WASHINGTON — Mike Isabella fanned himself with a hard hat as he stood on a construction site on the bank of the Potomac that workers were frantically trying to turn into a contemporary French restaurant. Permits and a liquor license had yet to materialize. The basement was nowhere near ready to receive shipments. The floors were — well, there were no floors.
“When do you think I can come in here and cook, honestly?” he asked a group of construction crew leaders. Soon, one of them said. Probably. Soon-ish.
Any disquiet on Mr. Isabella’s part was telegraphed by a mild bulging of the eyes and a twitch of his multifarious tattoos. Extensive fretting may be a luxury for single-restaurant chefs; Mr. Isabella, mindful of his ever-growing dining dominion, had to race to a sushi tasting across the river in Virginia.
It is hard to find any swath of the Washington area that does not feature a stove belonging to Mr. Isabella, a runner-up on “Top Chef All-Stars” who studied under José Andrés and other restaurant luminaries.