Tavola doesn’t take reservations, no matter how nicely you ask, but it’s always worth the wait. And for a week this summer, at the end of that wait will be a menu created in collaboration with Roberta Vivetta Cintelli, a 70-year-old Italian restaurant matriarch who’s visiting and working in Tavola’s kitchen June 6-11.
The Belmont eatery has partnered with the Charlottesville Sister City program for a culinary exchange with Ristorante il Falcone, a longstanding restaurant in the Italian town of Poggio a Caiano. During her visit, Cintelli will cook and teach in the kitchen at Tavola, and the week will culminate in a classic Italian street festival in and around the restaurant on Saturday, June 11.
“We get to really experience working with a chef who’s been cooking in Italy for decades,” says chef Caleb Warr. “Just to have her here will be amazing, to get that sort of old world experience.”
When they’re not prepping menus and tearing it up in the kitchen, Warr says he can’t wait to introduce Cintelli to some of his favorite Charlottesville restaurants (C&O, Ten, Ivy Inn and Fleurie, to name a few) and also prepare some homemade dishes for her, like gumbo inspired by his Louisiana roots.
In July, Warr will travel to Poggio a Caiano to spend a week with Cintelli in her kitchen. The young chef says he’s never been out of the country (aside from a camping trip to Canada).
“It’s just going to be incredible to go over there and see the differences in food, ideologies and ingredients,” he says. “She’s been cooking at least 10 times longer than I have, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to teach her anything. But hopefully we’ll at least gain a respect from her and appreciation for our approach to food.”
Movin’ on up
James Beard semi-finalist Jose De Brito quietly left his post as executive chef at The Alley Light last week, and rumors have been flying about what his next move is. Well, the cat’s out of the bag.
“The Inn at Little Washington is pleased to welcome Charlottesville’s Jose De Brito to its kitchen brigade,” says The Inn at Little Washington PR Director Rachel Hayden. “He will join Chef Patrick O’Connell and his team of 36 chefs in The Inn’s five-star kitchen this spring. We are all looking forward to working together and to having Jose on our team.”
O’Connell and his restaurant at The Inn at Little Washington—which opened in a former garage in 1978—have received international accolades for years, including restaurant of the year from the James Beard Foundation in 1993.
As for The Alley Light, founder/co-owner Will Richey says he isn’t worried about the transition. Former sous chef Robin McDaniel has taken over the kitchen as chef/co-owner, and Richey is confident she will uphold the reputation De Brito built.
“She will continue in the method of classical French cuisine that Jose began, staying true to the aesthetics that have rounded out the experience of The Alley Light,” he says. “Robin was already leading the kitchen at The Alley Light two nights a week and for many months during the last few years when Jose would travel, and she is eager to lead our kitchen with her own personal touch.”
Meals on wheels
Seasonal Roots has been connecting local farmers with sustainability-conscious consumers in Virginia for about six years, and this spring the home-delivery service made its way to Charlottesville. Launched in Richmond in 2010, Seasonal Roots—“your online farmers’ market”—partners with farmers and artisans who are dedicated to sustainable practices in an effort to make their products more accessible.
“We saw a need to connect people with the farmers who are bone-tired, working in the fields all day, selling at the markets, doing their own marketing,” says Executive Product Producer Kat Costello. “Our goal is to have them in the fields so they can continue farming and not worry so much about markets and wholesale.”
The online market opens at 2pm every Friday, and customers have until midnight on Sunday to place their orders. Unlike some CSAs and delivery services, Seasonal Roots members can customize their baskets with the fruits, veggies, baked goods, meats and dairy they want, plus extras like household items. Memberships cost $50 the first year and $35 annually after that, and member benefits include customizable baskets, lower prices and unlimited local extras. Non-members can make orders as guests, Costello says, but they won’t have the same kind of flexibility in ordering.
For more information, check out seasonal roots.com.