The Charlottesville 29

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

Tag: Loren Mendosa

“Best Thing I Ate All Year” 2016

Looking back at 2016, what stands out as the best thing you ate all year?  Top area chefs provide their answer. (Here are last year’s picks.) A tribute to Charlottesville’s bounty:

Mitchell Beerens (Lampo)

Agedashi Tofu at Now & Zen. “The silken tofu is made crispy by dusting it in potato starch and frying it. Then, it’s set in a spa of tentsuyu broth made smoky from the katsuobushi and a little sweet from mirin. Perfect balance of big flavors.”


Craig Hartman (BBQ Exchange)

Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana at Parallel 38. “When restaurants around the world jumped to support the town of Amatrice in Italy after it was devastated by an earthquake, we were fortunate enough to experience a version of Spaghetti all’ Amatriciana at Parallel 38. Their version was almost exactly the same as what we experienced in Italy. It was also so delicious that we went back the next night to have it again.”


Brian Jones (The Alley Light)

Brebirousse from Flora Artisanal Cheese in Timbercreek Market with Seeded Roll from Albemarle Baking Company.  “The seeded roll is a beautiful roll, made from baguette dough,  crusted in fennel seeds, poppy seeds and white sesame seeds. What a yummy combination of flavors. Brebirousse is a soft, smooth, creamy, buttery sheep’s milk cheese from the Rhone-Alpes region of France. Not to take anything away from these two ingredients, but food memories often have more to do with the eater’s condition at the time of the meal than the actual meal itself.  Food always tastes better when you are hungry!  I have eaten at some amazing restaurants in my life but I the best meal I ever had in my life was on a backpacking trip when our rations were low and our calorie output far exceeded our calorie intake. We savored every last morsel, scraped our cooking vessel clean, so clean that there was nothing left to wash. Possibly food is at its best  when the aromas or tastes remind you of a forgotten memory lost somewhere in the back of your mind. Think Ratatouille the movie when the food critic Anton Ego bites into Chef Remy’s ratatouille.”

cheese seeded

Christian Kelly (Maya)

Duck Liver Terrine at The Ivy Inn.  “This pâté en terrine is a slice of art. The perfect suspension of fat in meat wrapped in what appeared to be paper-thin cured duck breast slices and served with traditional pommery mustard and pickled vegetables. Angelo’s food is truly inspiring. The work of his kitchen is a delight to the taste buds. Well done.”


Tommy Lasley (Fry’s Spring Station, Ivy Provisions)

Live Scallop with Uni Broth at Mican (now closed). “The best thing I ate this past year was way too much amazing sashimi at Mican Japanese Restaurant, which unfortunately is no longer open! Everything I had was the best example I have tried in years, Charlottesville or otherwise. If I had to pick one bite it was the live scallop with uni broth.” [Note: Mican’s owners are now serving sushi at Lemongrass.]

Thomas Leroy (Kardinal Hall)

Pork Belly at BBQ Exchange. “I went there and ordered  the meat combo plate of course. The ribs were outstanding, but that pork belly with a fried crispy finish to balance the smoking flavor was amazing. I topped it with their bacon bbq sauce of course. Next time I go, that’s all I’m ordering.”


Michael McCarthy (Dr. Ho’s Humble Pie)

Salt Honey Pie from Greenwood Gourmet by Polina Chesnakova. “Nuff said.”

Loren Mendosa (Lampo)

Olive Oil Gelato from Splendora’s. “I don’t know if PK’s running it regularly, but it was truly fantastic. She used our Mosto olive oil from Liguria and we topped it with sea salt and a drizzle of the Galardo olive oil that Hodges and Jill Myers are importing. It was the perfect combination!”


Jenny Peterson (Paradox Pastry)

Roasted Chicken and Street Corn Off the Cob at The Fitzroy. “Holy moly! Food tends to be an ‘in the moment’ experience for me, and that chicken and corn just hit the spot at the right time, and it was so comfy and cozy in there.”

chicken corn

Ian Redshaw (Lampo)

Sunchokes from Wayside Produce. “Any vegetable from Wayside Produce, especially the sunchokes. These are the best vegetables I have been able to find thus far in my career.”


Ivan Rekosh (ZoCaLo)

Flank and Brisket Pho at Thai Cuisine & Noodle House. “This time of year I’m loving the pho from Thai Cuisine. I usually opt for the flank and brisket but sometimes add the tendon. The broth is amazing. I love to stick my whole face in the bowl and breathe in the steam while I’m slurping the noodles. Really warms you up from the inside out on these cold days. Also a great family runs it.” 


