The restaurant formerly known as Bella’s is under new ownership, and will reopen this month as Mangione’s on Main, according to owner Bert Crinks.
Crinks and his wife Elaina, who will run the restaurant, are recent transplants from Northern Virginia who’ve been searching for the perfect site in which to open a restaurant. Having spent time in Charlottesville over the past few years while Elaina served on the board of Charity Treks (which raises money for HIV vaccine research through a variety of long-distance bike rides), the couple thought this location was an obvious spot to plant a dining stake in the ground.
Crinks—who lived for a couple of years in Brindisi, Italy, as a child—says his wife’s work as a financial consultant helping businesses informed their decision to start a restaurant, although his love of food was the primary driving force.
“I eat out a lot…and I always wanted to get more involved in how things are prepared, how menus are created,” he says. “I’ve loved [working] behind the bar, it’s a nice way to meet people, and we really loved this town, and it just seemed like a good way to connect with community and for me to learn some new things.”
To ready for their takeover, the couple has been sprucing up the place, with fresh paint and mechanical improvements, and moving essentials and food storage upstairs because of occasional basement flooding.
Mindful about not alienating existing customers, Crinks says they’ll maintain the family-style menu, but tweak its offerings.
“The menu is now family-style, so all dishes serve two or four,” he says. “I’d like to introduce a lot more specials, and probably maintain some of those as single-portion dishes so you can go in and order a primi and a secondi. I’ll probably introduce a steak and some of the things I like to eat at Italian restaurants.”
They’ll be enhancing the wine menu as well, and introducing a cocktail hour and happy hour with small plates.
The Heaven sandwich, a collaborative concoction from the kitchen of Craig Hartman’s Barbeque Exchange in Gordonsville, was just named by Food Network as one of the five best pulled pork sandwiches in the country. The accolade caught Hartman and his staff off-guard.
“They didn’t give us any warning,” he says. “I peruse Food Network all the time and look at their videos and saw ‘best pork sandwiches,’ and it was a really fun surprise. People were dancing in the kitchen.”
He says the honor is all the more special considering the competition.
“We know there are a lot of really great restaurants in America, especially ones that do barbecue and pork-related sandwiches, so we’re really blessed that we got picked and that someone there thought enough of it to pick it. We work really hard and love what we do.”
The genesis of the Heaven was to make a sandwich that lived up to its name, with a freshly baked roll, homemade mayonnaise made from bacon fat (called “baconnaise”), pulled pork, home-fried potatoes, fried egg with “sticky love” bacon (made with a special spice blend with sugar), melted cheese, lettuce, and tomato.
Hartman said the sandwich was a team invention a few years ago. They’ve subsequently invented the Hell and Purgatory sandwiches to complement the Heaven.
It’s in the can
King Family Vineyards is joining the canned-wine trend, with a test run of 500 cases of its popular Crosé rose now available in cans.
Wine director Matthew Brown says it’s about convenience. “Each can is a little bit more than a proper glass…so if you’re not going to drink a whole bottle of wine it gives you flexibility.”
A four-pack of canned Crosé has the same volume of wine as a bottle, and sells for the same price.
Zazus no more
The former home of Zazus, the wrap-and-salad institution on Ivy Road, has re-opened as Pico Wrap, run by Sonia and Fredys Arce. Their son Eric said the fare consists of wraps, burritos, and bowls, and they’ll eventually add sandwiches to the menu.
Over and out
It seems a premature auf wiedersehen to Augustiner Hall & Garden, which opened last March, but the downtown spot’s doors are shuttered, and staff was told it was closed for good.