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'SSOMRK9TE,SQI Mike and Stacy Isabella met in the restaurant industry, so it is only fitting they have spent years refining their recipe for a well-decorated apartment. BY LAURA WAINMAN PHOTOS BY TONY BROWN


HOME LIFE | INSIDEHOMES

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t first glance, “Top Chef ” alumnus Mike Isabella appears to be your signature tough guy: heavily inked forearms, spiked hair, thick Jersey accent and confidence to match. Step inside his spacious Chinatown apartment, however, and you’ll start to see the real Mike — a man who adores his wife, Stacy, cuddles with his 10-pound Chihuahua and craves the comfort of simplicity. From the trademark pepperoni sauce he dishes up at his first restaurant, Graffiato, to the edited décor of his home, Mike knows what he likes. The rest he can do without. The Isabellas gravitate toward an industrial-modern-chic vibe, with the aim of keeping all their spaces comfortable and livable. Plants and herbs are scattered throughout to keep a homey atmosphere and appear in abundance on Stacy’s favorite item in the apartment: a distressed metal pinwheel shelf that houses several cacti, dried roses and other plants along with a vintage watering can. A liquor cabinet and rolling kitchen cupboard, both made by her father, add down-to-earth touches to the sparse kitchen. “Decorating has been an ongoing process for us,” Stacy says. “We didn’t move in and go get everything all at once, but we find little pieces we like here and there and go from that.” Fans of Graffiato and Bandolero know that Mike loves an open kitchen, and his home is no exception. Finding a spacious apartment with a lot of windows and a spacious kitchen were his main priorities. “It is awkward to be in the house with your wife and not be able to see her when you are talking, so an open kitchen allows us to maintain contact. Windows give you that true city feel if you can wake up to the noisy, hustle bustle of your city,” Mike says. Anyone welcomed into the Isabella home would find a few surprises. First, the fact that Mike, the soon-to-be chef/owner of five restaurants, is actually home in time for dinner most nights, and second, that he isn’t helming the

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OPPOSITE PAGE, Clockwise from top left: Mike and Stacy Isabella love having a view of the bustling city life but wish they could take advantage of their rooftop deck more often; Surprisingly, Stacy is the main chef in the Isabella household, but Stacy admits she loves Mike’s gravy; The shades are never drawn at the Isabellas’ home because they love bright, sunny spaces; A pinwheel shelf and rolling cabinet are among Stacy’s favorite items in the apartment because they add a homey touch.

THIS PAGE, FROM TOP: Mike spends most of his time at home on this couch — except when the family is entertaining; Stacy kept the purple color scheme in the bedroom’s linens and artwork. (The piece above the bed was the first art she and Mike bought together as a couple, as they were both drawn to the paneling depths and the peacock design); Along with a killer view, the roof also features a full-length lap pool, an abundance of lounge chairs and several grills for summer cookouts.

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kitchen whipping up culinary treats for the family. “Stacy does the cooking, and it is all fantastic,” he says. “She likes to mix it up and try new things, but her ethnic cuisines are always very flavorful. And she knows if I’m not in the mood for anything, pasta is a safe bet.” Although the restaurateur admits that he isn’t home every night when he is in the middle of opening a new place — which at press time was the Kapnos and G Sandwich Shop — he can typically be found plopped on the couch with pup Santino watching TV. But don’t assume that means the Isabellas are homebodies. Quite the opposite in fact, since both Mike and Stacy emphatically agreed that their favorite Washington activities include testing newly opened joints such as Del Campo and Daikaya, frequenting neighborhood favorites like Proof and Poste, and pulling up a stool at quite a few bars around town. When the Nats or Caps are home you might even catch Mike rooting for his adopted teams. “I am 100 percent a Washington fan, even though my New Jersey friends rib me a bit for it,” he says. “But we plan on being here for the rest of our lives. This is my home, and I’m going to root for our teams.” While President Barack Obama is still at the top of Mike’s list of Washingtonians he’d love to cook for, Redskins Quarterback RGIII isn’t far behind. “He’s a national phenom right now. Who wouldn’t want to cook him a meal, sit down, eat with him and just shoot the shit?”

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