Well before it opened, there was a lot of anticipation for Little Coco’s, the new Italian restaurant by Gordon Banks and Jackie Greenbaum on 14th Street. Opened in September, the restaurant quickly took its place as one of the best go-to restaurants in the area. I met with Gordon to talk about the restaurant, and how he and Jackie see themselves in the community.
Little Coco’s is the seventh DC restaurant the pair has partnered on, and in each case, beyond serving great food, being a part of the neighborhood is one of the priorities for them in their 11 years working together. With a long background in restaurants, when Gordon started with Jackie at her first restaurant in 2005 as a host friends wondered why — why not manage his own place? But Gordon had a gut feeling about working at Jackie’s and just went with it. Turned out to be a life-changing decision for both of them.
When Jackie took over a failing Quarry House in Silver Spring, Gordon volunteered to help turn it around, coming up with new ways to take what had been an overlooked basement and turn it into an active, successful bar with a new beer and whiskey list, and a popular “rain day” special.
El Chucho (3313 11th St NW) was their first partnership on a new restaurant, and it solidified their friendship. “We’re super open with other,” Gordon said. “We have a great partnership that compliments each other.”
That partnership led to Bar Charley (1825 18th St NW) in Dupont and Slash Run (201 Upshur St NW) in Petworth, both of which continue to be successful. They recognized that 14th Street offered a great opportunity to open a community-focused restaurant that offered unique food and a welcoming environment.
The name of Little Coco's comes from Executive Chef Adam Harvey, as an homage to his wife and her last name, as well as her father, who is a chef in Italy. Working with Chef Harvey, they put together a concept for a restaurant that would offer a variety of Italian-inspired options on the menu, from an exceedingly delicious 18 ounce balsamic glazed ribeye that will easily feed the family, to baked ziti, a pan-roasted duck breast and of course, pizzas with names like Pig Destroyer, the Goddess and ’Nduja really want to hurt me.
I stopped by Little Coco's for dinner with my family and a couple of friends a few days before I met with Gordon to get a feel for the place. The first impression we had was a great one. You wouldn't know this was a brand new restaurant, as the service was spot on and the food was terrific. We ordered the ribeye, a pizza, the antipasto plate and the pizza frito classico, a fried pizza (that was similar to a calzone).
We left very impressed and happy to have another great local restaurant in the neighborhood that made both grown-ups and kids happy. And that's exactly what Gordon and Jackie are trying to accomplish.
“I live within walking distance of most of our restaurants,” Gordon said. “And with 22 kids on my block alone, we wanted to make something that would be inviting to everyone who lives near here.” Gordon said that he and Jackie enjoy the opportunity to contribute and do something for their city.
Gordon splits his time between the restaurants, visiting two to three a day. Little Coco’s has 35 employees, with half living nearby in the area. That sense of being a part of the community mattered to them. “We want to cater to the neighborhood with a casual and affordable restaurant, and still be a place that people can come to on date night,” Gordon said.
When they took over the building at the corner of 14th and Randolph, they originally planned for a much smaller pizza and salad place. Once they started working on the structure and they realized how much work it needed, they decided to expand upon both the size and their concept. “We raised the roof five feet, built out the back and added a second story."
Now Little Coco’s has just over 100 seats, and a roof-top deck that seats 35. “More space meant we could do a bigger menu,” Gordon said. “We enjoy creating places that people can get a really good meal, great service and go with your family.”
The art on the wall represents the playful atmosphere of Little Coco's, and Jackie's artistic talent -- she created all the paintings, and they all resonate for me.
Jackie and Gordon recognized that the stretch of 14th Street needed a place for the morning commute, so they also open early at 8am to serve coffee and coffeeshop pastries and food, like a parmesan truffle scone with eggs inside. “The egg runs out when you cut into it,” Gordon said with a grin, “It’s delicious.”
Little Coco’s also offers brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 3pm, and counter service from 8am - 4pm weekdays.
“We do what we do because we love it, not to make a buck,” Gordon said. “My goal is to never have to walk more than 20 minutes to work. We do this because we love the neighborhood.”
3907 14th St NW