The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Bang

Introducing Luce: Fresh Pasta To-Go from the Bizou/Bang! Team

When they were young, Mt. Rushmore chef Tim Burgess’s five children would beg him to make the same dish on his days off: fresh pasta. Especially fond of the dish was Burgess’ middle child, Travis, who also came to share his father’s love of the food industry itself. Now 26, chef Travis runs food operations at both of his father’s restaurants — Bizou and Bang! — and is next poised to launch a place inspired by that favorite childhood dish. Offering fresh pasta to-go, Luce will open this month in the takeout window on 2nd Street NW.

Like many in the industry, Travis began by washing dishes, which is how he and his siblings spent summers as young teens, at Bang!. “I would prep goat cheese dumplings and crab potstickers, and scrub piles of pans that would tower above me,” Travis said. “Those summers are where it all started and when I got hooked on the kitchen life.”

During college at George Mason, Travis washed more dishes at Trummers on Main in Clifton, and then suddenly became garde manager when the prior one quit. It was there that Travis decided that this is what he wanted to do for the rest of the life. And so, after graduation, in 2015 Travis scored a gig at one of the nation’s most acclaimed restaurants and best training grounds, FIG, in Charleston. As luck would have it, Travis was assigned to hot appetizers, which was essentially a pasta station, where he cranked out thousands of iterations of dishes like stone crab spaghetti and gnocchi bolognese. “Standing over the pasta pot became my zone,” Travis said.

Travis returned to Charlottesville in 2017, becoming Chef of Bang!. And, despite Bang!’s focus on Asian small plates, Travis’ heart remained with pasta, which he began working into the menu wherever he could, with dishes like ricotta gnocchi in curried sweet potato sauce.

Then, this summer Travis sprung on his father the idea of opening a takeout pasta place and calling it Luce, Italian for “light.” His father did not blink, and immediately pulled up from his iPad an old photo he liked, which he had stowed away in case it ever proved useful. A mural covering a storefront in Madrid, it depicted the beam of a streetlight in yellow paint.

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“The concept of Luce is my dream,” said Travis. “To sell the pasta I’ve been making every day for the last two years, fresh cooked to order.” The idea is for the food to be fresh, fast, and affordable, he says. “Fine dining quality fresh pasta cooked to order for $10 or less,”  Travis said. “Kinda like Bodo’s meets Tavola?”

Travis says there is no secret to his pasta — aside from good quality ingredients: 00 flour and semolina, local organic eggs, and a splash of Spanish olive oil. That’s it. Though the Luce kitchen is tiny, the focus solely on pasta means there will be space to prepare it. Roll and cut fresh pasta by hand, boil it, and toss it in sauce. “It’s just fresh and cooked to order which is a real gamechanger,” Travis said.

At least initially, the size of the menu will match the size of the space: a kale caesar salad, cheesecake for dessert, and just three pasta dishes, like the “Bolo” – pappardelle with pork ragu, toast crumbs, mint, and parmigiano-reggiano. Travis’ favorite is the one that reminds him most of his childhood. The “Cacio” combines tagliatelle, parmigiano-reggiano, olive oil and cracked black pepper, and takes Travis back.  “Just the memory of eating my dad’s pasta was mind-blowing,” Travis said. “When we’ve had menu meetings for Luce, I’ve been licking the container reminiscing about the pasta my dad used to make.”

But, Travis says, his pasta and his father’s are not exactly the same.

“I think mine’s better. Sorry Dad?”

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Luce opens in late October at 110 2nd Street NW. Hours 11 am – 8 pm.

Five Finds on Friday: Natalie Siler

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Natalie Siler, the woman behind Charlottesville’s favorite chocolate peanut butter balls. After a decade in the Pittsburgh restaurant industry, the Charlottesville native returned home in 2012 in search of a job with a more traditional schedule, when fate and Charlottesville generosity intervened. A “friend of a friend” asked if Siler would like to carry on the peanut butter ball recipe she had been making for Feast!. Siler accepted, and when she took her first batch to Feast!, she recalls, “the woman at the counter popped one in her mouth, and said: ‘Great! We will need 300 more.” Six years later, the peanut butter balls remain a sensation, as she now makes 600 per week to meet holiday demand. Available only at Feast!. Siler’s picks:

1) Black Bean Nachos at Continental Divide. “On paper, they might not sound like anything out of the ordinary, but when you add the squeeze bottle of Wait a Minute sauce and one of Matt’s margaritas, it is unpretentious and wonderful. If I have room, one of the daily specials from Seven Hills never lets me down. I like to sit at the curve of the bar and come early.”

