The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Category: Introductions

Introducing Crush Pad Wines: Wine Bar and Shop from Vincent Derquenne and Co.

Vincent Derquenne’s love of wine is well-known around Charlottesville. When industry folks get together to share wines, Derquenne often shows up with bottles that blow away even the most serious oenophiles. While he seems to have encyclopedic knowledge and a knack for finding special wines, to enjoy them you have to be lucky enough to attend one of the private gatherings with Derquenne.

Enter Crush Pad Wines, a new wine bar and shop that brings some of Derquenne’s favorites to the masses. And it’s not just Derquenne. His wine team includes GM and Certified Sommelier Rachel Gendreau, as well industry veterans Tom Walters (Foods of All Nations) and Wes McCullen (DS Trading Co.).

Directly across the Downtown Mall from Bizou, the former home to J. Fenton Gifts has been transformed into a sleek and comfortable space for drinking and shopping. A long bar with green leather stools lines one side of the room, while shelves of wine bottles line the other.

There will be food, too.  With Tim Burgess, Derquenne is one half of the trailblazing duo whose Metropolitain restaurant transformed Charlottesville dining. They now own Bizou, Bang!, Luce, and The Space. Crush Pad Wines will offer a menu of small plates and other bites designed to enjoy with wine, including another Derquenne specialty, house-made charcuterie.

The retail shop is now open, with food and beverage service starting later this month.

Café Frank is Here! A look at the menu and interior of Jose De Brito’s new restaurant

“A dream come true” is no hyperbole. Fans of Jose De Brito’s food have literally dreamt that he might one day open his own restaurant. While they may disagree where he reached his greatest heights — Ciboulette, The Alley Light, or Fleurie — none would dispute that the James Beard semifinalist is at his best when free to create whatever he wants. Like at his own restaurant.

Café Frank opens March 15 in the former home to Splendora’s on the downtown mall. By day, it offers De Brito’s grab-and-go sandwiches, salads, pot pies, and pastries. At 4 pm, Apertif Hour includes De Brito’s small bites served a la carte with champagne, wine, or a cocktail. And at night, the dinner menu, at long last, belongs completely to De Brito. While he plans to change it often, the opening menu features dishes like beef carpaccio with oyster tartar and caper mayonnaise; house-made fettuccini with shrimp Bolognese and lobster tail; and Steak Diane with mushroom & bourbon sauce and scalloped potatoes.

Take-home meal specials change by night of the week. Currently, Thursday is Choucroute Alsacienne – braised pork, sausage, potatoes and Pinot Blanc sauerkraut. Friday is Cassoulet – pork, duck, and Tarbais beans, cooked in aromatics with a condiment of roasted tomato. And, Saturday is Blanquette de Veau – veal stew with rice pilaf and spring vegetables. Advance ordering required.

Cassoulet

The new restaurant reunites De Brito with serial restaurateur Wilson Richey, who, in addition to The Alley Light, has launched The Whiskey Jar, The Pie Chest, The Bebedero, Brasserie Saison, Kama, and Milkman’s Bar.

As is his habit, Richey has assembled an experienced team. Managing is Johnny Frankenberger (MAS, Quality Pie, Rapture, Station, etc.). Overseeing the bar is Mike Stewart (Milkman’s Bar, Kama, and Commonwealth). Bar menu here.  And the design belongs to Stephanie Williams, whose previous projects include Lampo, Prime 109, and Kama. The interior already had “good bones,” said Williams, so she just reconfigured colors and space and uncovered an existing brick wall and chimney for a feel that is modern and sleek, but cozy and warm.

Located at 317 E. Main Street, Café Frank is open Monday through Saturday from 11:30 am to 10 pm.

Diamond in the Sky: Pop-up Sandwiches at Little Star

Give the people what they want. And, the people want sandwiches.

That seems to be the mantra behind the new takeout menu at Little Star.

For some restaurants, the shift to the Culture of Takeout was a challenge. Not all foods and experiences translate well to disposable containers.

One food type made for takeout, though, are sandwiches, and Little Star chef and co-owner Ryan Collins is a sandwich fiend. Collins’ special affinity for a classic Italian sub, in fact, was a spark behind his interest in launching a sandwich shop out of Little Star. While Charlottesville has a few Italian sub riffs that Collins enjoys, nothing, he says, can scratch the itch like the original.

For an original, perhaps the most distinguishing factor is bread. There is great bread all over Charlottesville, but not much, if any, of the signature style for subs at Italian delis: hoagies with a crunchy exterior and soft, squishy exterior. For that, Collins turned of course to Charlottesville’s king of bread, Gerry Newman, at Little Star’s neighbor Albemarle Baking Company. Newman had already collaborated with Collins on pan estrella for Little Star’s instant classic pan tomate. Now, Newman’s bakery has fine-tuned a bread just for Little Star’s new sandwich program. “We listened to what Ryan was looking for and were always open to the changes necessary to improve the crust, crumb, and taste for the sandwich he had in mind,” said Newman. “We landed on a seeded semolina loaf that can hold an incredible Italian sandwich.”

Little Star’s Italians come either mild or spicy. The mild is the Fiat: mortadella, mild salami, marinated tomato, lettuce, onion, aged pecorino, and house dressing on ABC semolina Italian loaf. The spicy, the Alfa Spider, replaces mild salami with spicy.

The Bugatti is like the love child of a French Dip and classic pork and broccoli rabe. Braised beef cheeks, broccoli, aged pecorino, and hot peppers are stuffed into an ABC semolina loaf with a side of beef jus.

The Meep Meep is roasted cauliflower, Romesco, apricot mostarda, arugula, and onion, again on the custom ABC semolina Italian loaf.

Daily soups will change often. Salads include a Caesar and a salad of house made mozzarella.

Opening tomorrow, January 13, Little Star’s takeout sandwich shop will operate Wednesday-Saturday, 11:30 am – 7:30 pm. Meanwhile, Little Star’s regular menu will remain available for on premises dining  Thursday through Saturday.

Order takeout sandwiches here.

%d bloggers like this: