsider