Red Pump, one of Charlottesville’s newest restaurants, carries the tagline “A Tuscan Kitchen,” and its menu—bursting with pizzettes, bucatini, and salumi misti—certainly bears out that designation. But when it came to the interior, owners Dean and Lynn Andrews drew upon a continent’s worth of influences.
A Tuscan fire breathes at the back of the restaurant in the form of a 2,000-pound brick-and-tile oven, where Red Pump chefs bake breads and pizzas before a terracotta backdrop. At the front of the space—which has hosted a succession of restaurants, most recently Positively 4th Street—a wall of windows can swivel open to allow diners and Mall passersby to eye each other, a la Paris bistros.
Metal Tolix chairs—an iconic staple of French cafés—face banquettes along the east wall, while wooden seats in the center of the room evoke Spain. Along tall communal tables near the front windows, Danish drafting chairs inspired the seating. There are whimsical touches (indoor vertical gardens), agricultural references (the red pump in the eatery’s name and logo), and nods to local history (the pressed-tin ceiling is meant to look like it could have been the original ceiling in the onetime storefront, said Dean). There’s even a modern light fixture made from 10 metal whisks, crafted by Charlottesville’s own Zack Worrell. Somehow, it all hangs together.
The Andrews were inspired by frequent European travels as well as their experience in event planning and opening high-end restaurants. Though the couple, also the owners of Pippin Hill Winery in North Garden, enlisted Bushman Dreyfus Architects to guide the renovation of the space, “we knew what we wanted,” said Lynn.
“We did a total gut renovation down to the walls and the ceilings,” said Dean. The front door moved a few feet to the corner of the building, allowing for a more generous entry as well as the big wall of swiveling windows. Original floors stayed in place, but new tin ceilings and new wall surfaces rejuvenated the room.
A whitewashed bar with a bartop made from a 350-year-old Alamo cottonwood tree is striking in itself, and along its length tiles gradually give way to wooden flooring as though on a gradient—an arresting, modern touch.
Though the pastiche of influences makes for an overall casual effect, it’s obvious that some real design expertise is behind the music. “Lighting is critical,” said Lynn, who owns Easton Events. Numerous liquid-paraffin globes and candles require extra work from staff, but add much to the ambiance.
Said Dean, “We set out to design and build something here to a level of quality we would have been happy opening in the East Village.”