The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Angelo Vangelopoulos

A Tale of Two Deuces: How Two Dogs Dropped Ivy Inn’s Decades of Excellence on Charlottesville

Angelo and Farrell Vangelopoulos, 1996

Before a restaurant opportunity lured Angelo Vangelopoulos to Charlottesville in 1995, he had never set foot in the city. Having spent years cooking in other people’s restaurants, the 24-year-old Culinary Institute of America graduate was looking to open a place with his family, and had seen a Washington Post ad about a restaurant for sale in Charlottesville, Virginia: Ivy Inn.

“The first time I walked down that walkway, I knew I was home,” Angelo said. How he knew is anybody’s guess. But, the benefits of Angelo’s prescience are immeasurable.

Sure the accolades are impressive. James Beard semi-finalist. Mount Rushmore Chef. Best restaurant awards. But, they don’t come close to capturing what Angelo Vangelopoulos and his wife Farrell have meant to Charlottesville.

The film It’s A Wonderful Life poses a thought experiment to illuminate the impact of a life: imagine the world without you. In the case of the Vangelopoulos family, the results are incomprehensible. Thousands of lives are better because of them and their restaurant in ways that can never be quantified. In fact, without graphic details of the birds and the bees, it is safe to say that many people exist because of the restaurant. From there, occasions dot the arc of a life: first birthdays, then graduations, marriage proposals, weddings, anniversaries, and beyond.

And yet, even those life experiences and their consequences do not tell the full story, as the Vangelopoulos’s impact extends beyond the walls of their restaurant. Somewhere along the way, Angelo evolved from new kid on the block to become a leader of the Charlottesville restaurant community. Part of the reason so many in the industry look to Angelo is the excellence of his restaurant. For nearly three decades, Angelo and Farrell’s restaurant has been the standard-bearer of hospitality in Charlottesville. No restaurant of The Charlottesville 29 has been under the same ownership for so long. But, Angelo also serves as an example for what he does outside the restaurant. “There came a point at which we realized that people actually paid attention to us,” said Angelo. “We realized that what we do and how we act matters.” And so, Angelo and Farrell have become stewards of the food community. “We have to help build community,” Angelo said in a recent StoryCorps conversation. “To me, food is community.” No one gives more.

Last month marked 26 years of the Vangelopoulos family running Ivy Inn, which prompted Angelo, 50, to reflect on a place he has called home for more than half his life. In his weekly newsletter to guests, he wrote:

We dove in head-first from day one and just started cooking food that we liked to eat. No business plan to speak of, no restaurant blueprint to follow. We simply followed our instincts and tried to give our guests a restaurant experience they would remember and cherish. It wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t always fun, but we are so happy that we made our home here in Charlottesville . . . I am humbled to have survived all these years, and I so greatly appreciate the love and support of the Charlottesville community, without whom we wouldn’t have made it. Thanks for hanging in there with us. It’s an honor and privilege to have you as our guests and to consider you “family.”

While the Vangelopoulos’ are happy to have made Charlottesville their home, Charlottesville is even happier. Our food community is forever blessed that in Angelo’s first visit in 1995, he somehow realized that a place he had never been was actually his home. Ever humble, Angelo takes no credit for the realization. That, he says, belongs to Java and Joe, the two dogs that joined him and Farrell on the two hour drive from D.C. to Charlottesville. As they pulled into the Ivy Inn driveway, Java and Joe jumped out of car and pooped on the restaurant’s front lawn. “Well, they like the place!” Farrell said.

Than you, Java. Thank you, Joe.

Farrell, Alex, and Angelo Vangelopoulos

“Best Thing I Ate All Year” 2017

No matter what else may be going on in the world, every year is a good food year. Each December we celebrate the Charlottesville food year by looking back at our latest trip around the sun and asking top area chefs: what was the best thing you ate all year? Here are the picks from 2016 and 2015. And, below are this year’s picks in chefs’ annual tribute to Charlottesville’s bounty. Meanwhile, check back here next week for The Charlottesville 29 pick for 2017 Dish of the Year.

Mitchell Beerens (Lampo)

Crispy Lamb Shank at Oakhart Social. “The lamb shank at Oakhart Social was the best thing I ate all year. Crispy crust that gave way to super succulent meat. I’m pretty sure it was served with hummus and harissa. Super simple and super soulful. That’s what I love about Tristan and Ben’s spot.”


Tim Burgess (The Space, Bang!, and Bizou)

Biscuits at Floozie’s Pie Shop. “I had the garden omelette, grits and biscuit at Floozie’s Pie shop in Louisa last February.  The omelette was really good, fluffy farm egg goodness, but not the star here. The biscuit took me back to my childhood, the best I’ve ever had and I’ve made a lot of biscuits in my day.  Then the grits, stone ground, salty, cheesy, buttery boom. I was floored by the meal, but shouldn’t have been, Jade and Debbie can flat out cook. Their pies are the real deal too.”


Jose de Brito (Fleurie)

Cotoletta di Maiale Alla Milanese at Tavola. “My dining etiquette is that when I return dining in a same establishment I rarely reorder the same dish except in extraordinary circumstances, and that would be when I was presented with a good dish. Tavola’s pork a la Milanese is the one dish that breaks my code of conduct. It never miss, I tried to break from my bad habit; once or probably twice I did order another dish. Although the restaurant is tasty across the line, when the pork is executed flawlessly it is close to saintliness. The other day, a guest of Fleurie asked me after service what was my favorite dish in Charlottesville. Before answering her I asked her the same question and we both answered simultaneously, the pork milanese at Tavola! You see when the breading on the cutlet is perfectly breaded, the sear is of the right color, neither too light or too dark, the capers have been slightly sautéed to take out the rawness, the tomatoes roasted a la perfection and the baby arugula wilted with kindness, the sum of all those delicate little details added to a butter emulsion laced with a drop of Meyer lemon, when that emulsion has the right body, the perfect amount amount of butter to cling to the breading, it is definitely, without any doubt my choice for best dish in C-ville. (Although, after reflection, the porchetta sandwich at Lampo is a close one and another dish that has made me break my rules, I usually never eat sandwiches , but I guess I am off subject, sorry!) And now to finish my little pamphlet. Let ourself ponder about what the French Chef Joel Robuchon once said: ‘What makes a good cook from a great cook, it is all about the details.’ The Milanese at Tavola has all the right details. Arrivederci, good people.”

