When one Ventana closes


The lights are off and no one’s home, foodies. Hip Downtown eatery Ventana, and its rumored closing, has been at the center of restaurant buzz for weeks now. We can confirm, via owner Michael Fitzgerald himself, that the restaurant has shut its doors.

Michael Fitzgerald opened Ventana in 2008 with his wife, Relana (pictured). Less than three years later, the restaurant has officially closed its doors. To the question of possibly reopening in the future, Fitzgerald says he doesn’t foresee it happening.

Here’s a little backstory: Fitzgerald purchased the former Kiki spot in 2008, reopened it as Ventana later that year and, with his wife, Relana, planned to one day turn it into a full-service restaurant. In 2009, that plan came to fruition when a space next door opened up, allowing 2,000 more square feet for the modern Mexican eatery. It reopened around this time last year, with an upgraded menu from chef Sebastien Jack, a late-night menu and Sunday brunch. 

Things started getting iffy about a month ago, when, shortly after celebrating its first anniversary, the restaurant was seen dark and empty during prime dinner hours. Then, on September 16, when Ventana was billed as a participant in the Charlottesville Community Scholarship Program’s Food for Thought event, the doors were locked. Restaurantarama stopped in shortly after that to ask Fitzgerald about the rumors it was closing for good. He said things were fine. 

Late last week, Fitzgerald changed his tune. “We still exist as a company,” he says, “but as far as a restaurant, we are not operating right now.” That sure sounded like an open-ended response to us, but to the question of possibly reopening in the future, Fitzgerald says he doesn’t foresee it happening. Looks like we’ll all have to find our jalapeño margaritas elsewhere.

Chang theory

Rumors are swirling about Peter Chang’s potential return to Charlottesville, but all the hubbub might be exaggerated. Restaurantarama spoke to the UVA Foundation, which owns the former Asian Buffet building and proposed site of Chang’s new eatery. Despite earlier reports that Chang was set to sign a lease two weeks ago, the Foundation says, “There are no leases in place for the Asian Buffet.” Wondering if they were playing coy, we called Gen Lee, Chang’s close personal friend and owner of Li’l Dino Subs, to see if he could offer more information. “Not at this time,” he says. Meanwhile, the 29N spot sits empty, with the parking lot entrance chained off. Stay tuned. 

A bite of info

Change may be on the horizon among local food purveyors. One of their favorite suppliers could soon be changing ownership. While lips are loose in local kitchens, they’re rather tight when Restaurantarama calls, but we’re on the case.