You could think of Megan Headley and Marisa Catalano as young restaurateurs bursting with idealism (“It should be pure joy to go to work,” says Headley of the attitude she hopes their staff will sport) or as savvy and well-traveled foodie pros with the backing of a major local developer (that would be Coran Capshaw). Either way, you’d be correct. They describe their vision for the former Vavino space, which Capshaw bought last year, in ambitious terms: a “time portal” whisking patrons away to a more pleasant universe, a wine list that will be largely exclusive in Charlottesville, and authenticity—the authentic kind, that is. They’re calling it enoteca, an Italian term for wine bar.
Megan Headley, left, and Marisa Catalano are overseeing the transformation of one wine bar (Vavino) into another (enoteca). Now that’ll be Italian.
They also offer the same logic that many, many stewards of new restaurants do: “Charlottesville doesn’t have a place like [this],” says Headley. What is the empty niche, exactly? Well, it’s one of those behavior things: Headley and Catalano would like to offer not only Italian wines and simple food, but a different way of structuring one’s time. You show up for a glass of wine, it’s all very cosy and friendly, and so you end up hanging around eating bruschette and salad and drinking more wine and why not a piece of torta and a macchiato? In other words, says Headley, “it’s organic in the sense of letting the night take shape”—very Italian indeed.
To that end, the blond-wood look of Vavino is being replaced with a darker, more rustic feel (though the old zinc bar will remain, anchoring the “sleek Italian design” part of the decor equation.) There will be communal seating, too, so you can chat with your neighbor in that gregarious Mediterranean way.
Whether this is truly unprecedented in Charlottesville we do not know, but we know we like the sound of this food: mix-and-match bruschette toppings, panini, cheese and meat arrangements and salads. And wines from little, tucked-away wineries in various pockets of Italia are fine with us, too.
Headley and Catalano say they’re currently stuffing knowledge into the brains of their staff, who can then reliably educate you about the subtleties of this and that varietal—all while employing correct Italian pronunciation. The two women themselves learned the ropes while traveling through restaurant gigs and cooking schools in New York, San Francisco and Florence: an enviable education, if you ask us. (They also worked together recently teaching cooking classes at The Seasonal Cook.) Enviable, too, is their position: bringing a wine bar concept to a former wine bar, under the wing of the biggest restaurateur in town. We’ll all be able to see the result—ambitious, gregarious, and impeccably pronounced—in the first week of June.
There are a couple of long-awaited opening days that will have happened by the time you read this. For one: Maya was scheduled to come online on May 26. Though it’s easy to say that it’s appropriate for a Southern-themed place to bloom in the former Southern Culture spot on W. Main Street, this is really a completely new venture: new owners (Peter Castiglione and Christian Kelly), new menu and totally revamped space.
For another, we hear that the Court Square Tavern will have reopened after more than a year of recovering from a fire in March 2006. Another appropriate segue: It may be nonsmoking this time.
Finally, some tempting morsels for you. A new addition to the juice scene is coming to the Corner. And two beloved Downtown lunch spots are expected to soon expand to other parts of our fair city. More on all these stories soon.
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