For fans of Jose de Brito’s cooking, this has been a long time coming. The chef finally has his own place.
De Brito says his passion has always been the same: to share his love of French food with as many people as possible. “I love the depth of French food,” he once explained. “The terroir, the cheeses, the markets in Provence, the butcher in the village, the apertif, the millions of ways to make charcuterie, the hundreds of ways to do bread, the millions of sauces, pastries, pies, regional dishes, and more.”
It was twenty years ago that de Brito first brought the food he loves to Charlottesville, at Ciboulette, a gourmet shop and café that grew a following so devout that some even called it reason to move to Charlottesville. De Brito’s passion was evident from the sheer scope of Ciboulette’s lunch menu:
After de Brito closed Ciboulette in 2006, his regulars followed the elusive chef from one stop to the next (HotCakes, Trinity, Fleurie, etc.), always hoping he might one day open his own restaurant, so he could pursue his passion without constraint. Not surprisingly, the stop at which de Brito earned the most acclaim was the one at which he had the most freedom: The Alley Light, where restaurateur Wilson Richey gave de Brito near carte blanche. The results were astounding – turning heads even outside Charlottesville. The James Beard Foundation named The Alley Light one of 25 semifinalists for best restaurant in the country. De Brito himself was a semifinalist for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic. And, award-winning critics at The Washington Post and The Washingtonian heaped praise.
De Brito left The Alley Light in 2016, and has spent the last five years between his second home in Washington, Virginia, where he cooked at Inn at Little Washington, and Charlottesville, where he has cooked at Fleurie. While both restaurants are outstanding, with extraordinary dishes, neither allowed de Brito the full freedom he craves to explore his passion to the fullest.
Introducing Café Frank
Now, de Brito has that chance. His own restaurant.
Café Frank, a collaboration that reunites de Brito with Richey, is set to open in March in the former home to Splendora’s, on the downtown mall. The aim is to create a classic Charlottesville café showcasing the food de Brito loves.
Once the restaurant is fully up and running, daytime offerings will include de Brito’s sandwiches, salads, pot pies, and pastries to enjoy to-go or on-premises in a seat-yourself setting. Gourmet pantry items will also be available, including wines and ingredients from de Brito’s kitchen such as oils, condiments, and seasonings.
From 4-6 pm will be Aperitif Hour, a happy hour inspired by the traiteurs, tapas, and cicchettis of Europe. De Brito will create a selection of small bites each day, served with a choice of sparkling wines or apertif cocktails. The wine list will be the work of Richey, who once founded The Wine Guild, while the bar program belongs to Mike Stewart, formerly of Kama. Managing the restaurant will be industry veteran Johnny Frankenberger.
For dinner, the entire menu will be de Brito’s, which is good news for both the chef and his fans. Further details to come, but for now “an obsession for yumminess” is how de Brito explains his plans. “My goal will be for the guest just not to eat but to notice,” de Brito said.
Even before the restaurant is fully open, it will soon join the Culture of Takeout with daily offerings designed to travel well and enjoy at home, not unlike ones he had been cooking at Fleurie. Examples include wagyu beef pot roast and red wine reduction; paella; braised Berkshire pork and sauerkraut in Riesling; and a casserole of pork shank, belly, sausage and beans.
The first sneak peek of De Brito’s creations will be on Valentine’s Day, when Café Frank will offer a multi-course menu to enjoy at home. Menu below. Advance ordering required. Details here.
Café Frank Valentine’s Day Dinner
Selection of canapés to enjoy before dinner
Lobster and seafood with root vegetable salad, cognac mayonnaise
Roasted butternut squash stuffed with braised Wagyu beef, bacon, mushrooms, Syrah reduction
Passion fruit & chocolate tart
Selection of miniature sweets