Let's Do Lunch

Welcome to Gabriella Candela and Gaspare Ruggeri who moved to this country from Sicily nine years ago. Residents of Louisa, Gaspare traveled to Hanover for eight years as he cooked for another restaurant. This summer, they experienced the American dream as they opened their own restaurant in Zion Crossroads (in the strip shopping center in front of Walmart). This is a small neighborhood restaurant with only three large booths, two small booths, and six other tables and chairs. Gabriella is thrilled with their reception as sometimes people are lining up outside to wait for tables on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights as well as Sunday mornings after church.

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This is the story of two local young people who have owned and operated convenience stores but decided to open a trendy restaurant and bar in Scottsville. Jeff Sprouse grew up in Crozet and Michelle was raised in Fluvanna. After selling Ollie’s Place in Buckingham, they bought the building on the corner of Valley Street (Rt. 20) and W. Main Street and started renovations in 2011. The outside of the building looks spanking new and the inside has three separate areas. A restaurant area with lots of wood accents, a bar with smaller tables, and above the bar, seating for 75 additional diners. A banquet/meeting room for 100 - 125 people with the latest in hi-tech audio and visual available is still under construction. There is also a small meeting room for 10 - 15 for smaller gatherings. Smoking is not permitted in the restaurant or bar, only on the patio. Parking is available on the street and in a lot adjacent to the restaurant. Although the Tavern on the James opened on June 16, a grand opening is planned for September. Add a comment

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I was introduced to Mama Cucina about 11 years ago when I was working for the American Cancer Society. Their regional office was just around the corner in Glen Allen. The first time I went to lunch there with some of my office mates, I was really surprised. The Italian food tasted really Italian, just the way I remembered when I was living in New York. What do I mean? Mama Cucina makes their own mozzarella, sausage, sauces and salad dressing every day. Their portions are huge and everything is made individually to your liking. I left there with a huge smile on my face, a full tummy and enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

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Elmwood at Sparks calls itself a café but I think it is more like an upscale deli or an American bistro. Located on Rt. 20 in the historic Sparks building in Orange, it is a small, narrow storefront restaurant that feels open in every sense of the word. Light streams in from the front windows, there are tall ceilings with fans, and an open kitchen where you can watch your food being prepared. It is important to note that lunches and dinners are prepared by the Johnson and Wales University culinary chef, Randy Cooper, who was trained in classical French and new American cuisine.

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This is a column that I have been thinking about for a long time. With the arrival of spring, it is especially inviting to stroll the Historic Downtown Mall in Charlottesville and enjoy your lunch under the shade of trees. The pedestrian mall is a great place to bring out of town guests for a taste of Charlottesville before or after a visit to a local historical site. And it is a wonderful place to meet friends for lunch before a movie or shopping.

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