The Charlottesville 29

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

Category: The 29

Lampo

Lampo205 Monticello Road . Charlottesville, VA . (434) 244-3226
http://www.lampopizza.com

Why Lampo?

In an era when many chefs vie to create the next big thing, at Lampo three talented young chefs focus on a traditional food governed by rigid rules: Neapolitan pizza. With practice, study, and expert tutoring, the three chefs –Mitchell Beerens, Loren Mendosa, and Ian Redshaw — have mastered the pizza, which alone warrants a slot in The Charlottesville 29.

But, there’s much, much, more. Some chefs vow to keep it simple, but then cannot help from trying to show off through contrived cooking. When it comes to keeping it simple, Lampo’s chefs walk the walk, embracing the Campanian approach to food: use outstanding ingredients and get out of the way, allowing the product to shine. The results can often leave customers wondering how something so simple can taste so good.

A fourth owner, Andrew Cole, former sommelier of Tavola, is one of the town’s most devoted bar managers, whose passion for cocktails and beer rivals his love of wine. Start with one of his cocktails before enjoying a wine or beer paired with your food.

With a tiny, brick Belmont space, there is often a wait, especially for dinner. But, the food, drinks, and cheerful service are always worth it.

What to Order

Daily specials invariably warrant consideration, especially General Tso’s Sweetbreads, the 2015 Dish of the Year, and the Szechuan Pastrami Panuozzo, the 2016 Dish of the Year. On the regular menu, a standout is the porchetta panuozzo, which three different area chefs named the best thing they ate in all of 2015. Below are our picks, choices by Lampo’s own chefs, and appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where other area chefs and personalities have named a Lampo dish one of the best in town.

Our Picks

  • Antipasti: Pane; Polpettine al Forno
  • Insalata: Cavolo Nero; Cavoletti Di Bruxelles
  • Panuozzo: Porchetta; Muffalata; Vegetable
  • Pizza: Margherita D.O.C.; Marinara D.O.C.
  • Specials
  • Whatever Cocktail Andrew Feels Like Making

Chefs’ Picks

  • Cavoletti Di Bruxelles (Mendosa)
  • Vegetable Panuozzo (Mendosa and Beerens)
  • Hot Carl: a warmed Muffalata Panuozzo (Redshaw)
  • Marinara D.O.C. Pizza (Beerens)
  • Hellboy Pizza (Redshaw)
  • Pasta a la Chittara with Broccolini, Ginger, and Calabrian Chili (Redshaw)

Five Finds on Friday Picks

Lampopie

Hamiltons’

hamiltons-at-first-main101 West Main Street . Charlottesville, VA . (434) 295-6649
http://hamiltonsrestaurant.com/

Why Hamiltons’?

Some say a visit to Hamiltons’ is like a time warp to a “New American” restaurant of the 1980s and 1990s –  with its steady soundtrack of light jazz, brightly colored walls, and margaritas served in martini glasses. The menu includes standards like crabcakes and crème brûlée, and the signature blue plate special is even served on a blue, glossy plate.

But, it’s not just superficial similarities that Hamiltons’ shares with restaurants of the New American renaissance. It’s also the renewed sense of professionalism and attention to detail that the era brought. And so, the butter with your bread is always room temperature, as it should be. And, the bread, itself, is warm, salty, yeasty, and perfect every time – the kind that seems to make you hungrier as it fills you up. Most importantly, the cooking is excellent. Owners Kate and Bill Hamilton know good food, and have always had a talented Chef de Cuisine, from Gail Hobbs-Page, to Jeanette Peabody, to Curtis Shaver, the former Duner’s sous chef who took over the kitchen in 2013 and was promptly named one of Charlottesville’s rising stars.

What to Order

Menu changes mean that not all of these recommendations will always be available. But, below is a list of our suggestions, the chef’s favorites, and appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where a local chef or personality has named a Hamiltons’ dish as one of the best in town. Our corned beef hash pick is from the Sunday brunch menu, which is a particularly good time to enjoy Hamiltons’.

Our Picks

  • Vegetarian Blue Plate Special
  • Crispy Cornmeal Dusted Calamari Salad
  • Carolina Shrimp Poached in Chardonnay and Lemon with Woodson’s Mill Creamy Grits
  • Pan Roasted Jumbo Lump Crabcake
  • Housemade Wagyu Corned Beef Hash
  • Sandwich Lab Sandwiches

Chef’s Picks

  • Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad
  • Chopped Romaine and Radicchio Salad with Fried Oysters
  • Housemade Pappardelle with Tomato Braised Lamb Ragu
  • Grilled Double H Farm Pork Chop
  • Arctic Char with Edamame Mash, sautéed Sharondale Farms Mushrooms, Blistered Cherry Tomatoes, and Charred Lemon Vinaigrette

Five Finds on Friday Picks

Sultan Kebab

Sultan333 2nd Street SE . Charlottesville, VA . (434) 981-0090
https://www.sultankebabcville.com/

Why Sultan Kebab?

There is only one Turkish restaurant in Charlottesville. Fortunately, it’s a good one. So good that some chefs call it the best restaurant in town. Sultan Kebab draws on the Turkish heritages of co-owners Deniz Dikmen and Serhat Peker. Dikmen is from Adana, and Sultan Kebab’s Adana Kebab is stellar – grilled kebabs of ground beef, spiced with red pepper and paprika. Peker is from Izmir, and the Izmir Kofte Kebab is likewise excellent – grilled meatballs seasoned with onion, cumin, and garlic.

With years of experience at Clifton Inn under their belt before opening Sultan Kebab in 2012, Dikmen and Peker are committed perfectionists, and won’t put anything on the menu until they have gotten it right. The house-made pita bread warrants special mention. While “pita” has come to connote any flat bread in the United States, Sultan Kebab’s pita bread is the real thing from Turkey, discs of soft, flavorful bread, made fresh by a talented woman named Nergiza Geydarova. For sandwiches, the bread is sliced, and stuffed with your choice of kebabs, Turkish sausages, or vegetables. Regardless what the menu says, we ask for all of our sandwiches to be served on it.

What to Order

It’s difficult to go wrong at Sultan Kebab, where several items appear throughout the menu in different forms, from appetizers, to sandwiches, to platters. Below is a list of our suggestions, the owners’ favorites, and appearances in Five Finds on Friday, where a local chef or personality has named a Sultan Kebab dish as one of the best in town.

Our Picks

  • Sigara Borek
  • Lentil Soup
  • Lahmacun
  • Adana Kebab Sandwich, on pita
  • Izmir Kofte Platter
  • Ali Nazik
  • Manti

Owners’ Picks

  • Hummus Casserole (Dikmen)
  • Lentil Soup (Peker)
  • Adana and Lamb Combo Platter (Dikmen)
  • Chicken Platter (Peker)
  • Vegetarian Platter (Peker)
  • Baklava (Dikmen)
  • Rice Pudding (Dikmen)

Five Finds on Friday Picks

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Photo by Tom McGovern