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4. AP Pizza Shop.jpg Scott Schuman
A spread of pizzas and starters at AP Pizza Shop.

Washington, D.C. chef Mike Friedman opens two neighboring restaurants in Bethesda, Maryland

Aventino Cucina serves Roman-style antipasti and pastas, while AP Pizza Shop is a casual ode to New York and New Jersey pizza joints

Mike Friedman – the chef/owner and James Beard semifinalist behind Washington, D.C. restaurants, All-Purpose Pizzeria, The Red Hen and Boundary Stone Public House — debuted two new restaurants on Jan. 31. Friedman’s new ventures — Aventino Cucina and AP Pizza are located a few miles north in Bethesda, Md.

Friedman’s career is tied to Bethesda: it’s where he got his start in the industry as a prep cook  in 2003. He was hooked after his first shift and quickly learned to love the vibrant, fast pace of a professional kitchen and the exhilarating feeling of bringing customers joy. Friedman left the area for the Culinary Institute of America and then worked in New York City kitchens before returning to D.C. in 2007 to work with José Andrés and eventually open his own restaurants.

“My mother is now a Bethesda resident and I am once again a Montgomery County resident with my wife and children,” Friedman said. “I believe in this community, in this town, and its people. I’m so happy to be back in Bethesda.”

Scott Schuman2. Aventino Dining Room.jpg

The Aventino Cucina dining room.

Aventino Cucina’s design blends an old-world feel with modern elements. The space seats 130 guests across two levels, with the main floor anchored by a large, emerald-and-marble bar, and the dining room dotted with booths, banquettes, and marble-topped tables. Large windows fill the space with natural light, and greenery adds a pop of color and a natural design element.  

Friedman is joined in the kitchen by chef de cuisine, Gennaro Esposito, formerly of D.C. restaurants Tail Up Goat and Reveler’s Hour.

Their menu merges traditional Roman cuisine with a nod to the Roman-Jewish ghetto and incorporates seasonal Mid-Atlantic ingredients. It’s broken down into sections, including aperitivi (pre-meal drinks), antipasti, pasta, secondi, and contorni. Snacks and starters include traditional Roman flatbread with tomato conserva (concentrated tomato sauce), sea salt and Sicilian oregano; white wine-braised artichokes; and buttermilk-fried veal sweetbreads with celery root, shaved apple, fennel pollen, and tonnato (Italian condiment made with anchovies, capers, and canned tuna).

Scott Schuman3. AP Pizza Shop Interior.jpg

AP Pizza Shop is a 16-seat, all-day restaurant serving antipasti, salads and pizzas.

Pastas range from tonnarelli cacio e pepe and Spaghetti Diavolo, to rigatoni carbonara and pappardelle with slow-braised short rib and oxtail ragu. Entrees include a whole roasted dorade (saltwater fish), porchetta-spiced lamb ribs, and a New York strip loin.

Aventino’s beverage menu features Italian wines and classic cocktails like spritzes and Negronis, plus original recipes.

AP Pizza Shop sits adjacent to Aventino Cucina and is Friedman’s “love letter” to the New York and New Jersey pizzerias of his youth. The casual all-day concept has 16 seats for in-store dining, offers takeout, and provides delivery via apps like Uber Eats and Door Dash.

Scott Schuman1. Mike Friedman.jpg

Mike Friedman at his new Bethesda restaurant, Aventino Cucina.

The lunch menu features antipasti (salads, roasted garlic knots), sandwiches, and deck-oven slices in addition to whole 18-inch pies. A lunchtime slice and salad combo costs $12. The dinner menu also offers antipasti, but its pizza menu is focused on whole 12-inch pies, including Sicilian marinara, Tony’s Original (tomato, fontina cheese, beef meatballs, red peppers, sweet onion, basil, and toasted sesame) and Enzo the Baker (tomato, mozzarella, bacon, pickled peppers, red onion, Calabrian chilis, pecorino, and parsley).

Now with five restaurants under his purview, Friedman is content to work with what he’s got, but he’s keeping an eye on the future.

“I am so thankful for the teams around me that help lead our amazing restaurants,” he said. “The people that work with us make me think about creating more opportunities for them. In the short term, I have no plans on the table. However, we are very excited about the AP Pizza Shop concept, and I think any community would be excited to have a place to grab a slice, some antipasti, and a drink close to home.” 

TAGS: Chefs Owners
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