Wilson Richey (co-owner, The Alley Light, The Bebedero, The Pie Chest, Revolutionary Soup, The Whiskey Jar)

Chicken Liver Mousse Tart at Timbercreek Market. “Just redefined what can be done with chicken liver, so smooth and elegant. I would eat the whole tart if it were not frowned upon to do things like that.”


John Shanesy (Petit Pois)

Black Bean and Corn Relleno at ZoCaLo. “It hits on every texture, and all the flavors are very well pronounced but at the same time all working in unison to be a joy to eat. They’ve been great new neighbors to get to meet and have greeted me so warmly as well.”


Andrew Silver (ZoCaLo)

Polpettine Panuozzo at Lampo. “Meatball parm sub was my go-to late night, altered state, munchie meal.  Lampo’s is the refined, grown up version.  Plus the fact that the bread is baked ‘a la minute’ seals the deal.”


Angelo Vangelopoulos (The Ivy Inn)

Petit Kouign-aman from MarieBette. “I found this gem at the city market. Will Darsie filled my request for a mixed bag of goodies while I picked up my veggies from Susan and Wally Parks at Broadhead Mountain Farm. It’s an over the top decadent croissant dough masterpiece with apples and a metric ton of butter and sugar. My market visit is no longer complete without one of them.”


Tristan Wraight (Oakhart Social)

170 Dry Aged NY Strip at Lampo. “Ridiculously delicious. Cast iron crispy and served with a head of roasted garlic. Not even fair.”


Tucker Yoder (Timbercreek Market)

I Don’t Even Own a Gun by Twenty Paces.  “I Don’t Even Own a Gun and Noah’s Arcade are some of the best cheeses I have ever tasted. Could easily rival European cheeses. Great funky cheeses. All their cheeses have been a revelation this year but the soft gooey ones are a Yoder family favorite.”



Introducing Lampo


There are not many things we miss about our time in the Washington D.C. area, but a shining exception is  2 Amys Neapolitan Pizzeria.  We couldn’t get enough of it.  Real Neapolitan pizza, ingredient-driven Italian specials, a menu of “little things,” unfussy decor, and carefully considered wines and cocktails. It’s one of the best answers to the question: “You know what kind of restaurant Charlottesville could really use?”

There’s a good chance that’s about to change.  Lampo Neapolitan Pizzeria is set to open any day in the Belmont space formerly home to The Farm.  After speaking with the ownership team, we’d say it could well be Charlottesville’s answer to 2 Amys – which is high praise.

And, what a team it is.  Has there been a better assembly of young talent to open a Charlottesville restaurant than the Fab Four behind Lampo, who all worked together at TavolaLoren Mendosa, 30, was chef of Tavola, and before that cooked at MAS Tapas.  Ian Redshaw, 26, was chef of L’EtoileMitchell Beerens, 33, cooked at both Tavola and Mas.  And Andrew Cole, 29, was beverage director of Tavola.  With just 21 seats, Lampo’s ratio of talented owners to guests is so small that some wonder how the numbers can add up.  Never mind.  That’s for them to figure out.

Customers meanwhile have so much good stuff to look forward to that it’s difficult to know where to start.

The focus, of course, is pizza – particularly authentic Neapolitan pizza, like those at 2 Amys, which Mendosa calls a “huge inspiration.”   Visits to 2 Amys and similar spots in other cities made the Lampo team wonder why Charlottesville doesn’t have a Neapolitan pizzeria.  While working at Tavola together, they would discuss how great it would be if Charlottesville did have such a place.  Eventually, they figured: “Why don’t we just do it ourselves?”

To ensure they got it right, they spared no expense.  To begin, they imported a three-ton wood-burning oven from Naples that needed to be lowered into the building through the roof.  That oven will give birth to pizzas that the team has been studying hard to perfect.  It’s a methodical process.  Start with top quality ingredients, like real San Marzano tomatoes. Gradually heat the oven, beginning well in advance, so that it can reach and sustain temperatures nearing 1,000 degrees.  Pizzas cook in less than a minute.  We saw it happen.


Hence, the name Lampo, which means “flash” in Italian, as in “in a flash.”  The rest of the menu is built around food that can be prepared just as quickly as the pizzas – simple, ingredient-driven fare like cured meats that will be sliced to order with a manually operated slicer so as to avoid exposing the meats to the heat that electric slicers can create.  New York’s Salumeria Biellese is one featured producer, with wild boar cacciatorini and culatello, which Biellese calls the most prized pork product in Italy.  Also on the menu is house made ‘nduja, a spreadable salami of prosciutto, speck, wild oregano and Calabrian chilis, stuffed in a casing and re-cured for a week.

