\r\n\r\n\r\nLocal West End Italian Restaurant Keeps Dedicated Customers Coming Back\r\nBy Charles Sumpter\r\nA mainstay in Alexandria\u2019s West End, Fratelli\u2019s Italian Restaurant at 410 S. Van Dorn Street, has been dishing up northern Italian specialties for almost 15 years and makes you feel like family the moment you step through the door.\r\nButter-based sauces rich with cream grace northern Italian tables just as they do in France, but Italian chefs put their own delicious spin on them with fresh herbs and garlic. Fratelli\u2019s does just that and if traveling abroad for authenticity isn\u2019t in your immediate plans, a trip to Fratelli\u2019s might just do the trick.\r\nRoots at Geranio\u2019s\r\nFratelli in Italian means brother and the name is perfect for this family-owned establishment. You see, its owners are brothers Manuel and Alex, who started in the restaurant business shortly after arriving in the United States from San Miguel, El Salvador. Shortly after departure at Dulles Airport, the two began washing dishes at Geranio\u2019s, a popular Italian restaurant in Old Town.\r\nThe Geranio\u2019s chef liked the boys and started teaching them everything. After about six months or so, Manuel began making pasta dishes, and in the mid-90s, the brothers opened the first Fratelli restaurant in Cheverly, Maryland, where Alex still serves as head chef.\r\n\r\nThe Regulars\r\nIn 2005, Fratelli\u2019s opened their second location in Virginia, settling in Alexandria. In Alexandria, Manuel and his son Jason run the kitchen, with wife and mom Marta running the front of the house. \u201cOur dedicated customer base is most important,\u201d says Jason. \u201cOur customers come from the neighborhood and some eat here two or three times a week. I have one customer who comes every night. They expect quality and that\u2019s what we are going to give them.\u201d\r\nThe restaurant\u2019s impact on the surrounding community is reflected in the dedicated customers and organizations which flock to their restaurant for meetings and events. Organizations like the nearby Watergate at Landmark\u2019s Lions Club are regulars and the Alexandria West Rotary recently held a membership drive there. \u201cWe are proud to be a neighborhood restaurant,\u201d says Jason.\r\nWhen asked about their signature dish, Jason enthusiastically suggested the Lobster Ravioli and I had to try it. While I waited for my meal, I was treated to one of my all-time favorite songs, My Way, by Frank Sinatra. As a native New Yorker, the song made me feel right at home and quite frankly, set the appropriate mood. The d\u00e9cor is exactly what you want at your neighborhood Italian restaurant. Soothing reds blanket the main room and as I sat, a young waitress began putting freshly cut flowers on each table.\r\n\r\nFreshly Baked Bread, Clams Casino and Lobster Ravioli\r\nFirst out was a warm batch of homemade baked bread, followed by the best clams casino I\u2019ve ever eaten. During the meal, I had the opportunity to meet Jason\u2019s mom, Marta, who frequently came out to check on me and my happiness. My server Mike, a recent high school graduate, was confident and attentive, as he shared his story and aspirations to one day join the military. \u201cWorking here has given me confidence,\u201d said Mike. \u201cJust a short time ago, I would have never been this confident, walking up to each table and talking with the customers. That would have never happened before.\u201d\r\nJason later brought out the signature Lobster Ravioli with pink vodka sauce and I now understand why it\u2019s so popular. Its light and full of flavor. The pieces of lobster were chunky and succulent and left me wanting more. From that point on, I knew I would be back.\r\nFratelli\u2019s is more than just a restaurant, it\u2019s a family. Mike told me that the staff are cooked meals daily so no one\u2019s hungry on the job. They take care of each other and in turn, take care of the community at large. \u201cEvery night at dinner, this place is busy,\u201d says Jason, \u201cand that\u2019s how we like it.\u201d Just before I left, I stopped in the kitchen to wave goodbye to everyone. I had the opportunity to meet the chef himself, who informed me of Fratelli\u2019s legendary Sunday brunches that I needed to try. I told them all that I would be back, not in any official capacity, but as another member of their dedicated customer base.