2) Italian Sub at Anna’s Pizza #5.  “I grew up in Charlottesville and many of my favorite dishes and spaces exist only in memory now, but 34 years later, the Italian Sub at Anna’s Pizza #5 has stayed happily identical to how I remember it tasting after a swim meet on a Wednesday night. A satisfying crunch, the tangy house dressing and one of the best beer pitcher deals in town. Don’t change, Anna.”

3) Honey Ginger Martini at Bang!. “This drink makes me think of my sister. Her name is Ginger and she lives in Austin, which is where I was first introduced to Tito’s Vodka. (My dad claims to have played cornhole with Tito himself). And, this drink is perfect for a kick in the pants to get you going for a show downtown. House pickles and sweet potato gnocchi always follow.”

4) Cheese from Caromont Farm and Our Lady of the Angels. “I’m a sucker for a cheese plate. I’m not sure I can pick a favorite one, but Pippin Hill and The Local come to mind. I’m always excited to see Caromont Farm on the menu. After my snuggle session with the goats last year, I always like to think I played some tiny part in making it taste so good. But I’m always looking for that bright red wax wheel that covers the gouda from of Our Lady of the Angels Monastery. It’s made in the mountains near Crozet and if anyone is not sure what I might want as a gift, the two pound wheel will do just fine.”

5) Tuna Avocado Carpaccio at Now & Zen. “The first time I ordered this and the almost-table length salad was placed in front of me, I giggled like a small child. It hit all the marks for me. Protein. Spice. Greens. Texture. I always over order here, but I can never not get this salad.”

Five Finds on Friday: Courtney Hildebrand

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Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from Courtney Hildebrand of The Catering Outfit, the full service caterer that recently launched pop-up lunches and dinners at its Carlton Road kitchen. Lunches are every Thursday, and the first dinner installment will be Saturday, August 18: Basque Seaside Dinner, with chef Tomas Rahal of Quality Pie. Details and reservations here. Meanwhile, The Catering Outfit’s sister restaurant, The Shebeen Pub and Braai, serves brunch every Saturday and Sunday, with house made Bloody Marys, acoustic music, and even outdoor patio seating on swings (yes swings). Hildebrand’s picks:

1) Mexican Street Corn at Junction. “In a town with lots of new street corn options, Melissa still has my favorite! It’s one of their shared plates so you can enjoy a small order by yourself or get a large to share with your friends. The chili-lime dressing is amazing.  Junction also has my favorite cocktails in town. I love to try anything Alec creates. My current favorite is Rum Communion with brown butter rum and notes of pineapple & lime. It’s hard to have just one of these yummy cocktails!”

2) Spicy Shrimp Dishes at The Local, Bang!, and The Shebeen Pub and Brai. “I am a sucker for a great shrimp dish. I have a three way tie for the best shrimp dish in town, as I will always order these if I am at one of these establishments. My picks are the Crispy Shrimp at The Local, the Firecracker Shrimp at Bang!, and the False Bay Crispies at The Shebeen Pub and Braai. They are all so tasty and it is just too hard to narrow it down to just one pick!”

3) Green Giant Roll at Now & Zen. “Now and Zen is one of my favorite spots to go to dinner with a small group of friends. Everything on the menu is mouthwatering, but the Green Giant Roll is always a pleasant surprise for friends who shy away from vegetarian dishes. This giant roll with sweet potato tempura, avocado & cream cheese stands up to any of their other signature big rolls.”

4) Vella Jack Cheese Fritters at Zocalo. “My sister and I love to go Zocalo for dinner when we can make time to have a night out together. We always start with the cheese fritters & raspberry-chili glaze, and then split the salmon dish for our entrée. The entire menu always sounds amazing, but we rarely stray from these picks on our sister dinner date. Zocalo also offers margarita flights which is always a good start to a night out!”

5) Big Baby Sake from North American Sake Brewery. “They have not quite opened their doors yet, but I have had a chance to try the new Big Baby Sake from the soon-to-be-open North American Sake Brewery. Andrew Centofante’s creation is one of the best sakes I have ever tried. I am excited for what he & Jeremy have in store once they open their doors next week.”

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Braised short rib sandwich, a recent pop-up lunch at The Catering Outfit