Vegetables will also be a big part of Lampo’s offerings – whether in small plates like roast cauliflower or salads like the kale salad the team first created at Tavola, where it developed a cult following:  shredded kale, fried parsnips, candied almond, and ricotta salata, tossed in an apple cider vinaigrette with pickled mustard seeds. “Vegetables are ‘in’ and we’re super stoked about that,” said Beerens.

Other antipasti include polpettine – baby meatballs of Timbercreek Farm pork and beef, with marinara, pecorino, and basil, as well as a conserva of preserved swordfish, chick peas, orange and fennel.  “Classic Sicilian,” said Mendosa.

Cole meanwhile has big plans for Lampo’s beverage program.  With a stronger background in wine than liquor, Cole prepared for Lampo by volunteering behind the bar at The Alley Light to learn from one of our area’s most devoted mixologists, Micah LeMon.  The result is a cocktail list built around amari – the beautiful bitter liqueurs of Italy.  A house barrel-aged negroni features Cocchi vermouth, Campari, and Greenbrier Gin. A Bitter Giuseppe (kin to one of our favorite cocktails, A Little Giuseppe) is vermouth stirred with Cynar, an artichoke-based amaro.

Wines likewise lean towards Italy, with an all-Italian list that Cole calls an “homage to Southern Italy.”  Chalkboard additions may reach beyond Italy to capture “wines that I couldn’t say no to,” said Cole. All the while, Cole’s focus will be making wine “accessible and approachable” just as he did at Tavola for five years.  “It all comes down to what the customer wants,” said Cole, who likes to keep the pretense out of wine.

Speaking of lack of pretense, you can’t have pizza without beer, said Cole.  Lampo will have several on tap plus more in the bottle, including a collaboration beer with Champion Brewing Company flavored with hops and oregano.  Other offerings will include Potter’s Craft Cider and the Italian beer, Peroni.

Finally, we may have saved the best for last.  Sandwiches! When you order a sandwich at Lampo, they will begin baking your bread.  Really. Fortunately, like the pizza, it takes just moments to cook in the wood-burning oven.  It’s a beautiful thing to watch. Fillings include Mendosa’s own porchetta, which Beerens calls “amazing.”  Timbercreek Farm pork belly and shoulder are seasoned with rosemary, fennel, garlic, and black pepper, and then roasted slow and low to allow the fat to moisten the meat while cooking. “Then we crisp the skin separately to add that awesome texture,” said Mendosa.  The meat and crisp skin are stuffed inside fresh-baked bread, with melted provolone, garlic aioli, broccoli rabe, and calabrian chili.

Sandwich bread fresh from Lampo's oven.

Sandwich bread fresh from Lampo’s oven.

Think about it: it would be cause for excitement if a restaurant were to open in Charlottesville serving nothing but extraordinary sandwiches on wood-fired bread baked to order. At Lampo, that’s just one of many treats in store.

Lampo will open Monday, December 22, at  205 Monticello Road.  Hours will be Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 12 am.  Sundays, the website says, they are “Closed to Watch Football.”

Is it Monday yet?





Five Finds on Friday: Loren Mendosa


Photo by Tami Keaveny.

On Fridays, we feature five food finds selected by local chefs and personalities.  This week’s picks come from Loren Mendosa, sous chef of Tavola.  Mendosa’s picks:

1)  Veal Sweetbreads and Fried Brussels Sprouts at L’etoile with capers, parsley, lemon, fleur gris and aioli.  “Perfectly cooked sweetbreads are hard to find and Ian Redshaw does just that.”

2)  Fried Chicken & Waffles at Ace Biscuit & Barbecue.  “I love the fact that Brian uses fried chicken thighs instead of breast meat for this dish. I’ve always been a thigh guy.”

3)  Spicy Tuna Tartar at Zocalo.  “This and a Parliament Gimlet is a must for me anytime I’m at Zocalo.”  Note: This was also a “chef’s pick” at Zocalo.

4)  Sake Roll at TEN Sushi.  “I’m a sucker for a spicy roll and the fresh jalapeno in this one is perfect.”

5)  “Coffee and Doughnuts” at TEN Sushi.  “TEN gets two picks because they have two great chefs, Yoshihiro Tauchi and Pei Chang. This dessert is my perfect way to finish a meal, tender beignets and sweet creamy coffee.”