The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Ivy Inn

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

Five Finds on Friday: Christina Fessler

Today’s Five Finds on Friday come from reader Christina Fessler. In celebration of the Culture of Takeout, all autumn long Five Finds on Friday features readers selected at random in weekly drawings. Also part of the prize is a $100 restaurant gift certificate, like Fessler’s to MarieBette. Check back Monday November 9 to enter next week’s drawing, which includes a $100 gift certificate to Zocalo. Fessler’s favorites from the Culture of Takeout:

1) Brisket from Ace Biscuit & Barbecue. “This was one of the first dishes I had after first moving into Charlottesville. The brisket was very juicy and full of flavor and the different sauces that Ace Biscuit & Barbecue had to offer further accentuated the rich spices and love that went into this dish.” 

2) Chicken Nachos from El Puerto. “So simple but yet so satisfying. This dish has the right amount of queso to make anyone happy. This place is truly a hidden gem.”

3) Shrimp and Grits from Ivy Inn. “My only gripe about this dish is that there is not an unlimited supply of it on hand. The shrimp is always cooked perfectly, and the grits have the right amount of butter and cheesy goodness that you crave in your grits. I always want seconds after this and never do I want to share.”

4) The Balboa (AKA “The Italian Philly”) from Basil. “This is a dish that you need to share. Do not sleep on Basil’s sandwiches. Not only is the portion size fit for two grown adults, it is a heck of a value! But beware this sandwich can get messy.”

5) Fried Green Tomato BLT from Croby’s. “Not only is the food good at Croby’s, so are the people. The staff here genuinely love their job and it shows in their food. The fried green tomato BLT is something I crave on the daily. It comes with not one tomato, but two. Did I also mention the very generous bacon portions?”

Five Dining Experiences of a Lifetime


The 2019 Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions will culminate August 20 at Prime 109’s “One Night Only” celebration of restaurants’ generosity, where bidding will end for five remaining dining experiences of a lifetime. Online bidding continues now, and every dollar of each winning bid goes directly to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

Life is about experiences, not things. So, help feed our area’s hungry and enjoy one of these unforgettable experiences. From Parallel 38, you can win a package that includes more than $5,000 in rare wine, a wine dinner for eight, a wine class and brunch for eight, and free corkage for life. From Fleurie, you can win a luxurious wine dinner of a lifetime with twenty guests at Lovingston Winery, where Fleurie owner Brian Helleberg will serve some of his most exclusive wines. With Ivy Inn, you can be sous chef to Michelin Star winner Jeremiah Langhorne in the Ivy Inn kitchen, and help prepare a spectacular tasting menu for ten friends, while a professional photographer captures the memories. Lampo will build you a replica of its pizza oven at your home, throw a pizza party to teach you how to use it, and provide free dough for life. And, with Bodo’s, you can win lunch with University of Virginia Men’s Basketball coach Tony Bennett in his office at John Paul Jones Arena.

Bidding is ongoing. For more information and to place your bids, see the links below.

Parallel 38:  A Wine Lover’s Dream Quartet

Fleurie: Wine Dinner of a Lifetime

Ivy Inn: Be a Michelin Star Sous Chef

Lampo: Lampo for Life at Home

Bodo’s: Lunch of Champions with Tony Bennett