Laura Fonner (Duner’s)

Smoked Jerk Jackfruit by Prime 109. “I had the pleasure of judging food for a cook-off at Highland Orchard Farms and Lampo participated by debuting some of the items that will be on their new menu at their downtown steak house Prime 109. Their lamb and duck kielbasa and dry aged Szechuan peppercorn pastrami were out of this world. Amazing flavors. Amazing textures. But the standout dish that blew me away was actually their young smoked jerk jackfruit. I taste a lot of things all year long but this is the first thing this year that actually surprised me, which is what I look for in new dishes. The flavor is perfect, sweet and spicy. The texture was similar to meat and I am sure it will actually fool people into thinking they are eating some sort of jerk meat. Hats off to those gentlemen. I look forward to seeing what else will come from that restaurant!”


Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange)

Crab Stuffed Squash Blossoms at Ivy Inn. “Angelo Vangelopoulos created a tasting menu for our 31st anniversary. It was world class. Our first meal with Angelo was in 1993, and watching his growth as a chef has been a real joy. He really has grown in a great direction! The whole meal was stellar but the crab stuffed squash blossoms with sweet corn sauce was unforgettable, and his father’s tomato-braised pole beans were life changing! Then, not to forget the pig brain amuse bouche, which was genius.”


Michael Keaveny (Tavola)

Short Rib at The Coat Room at Brasserie Saison.  “I had a short rib with carrot ‘BBQ’ sauce in The Coat Room at Brasserie Saisson that was pretty memorable. It was crispy on the outside and tender inside. Great contrast in texture, and the sauce was surprisingly delicious. Great dish! I will miss Tyler’s food, though all indications are the new chefs are killing it!”


Michael McCarthy (Dr. Ho’s)

Chocolate Croissant from Little Hat Creek Farm. “Spectacular if not amazeballs! I’m good for one or two every time I visit the Nelson county farmers’ market.”


Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Braised Beef and Macaroni at The Alley Light. “I have to say, it’s sooooo difficult to pick a ‘best.’ I think a ‘best’ is so often situation specific. Was it who I was with on a perfect evening after a very, very long work week? Then it would be the comfort of the Braised Beef with Mac at The Alley Light.”

Tomas Rahal (MAS)

Soft-poached Duck Egg with Perigord Truffles, asparagus, moliterno di tartuffo at MAS tied with Mike Ketola’s Salt-citrus Cured Albacore Loin with grapefruit and Brussels leaves salad, also at MAS. “JF Legault’s soft-scrambled farm egg with Alba truffles was a close third. I’d love to give props to other spots, but these dishes were transcendent.”


Ian Redshaw (Lampo)

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup at Cafe 88. “Available Friday and Saturday, dine-in only, this hidden gem is worth every last drop.”


Ivan Rekosh (Zocalo)

Roast Beef Panuozzo at Lampo.  “If I had to choose one thing, it’d probably be the aged roast beef sandwich with provolone at Lampo. I remember eating it and thinking this is the best sandwich I’ve had in a long ass time.”


Wilson Richey (Ten Course Hospitality)

Crispy Scallops at Brasserie Saison. “I know you are not supposed to pick your own restaurants, but Tyler really nailed that dish and I just can’t make something up. The textures are one of the most stand out parts of the dish: the crunchy exterior, the creamy puree beneath it, and the crisp celery root on top. It’s just perfectly balanced flavor and texture. There are a lot of things going on. I could eat those scallops every night.”


Andrew Silver (Roots Natural Kitchen)

Ma Po Tofu at Taste of China. “I have discovered that I really like soft tofu (Zzzam also has really good soft tofu). It is spicy, numbing, hot, aromatic and tender. Pairs perfectly with stir fried snow pea shoots and a cold Tsingtao.”


Angelo Vangelopoulos (Ivy Inn)

Sourdough Bread by Tucker Yoder at Timbercreek Market. “I was lucky enough to have Tucker gift me a loaf (I think he owed for some truffles or something), and my family and I ate it for days. The crust is thick, it’s full of grains (I think his wife grinds the wheatberries?), has amazing chew and long lasting flavor. My son’s eyes lit up when he tasted it for the first time and he asked ‘WHERE did you get this?! It’s AMAZING!'”


Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

Foie Gras with Passion Fruit Gelée at Fleurie. “Hot Damn. Those guys are actually cooking, and well. You don’t see real cooking all that much these days.”


Tucker Yoder (Back 40)

Persimmons from Edible Landscaping. “These persimmons right here from my man Dan. Chased with a shot of tequila or mezcal.”


The Ivy Inn with Jeremiah Langhorne

“He taught me how to be a good person.”

That’s what The Dabney‘s Jeremiah Langhorne said about his former boss Angelo Vangelopoulos during a spectacular dinner last month at Vangelopoulos’ The Ivy Inn, which Langhorne called the best meal he had in a long time. Read all about it in this week’s C-VILLE Weekly.

Thank you to Langhorne and his wife Jenny for joining me, Vangelopoulos for preparing the meal, his stellar staff for serving it, and Tom McGovern for capturing these great images of the evening.


%d bloggers like this: