After a half-century working in the “swamp,” Joe Biden knows how to play hide-and-seek.
So when the then vice-president of the United States had clandestine dinner meetings with some of his troubled son Hunter’s cronies, he did so in a very private room at his favorite Washington, DC, restaurant, Café Milano.
According to records found on Hunter Biden’s laptop, a dinner with Vadym Pozharskyi, an executive of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, took place in the restaurant’s Garden Room in April of 2015.
The Bidens are also said to have met with Kazakh oligarch Kenes Rakishev and former Kazakhstan prime minister Karim Massimov at Milano.
A source told The Post that Biden, who usually eats at Table 100, has also used the pricey Italian eatery’s private Wine Room on the second floor.
James Comer (R-Ky.) — chairman of the House Oversight Committee that is probing alleged foreign influence peddling by Hunter — referenced the swank Georgetown eatery Wednesday, saying that Hunter appeared to give Russian, Kazkhstani and Ukrainian business people access to his father.
“During Joe Biden’s vice presidency, Hunter Biden sold him as ‘the brand’ to reap millions from oligarchs in Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. It appears no real services were provided other than access to the Biden network, including Joe Biden himself,” Comer said in a statement.
“And Hunter Biden seems to have delivered. This is made clear by meals at Café Milano where then-Vice President Joe Biden dined with oligarchs from around the world who had sent money to his son.”
Milano, as it’s been known to the Beltway’s cognoscenti since its grand opening on January 3, 1992, has been the place to be seen — and do private wheeling and dealing — since the Clinton administration.
As Milano’s popular owner, Franco Nuschese, 62, once boasted: “We make our guests feel comfortable, at ease. Their privacy is safe and safeguarded here … and our lips are sealed.”
Insiders confirmed as much to The Post.
“Joe’s been a Café Milano regular for so long that he knows the place like the back of his hand, and he and Franco are so close they’re like Italian cousins,” one revealed.
Café Milano, which also has a private dining room named for canceled opera star Placido Domingo, was once even targeted in an assassination plot in 2011, when hitmen plotted to kill Milano regular Adel Al-Jubeir, then the Saudi ambassador to the US — by bombing the restaurant.
While the restaurant once dubbed the “second White House cafeteria” by Page Six is considered the capital’s ultimate lair for political and media power players and other elites, it doesn’t exactly garner five-star reviews.
For a first-time visitor, Milano can be a surprising disappointment.
“I figured if you have presidents and vice-presidents and members of Congress eating there, it would be a great place for an evening of power people-watching, with fine food and wine and atmosphere,” a recent guest told The Post. “Instead, my wife and I found it to be more like the Cirque de Soleil on an off night.”
The restaurant walls are covered with framed designer scarves to go with the Milan fashion scene vibe,
according to one wag.
Tom Sietsema, veteran food critic of the Washington Post, gave the place one star and wrote: “Cafe Milano hands diners an overpriced wine list ahead of serving them their depressing food: thick, tasteless veal Milanese that’s not the least bit crisp, and branzino that’s void of flavor … “
It doesn’t fare better on Yelp, where one diner commented, “The angel hair tasted like it’d been boiled for 30 minutes.”
And you’ll pay for the privilege.
A plate of pasta runs as much as $49. The wine list is than 40 pages and permits corkage with a hefty “service fee of $50 per bottle.” A bottle of vintage Alberelli di Giodo, 2017, costs $150 and a glass of champagne, La Grand Dame, Vueve Clicquot, is $95.
A “Deluxe Special Cocktail” called the “Nobile” — French Caviar Vodka, Vermouth and a “spoon of caviar”
— carries a whopping $150 price tag.
Moreover, there’s a “Dear Guests” note on the menu: “Due to the extraordinary increases in the cost of doing business, Café Milano will implement a 3% surcharge to all checks.”
Still, the power players continue to arrive, mostly in chauffeur-driven black Chevy Suburban SUVs. (There’s notoriously a lack of parking.)
The president reportedly was last there in June with granddaughter Naomi, ordering a $23 dish of Capellini Ann Hand, named for a Washington jeweler beloved by the old-guard likes of Nancy Pelosi.
You could spot Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni. West Virginia Democratic senator Joe Manchin. John Kerry. Kellyanne Conway, Anthony Scaramucci, Sean Spicer. Vice President Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff, who were joined for a pre-Christmas dinner by George and Amal Clooney and Bono. MSNBC’s Stefanie Ruhle, the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, CBS News anchor Norah O’Donnell. Goldie Hawn, Liev Schrieber, Justin Theroux, Bradley Whitford.
Among the 1,000 guests at a 2017 anniversary party were various Real Housewives of Potomac.
The Obamas were regulars, even holding a party there when daughter Malia graduated from Sidwell Friends School in 2016 and celebrating Michelle Obama’s 49th birthday there. Bill and Hillary Clinton loved the place, with her reportedly “eating anything” and Bill subsisting mostly on vegan fare, according to Milano chef Franco Sangiacomo.
Donald Trump wasn’t known to dine there during his time in the Oval Office, although daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner have.
“Did I eat well? No,” Sietsema said in an interview. “Was there a sense that I crashed a private
party? I mean, I understand the allure.”