Written by Bill Kent | Photos by Michael Butcher.
All restaurants are no more than a dream before they open, when nothing is certain and big plans materialize as effortlessly as steam from a coffee cup.
But Carlos Miranda, owner of future Hunt Country restaurant Rubano’s, isn’t dreaming. “I know, right now, this restaurant [will be] a success,” he says with a right place, right time mentality. “I can feel it. I am completely certain.”
In the last six months, Miranda acquired the Aldie Country Store and a 20-acre farm on Sally Mill Road where Chef Brad Rubano is currently living. The farm will supply many of the fruits, vegetables, and spices for Rubano’s farm-to-table menu.
Miranda describes the video he plans to post online about the new Aldie restaurant in the months before he and Rubano open in May. “It will begin with a drone shot … with the Seaspice octopus logo on the outside of what was once a white building, now painted a bold matte black,” he says. “Then we go through the front door,” he continues. The footage would then rise up over the dark, rustic reclaimed wood tables, meander toward the bar, drift over the 10-seat tasting table, offer a glance through the pass-through into the persimmon-colored kitchen walls, then linger on a matte black, white-and-persimmon painting of horses that Miranda and his wife Maryam bought in the Dominican Republic. “That ties it all together, don’t you think?”
Miranda, a Florida native, has a design degree from Marymount University. It was there that he met Maryam, who was studying business. They went on to open restaurants in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, and to design restaurant and hotel interiors for Starwood and Mandarin Oriental.
Since last summer, Carlos Miranda has been between Florida and Middleburg, having set up shop with his family at a Snickersville home the couple purchased two years ago when the family decided to send their daughters to Foxcroft School. “Of course we fell in love with Middleburg,” Maryam Miranda adds. “Who wouldn’t? It is one of the world’s most beautiful places.”
Of the new restaurant project, Maryam Miranda shares her aspirations. “When we open, we’re going to be the French Laundry, only [in] Middleburg,” she says.
With Carlos Miranda adding, “We’re going to be better. We’re going to be like the Inn at Little Washington. We’re going to bring in people from Washington, D.C. — everywhere.”
The Rubano’s team is even considering the use of a helicopter to transport celebrities from D.C. and even further, who, he is sure, will come to his new Hunt Country restaurant after having dined at Seaspice Brasserie, his south Florida seafood restaurant on the Miami River.
Given the high level of Italian cuisine already represented in Washington, D.C., and Hunt Country, this could be a daunting task. Rubano, however, has no qualms about having his name on the restaurant.
“If this had happened to me twenty years ago, I’d be a little bit scared,” Rubano admits. “But I’m 45 now. I’m ready for this. This is [exciting].”
Born on Long Island, New York, Rubano is of Sicilian descent. “I have a dozen aunts and uncles and cousins from Taormina,” he shares. “Everybody cooks. As a baby I smelled the sauce on my grandmother’s braciola. She’d start it on Saturday so it would be perfect on Sunday.” After getting an associate degree from the New York Restaurant School, Rubano and his father Tony opened a fast-casual restaurant in Merrick, Long Island, called The Pit Stop.
Experience Rubano gained at his father’s fine dining restaurant — the now-closed Wild Fish Raw Bar in Freeport, Long Island — set him on a path to the kitchen at a new restaurant called Seasalt and Pepper, carved out of a warehouse in a Miami River neighborhood better known for its auto body shops than its cuisine. Eventually rebranded as Seaspice, the 250-seat restaurant became a surprise hit.
“Before they opened, everybody told them the location was wrong, that nobody would come,” Rubano remembers. “Carlos and Maryam [have] been in the business long enough to have an instinct for these things. So, last July, when I was in my office at Seaspice and Carlos came in and said, ‘I’ve found our next place,’ I didn’t have to ask where. I found out a half an hour later when a voucher for a plane ticket to Washington appeared on my phone. A few months later, I [saw] snow for the first time in ten years.”
Since then, “It’s been non-stop because there is so much going on, in terms of what is grown, and the variety of what is grown [in Virginia],” Rubano notes regarding his ingredient list. “I’m just amazed by the range of what’s here. I just had some incredible venison and wild berries. It’s like I’m discovering a new world.”
Part of that world will include local wines, spirits, and beer with Italian vintages and brews — some of which he expects to sample at the end of this month. To solidify their menu, Rubano and the Mirandas are traveling to Italy where they will sample both traditional and trendsetting Italian cuisine.
So confident is Carlos Miranda of his restaurant’s success that he has already made plans to open a branch of Rubano’s in part of a Miami nightclub and hotel complex in 2024. In 2025, he plans to open a Rubano’s in Washington, D.C. For now, until the whirling rotors of helicopters can be heard overhead, every table is filled, and there is something Sicilian to savor from the kitchen, the lofty ambitions in mind for Rubano’s are just that. However, the restaurant is certainly worth keeping an eye on. ML
This article first appeared in the January 2023 issue.