By Sam Padgett and Erin O’Hare
Last week, The Villa diner announced that after 12 years of serving classic fare such as eggs, sandwiches, pizza and more, the Emmet Street restaurant will move to a new location in Charlottesville next year.
The reason? The Villa sits on land owned by the University of Virginia, and both the diner and the Cavalier Inn will be demolished when the university begins to redevelop the parcel of land at the corner of Emmet Street and Ivy Road next summer (The Villa will remain open in its current spot until May).
Before owners Jennifer and Ken Beachley bought the diner in 2005, the building was home to the Expresso Italian Villa, a restaurant built after the previous building on the land, a biker bar called The Kettle, burned down.
The Beachleys attribute The Villa’s success to a few different things, including its employees, some of whom have been in the space longer than the Beachleys. “We couldn’t do it without them,” says Ken.
And then there’s The Villa’s loyal local clientele. “People say it’s like Cheers,” says Jennifer. “There are often times that I’ll look around the restaurant and recognize everyone in here.”
No word yet on where The Villa will move, but the Beachleys have promised to keep us in the loop, and we’ll fill you in when we know more.
Chef Bryan Sewell likes to craft a dish based on what tastes good. And with offerings like beef stew, cottage pie, po’ boys and fish and chips, Sewell’s pragmatic passion for food shines through on the menu at his new restaurant, Wayland’s Crossing Tavern.
Open since October at 1015 Heathercroft Circle in Crozet, Wayland’s Crossing Tavern occupies the spot that most recently housed Public Fish & Oyster West, where Sewell served as chef and worked through more than perfecting a fish and chips recipe: In July 2016, Sewell was diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system (part of the immune system). Rather than stay home, Sewell came to work every day and cooked during his chemotherapy treatments.
It’s not surprising that he found solace in the kitchen. Food “has always been something I was interested in,” says Sewell, who has worked in kitchens since he was 16, and learned to cook on the job. “I like being in the environment, having to be on your feet, talking with other people.”
The treatment “didn’t affect me as much as I think it should have,” says Sewell, but still, it wasn’t easy. “Chemo sucks,” he says. But cooking at Public West allowed him to put time and energy into thinking about something other than cancer, and he says it “was a great diversion.”
Wayland’s came about when Public owner Daniel Kaufman wanted to close Public West to focus on the restaurant’s other location at 513 W. Main St. in Charlottesville. Sewell and his business partner, Kim Dillon, were ready to step in.
There’s something special about sharing food with others, Sewell says, adding that it’s an easy thing to accomplish at this family-friendly pub, with its varied menu of seafood and meat dishes, plus a few vegetarian options and a kids’ menu.
And for Sewell, Wayland’s Crossing is “ a place to play” with food, to develop new dishes and see where things go. “I love when I can create something that I really enjoy myself that you can’t get anywhere else,” he says.
Always time for wine
Abe Schoener is widely regarded as one of the most original California winemakers alive. Dubbed “the wine world’s enigmatic cult hero” by website Food Republic, and a “fearless, risk-loving winemaker” by the New York Times, Schoener will be in Charlottesville on Tuesday, December 12, for a wine dinner in the subterranean rooms of Brasserie Saison on the Downtown Mall. Joining Schoener will be Claude Thibaut of Charlottesville’s Thibaut-Janisson Winery, and the folks from Washington, D.C.-based distilleries Green Hat Gin and Don Ciccio & Figli. Additionally, Brasserie Saison manager Will Curley says that Champion Brewing Company will debut a rare, previously unreleased wild-fermented boysenberry brown ale at the event. Tickets for the dinner are $125 plus tax and gratuity. Email email@example.com for more information.
“People say it’s like Cheers. There are often times that I’ll look around the restaurant and recognize everyone in here.” Jennifer Beachley