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Charlottesville Pt 2: Orzo Kitchen and Wine Bar #wiaw

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I have something really, truly special to share with you all today. As I said in Monday’s post and last Wednesday’s and Thursday’s posts, Alex and I went on a food tour of Charlottesville–all of our favorites, rolled up into 72 hours. Last Wednesday detailed our first night in Cville, when we went to Skybar and Bang, and today’s post will be Tuesday’s night at one of the most special restaurants to our past and present– Alex and I built our future in this restaurant! Next week will be the final installment–Wednesday night’s dinner, the beers we tried, and a few other odds and ends! But for now, I give you Orzo.

susie and alex orzo

Orzo Kitchen and Wine Bar

Orzo was our fancy date night place, where we often took my parents, where we celebrated Alex matching at Chicago, and where I worked for 9 months and earned the money to pay for our honeymoon and our start up in Chicago. THANK YOU ORZO. A bit about the restaurant, before I get all misty-eyed… (Read about my boys here. Unfortunately, Chef Tommy has moved on to other pursuits, but the best of luck to all, and Adam and Justin are still there!)

Orzo was born of Mediterranean traditions and flavors, and everything, from the food to the decor to the music and cocktails, is imbued with the warmth and flavor of the Mediterranean basin, traditional recipes, and modern techniques. Wine is just as much a part of the menu as the food–we constantly developed our wine list so that we could know how to suggest the best pairing. One of the best wines by the glass menus you will ever find!

Though the menu is chef- and ingredient-driven, the focus is just as much on the experience of the diner. One of my favorite aspects of Orzo was the way that we 9the staff) worked together as a team to facilitate and foster an incomparable dining experience that befit a casual night out or a wedding rehearsal (and I served them all!).

And you know how I have a John Grisham story? He and Renee were regulars of mine. I took care of his birthday dinner, and they are some of the most incredibly sweet and genuine people I have ever had the pleasure of waiting on!

suzlyfe orzo double wine

In my happy place

Wine:

Campofiorin Masi (Italy) Big and Bold

Listed as “big and bold,” this was a gorgeous, full bodied wine with lots of bright stone fruit and just a touch of dryness and spice.

Valpolicella Degani (Italy) Lush and Velvety

My favorite of the wines we tried. Truly “lush and velvety,” this wine is the same varietal as the Masi (above) but is a bit more lush and less dry. A bit rounder on the tongue, but beautifully drinkable and lovely.

Chianti Poppiano (Italy) Big and Bold

A great and accessible Chianti–nice layers, a little dry but not tannin-y, nice and bright, and a great lighter choice (though bold, not heavy) for us to share with our main courses.

Food:

Albemarle Baking Company Baguette house made hummus

Every morning, a member of the staff goes 3 doors over and picks up fresh baguettes from one of the best bakeries in town 😀 Every few days we make enough hummus to satisfy any food blogger from chickpeas, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and some spices. Alex’s dream, haha.

Down Branch Farms Mixed Lettuces spiced almonds, feta, herbs, lemon-honey vinaigrette

Simple, but beautiful. I love this salad, and I always have. The lettuce is locally sourced (as are the herbs), and you can actually taste the difference in the types! The spiced almonds have a bit of heat, the feta is great (I gave most to Alex), and the lemon-honey vin is another old favorite of mine. A bit of citrus, smooth honey gives body and sweetness. Drinkable….

Butternut Squash Soup cranberry marshmallow, hazelnut, green apple

The first thing I ever got to try when I came to work here was this soup with the housemade marshmallows (made with some cranberry juice and cranberries!). The hazelnut is hazelnut oil drizzled and some chopped hazelnuts. Just as perfect as I remembered. (And gluten free and vegetarian!)

orzo italian mac suzlyfe

Italian Mac and Cheese pancetta, butternut squash, sage, olive oil breadcrumbs

This was off the menu when I worked there, but it is a revamp of one of Alex’s old faves. This had much more flavor than the previous version, with a bit less sauce–this time, you almost tasted individual cheeses! Chunks of pancetta, and roasted butternut squash…I die. I stole Alex’s squash. and pancetta. NO SHAME.

orzo cod cioppino suzlyfe

Atlantic Cod “Cioppino” mussels, clams, smashed potato, carrots, turnips, capers

Also not on the menu during my tenure My pick, and HOLY BALLS PEOPLE. I don’t like cod. I repeat, I don’t like cod, but I trust them, and I love Cioppino, and so I was willing to try.

I ate the whole damn thing, save for a small portion of the potatoes. I almost made myself sick. I couldn’t stop. The broth was fabulous–beautiful flavors, and the roasted carrots were practically indulgent. The supppper salty capers perked you up mid-dish, and the turnips turned out so caramelly that I thought they were golden beets! The cod and shellfish were perfection, and the mashed potatoes oddly perfect…. a must get.

Obviously we had a fabulous dinner. I wouldn’t have anticipated anything less.

Tell me a bit about “your place.” Where is it? Why is it so special?

When was the last time you went?

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