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Apr 26, 2014 07:50 AM

Sad Demise of Palena

Sad to say, it's true. (Rent issues, apparently.) Today is the final day for perhaps the best, most convivial, least pretentious great restaurant in D.C. I will miss it dearly. We collectively owe Frank Ruta a huge debt of gratitude for 14+ amazing years. I hope his next endeavor will be here in D.C., and that we will be able to relish those ethereal consomm├ęs for many years to come.

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  1. I thought I heard he was going to re-tool, re-locate and re-open, or am I thinking of Dino's?

    1 Reply
    1. re: hill food

      I have not heard much from the Dino email about their opening date, but they are moving to 9th and U area.

    2. That is terribly sad, and doubly so for us, as I used to take an elderly friend of ours there for dinner because she loved it (as did I). She has passed away and now I won't be able to go to Palena to remember her.

      I think that chefs should stay in the kitchen and hire a business manager because so many of them end up owing rent, sales tax, payroll tax, or in one notorious case, wages. Yes, I hope he stays in the DC area.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Just Visiting

        Knowing how to successfully manage a business is a major part of a chef's job description. It is a shame that Ruta expanded beyond his capability. As to Cleveland Park not supporting the breakfast end of the business, I wonder how well that was promoted. People have to know something is available before they can support it.

        Since February, Cleveland Park has lost three lovely restaurants: Palena, Dino's and Lavandou. I think the landlords are demanding exorbitant rents on the Dino's and Lavandou spaces . . . It remains to be seen what happens with Palena's old space. Meanwhile, we still have Ripple, which I think is tops.

      2. When Chef Ruta went from seating 60 to 200 and left the Kitchen, his fate was sealed. Sadly it happens all too often!

        4 Replies
        1. re: drsmoke

          I completely agree with drsmoke. I used to love pulling up the old bar and having the burger or gnocchi. Since the expansion to the cafe, I was only happy maybe half the time. The food wasn't as precise and the service was not good. I had orange juice once that had actually turned sour. I am most disappointed about the pre-renovation Palena. It seems to me that much like Just Visiting said, the chef just had growth ambitions without doing the math.

          1. re: daves_32

            I was at the coffee shop a few weeks ago. The food was very good, the prices low and the place was half busy. Cleveland Parkers have been wanting a breakfast place with reasonable prices and good food and they got one of the best. And didn't support it.

            I saw Chef Ruta and said hi and we chatted for a few seconds and he showed no sign of any problems. Then a few days later, the rumors, sadly true, broke out.

            Good luck Frank Ruta!

          2. re: drsmoke

            Ruta left the kitchen? Really? What did he do then? I'm genuinely surprised to hear this part of the story so please shed some light.

            1. re: Worldwide Diner

              Administrative crap, yep he quit doing what made him successful, and watch his Restaurant implode. It wastoo late to save, he was over $150,000 behind in rent alone!
              Throw in unpaid Taxes, credit cut off etc, you can see why he said enough!

          3. This is such sad news! I celebrated many special occasions at Palena. Also when I got my first job it was the first place I took my Mom out to dinner (where I picked up the check) made me feel so grown up.

            I also liked their more casual side....especially the AMAZING burger. This is such a loss for the DC dining scene. I hope Chef Ruta takes a nice, long vacation. And then comes back with something spectacular!