42015 Village Center Plaza
Aldie, VA 20105
PRICE $$ ($13-$20)
HOURS Open for lunch and dinner daily.
NVM AWARDS None
NEARBY METRO None
By Warren Rojas
After a decade and a half of slinging pies and fast-casual service, hospitality industry veteran Ciro D’Agostino says he was ready to ratchet things down a bit.
“Now that I am [over] 50, I want to do things at a slower pace,” the old hand suggests.
His solution: Open a second, fine-dining facility, and split the time shuttling between both kitchens.
Sounds relaxing, no?
A lifelong restaurateur, D’Agostino has been in the business of pleasing dining patrons since joining forces with an older brother (he’s the youngest of four) at the tender age of 16. As a first-generation immigrant (D’Agostino originally hails from Naples, Italy), he says he is honored to share his hospitality with anyone who gives him the honor of walking through the front doors.
“You didn’t come here to cheat and steal. You come to produce and create,” he says of his understanding of the American dream.
To that end, D’Agostino established his original pizzeria in Centreville in 1992. Its more polished sibling, Ciro Ristorante, followed in 2007.
D’Agostino describes Centreville as more of a place “for busy people” (favored by the on-the-way-home, kids-in-tow crowd), whereas he wanted Stone Ridge to be much more mellow (dressed-up environs, but still a come-as-you-are attitude).
“It’s the place where I wanted to put everything together that I know,” he says of the snazzy new spinoff.
The place is certainly handsome. Multicolored flames dance seductively within the front-and-center stone oven that greets guests as soon as they walk through the revolving door. Fun-seekers can easily slide into any of the high-backed booths that dominate the airy central dining area or claim a seat at the quaint marble-topped bar, while privacy hounds are accommodated with semi-private chambers at opposite ends of the restaurant (we liked the charming cubby surrounded by window views best).
Staff seems professional (reciting specials from memory, sprinkling freshly grated parmesan tableside, refilling beverages on the fly), if a tad too chummy (one youngish server stumbled right into the faux old-friend routine; you’ve got to earn that trust, buddy). Though D’Agostino says he tries his hardest to be everywhere as needed, daughter Laura (currently studying at George Mason) keeps a watchful eye on the new restaurant whenever Poppa is occupied elsewhere.
“I don’t want it to feel like a place that has no spirit,” D’Agostino says of the family-first nature of his business philosophy.
Meanwhile, the crowd appears to be evenly split between young couples and roving groups of friends to extended families (toting around kids from tots to teens).
D’Agostino, meanwhile, attempts to pied piper in all types with his classic Italian preparations.
“These flavors are in my brain,” he says of his allegiance to the same basic ingredients—tomatoes, garlic, oregano, basil and olive oil—that framed his youthful eating. That passion for authenticity also translates into baking bread daily and producing all the pastas in-house.
Daily specials run the gamut from roast mahi-mahi to pumpkin ravioli in butter-sage sauce to ragout-braised short ribs with vegetables. Portions are definitely plus sized, making leftovers almost a fait accompli (one night, nearly every patron marched out with a bulging white carryout bag swinging from their arm).
A mountainous antipasto plate is stocked with tantalizing meats (zesty salami rounds, savory strips of shaved prosciutto), mixed greens drizzled in tongue-teasing balsamic vinegar, roasted red peppers, pert black olives, hunks of aged parmesan (terrific) and Caprese-style tomato slices that are draped with moist slabs of mozzarella (the very definition of abbondanza).
Chicken parmigiana pulls no punches, revealing upward of 10 ounces of well-breaded bird (the coating infused with a spritz of lemon) smothered in fragrant marinara and melted mozzarella and escorted by a tangle of lightly sauced noodles (zesty tomato bits dominate most bites).
Wild mushroom- and parmesan-filled ravioli are enveloped by brandy cream sauce (burnt alcohol sweetness interwoven with that familiar cream silkiness) and bolstered by diced chives and white mushrooms. The fettuccine Mediterraneo reveals al dente noodles buoyed by shredded crab (luscious meat seemed to creep into every forkful) and bay scallops (small, but abundant) in a spicy cream sauce.
The rose sauce reappears in a prosciutto- and cheese-filled tortellini production that is fairly generous with the aged cheese but seemed to falter in the cured meat category (scant bits here and there, but mostly absent).
D’Agostino currently splits his time between the two kitchens—“I work seven days a week because this is my passion,” he states—but would like to bring in more specialty chefs (seafood, pastry) to help round out the entire Stone Ridge dining experience.
And while he’s got some other improvements already in mind (including a possible expansion), D’Agostino seems pleased by the modest success his fledgling white tablecloth venture has enjoyed to date.
“I get people from everywhere. The word has been spread,” he states.