Alexandria, VA – The Del Ray Business Association presented the 2022 Heart of Del Award to Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap on February 11. The annual award, given to the business that represents the heart and soul of Del Ray, is determined by a public vote of neighbors and customers.
“The Yates family has been a part of Del Ray since 1964,” said Del Ray Business Association board member Gayle Reuter. “They’ve always been such an important part of Del Ray, always decorating, always winning landscape awards, and has given back to the community in so many ways — especially these past couple of years with COVID. Every time we put out a call for help, Lena’s is there supporting us. This award reflects how much you care about your neighbors and the community itself.”
“We are so proud of our team of hard-working and dedicated people,” Jason Yates, Sr., owner of Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap. “And we’re grateful for the votes, thank you, but really, so humbled to be included alongside the other four amazing businesses that were nominated.”
Over 1,000 neighbors, friends, and customers participated in online voting. The Dog Store/Your Dogs’ Best Friends, Stomping Ground, St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub, and Windmill Hill Design-Build firm were the other 2022 finalists.
In customer nominations, much credit was given to the visionary leadership of Jason and Loren Yates. They pivoted during COVID restrictions to transform a parking lot into Lena’s Oasis, an outside dining destination that, for many, marked their first return to in-person dining after COVID. One nominator wrote, “Lena’s didn’t just put up a tent with tables outside. They recognized people needed an escape during COVID, so they created an elevated dining experience.”
“It’s not just the innovations and the experience ̶ there’s something special ̶ there’s so much heart put into all of your businesses, and being family-owned adds to it. People feel it,” said Del Ray Business Association President Dr. Lauren Fisher. “We’re very, very grateful to have you as a part of the community.”
Accepting the award for Lena’s and the Yates family was Joey Civali, Vice President of Operations and Coordinations for Yates Companies. “We appreciate it very much, as a family – we appreciate the support and thank you all very, very much.”
Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap is named for the family’s matriarch, Lena Yates, and was recognized by Open Table as one of the Top 100 Restaurants in the United States in 2021. It is located at 401 E. Braddock Road, central to Old Town and Del Ray.
Lena’s features three restaurant experiences in one: the downstairs provides a comfortable and inviting modern space with warm wood, exposed brick, and rich red accents throughout the interior, as well as a cozy patio with a fire pit and beer garden. Upstairs is dedicated to The Loft, which is currently transformed into Velvet & Rye, a 1920s speakeasy-themed dining room reminiscent of an intimate setting from the Golden Age of new prosperity, jazz, and glamor. The outside space, The Oasis, is a tropical retreat under a huge tent.
Lena’s menu features Neapolitan-style pizzas straight from their custom-built Marra Forni wood-burning oven, with dough made using the finest double zero flour and pure spring water. Other Italian specialties and salads are fine dining knockouts served in all three venues.
“It’s food that is just like your grandmother’s cooking…if your grandmother is from Napoli!” says Lena’s grandson, Jason Yates Jr., Vice President of all the Yates Companies.
Past winners of the Heart of Del Ray award include A Show of Hands, Jen Walker of McEnearney Associates, Bobi Bomar Homes of Alexandria, The Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray, Greener Cleaner of Del Ray, Del Ray Pizzeria, Mind the Mat Pilates & Yoga, Caboose Cafe, Del Ray Cafe, Pork Barrel BBQ/Holy Cow/the sushi bar, and Taqueria Poblano, Ms. Preeti’s 7-11, and Dolce & Bean. A business cannot win the award for multiple years.