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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


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.


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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  • Reply Sara @ Lake Shore Runner

    Ummm the butternut squash soup looks amazing!

    As cliche as it sounds my place is “home,” and any restaurants that come along with it. I enjoy most staying home and cooking with my mom in the kitchen. Then I can play with Tay more and he can beg at the table while we are eating.

    Merry Chirstmas Eve!
    Sara @ Lake Shore Runner recently posted…Give Presence – Twas’ the Night Before ChristmasMy Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 6:25 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I hear you there. When I go home home, I definitely do enjoy being at home, but now that “home” has changed so significantly, it is a bit different. But I love cooking in a far bigger kitchen!

      December 28, 2014 at 10:10 am
  • Reply Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment

    Our place is a restaurant in Philly. We haven’t been there in a while since we live in Austin now! I have to enjoy the pictures that we took the last time we went. Have a wonderful Christmas Eve! Xo.
    Lauren @ The Bikini Experiment recently posted…WIAW #21: Travel EssentialsMy Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 6:46 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      But how amazing will it be to go back when you finally do get the chance? Hope you had a great Christmas!

      December 28, 2014 at 10:09 am
  • Reply AJ @ NutriFitMama

    Between the soup and the mc n’ cheese…everything looks amazing! As far as restaurants, we don’t really have one in particular- we are always trying new places, but have memories everywhere we go. We do have a specific bar in Seattle though that we go to whenever we are there (which now that we live across the country, only time will tell when we will be back!)
    AJ @ NutriFitMama recently posted…Gluten Free Pizza in NashvilleMy Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 7:15 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Yeah, I can imagine that you don’t get back there much! We usually try to go to new places when we travel, but this time, we just needed to do all the oldies and favorites 😀

      December 28, 2014 at 10:08 am
  • Reply Liz @ I Heart Vegetables

    Oh man, next time I’m in Charlottesville, I need to check this place out! (I’m in Richmond!) That macaroni and cheese looks soooo good!
    Liz @ I Heart Vegetables recently posted…Christmas FirstsMy Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 7:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Oh, you must you must! Cville has some of the BEST food. Even if it has changed over the years, I would still put it up there as one of the best eating cities!

      December 28, 2014 at 10:07 am
  • Reply Ruthie@She'sWickedHealthy

    How nice that you got to go to your place! The best, right? We have special places in spots that we’ve shared time or each lived – so we always feel at home! We had dinner at the Olde Pink House in Savannah right before Dan proposed and we went back there on my very last night in Sav before I moved so that’s a pretty special one!
    Ruthie@She’sWickedHealthy recently posted…WIAW: Where did my appetite go and thoughts on food sharing!My Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 7:21 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That is exactly it, Ruthie! You just instantly feel at home–like a big, yummy warm hug!

      December 28, 2014 at 10:06 am
  • Reply Mar @ Mar on the Run

    I have never been to Charlottesville but oh my. I may need to scurry on down asap! The soup and the mac and cheese look amazing!!
    Mar @ Mar on the Run recently posted…Merry Christmas Survey! {Blogmas} Day 12My Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 7:26 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      YOU MUST. It is seriously one of the best places around for eating.

      December 28, 2014 at 10:05 am
  • Reply Farrah

    Your posts are making me wonder what the hell I did when I passed by Charlottesville all those other times before. How did I not go to any of these places!?!? (I went to Lemongrass and stopped by a sushi place, I think, so not bad choices, but still! :O )

    That butternut squash soup looks amazing. <3 (So does the cod, but I can't eat mussels, so I'm defaulting to the soup. 😛 )
    Farrah recently posted…Thin Mint PopcornMy Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 7:33 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Lemongrass is indeed delicious, and if you went to Ten, then you got good sushi, but yeah, Cville has some of the best eats around! and you could get the cod without the mussels 😀

      December 28, 2014 at 10:05 am
  • Reply Julie @ Running in a Skirt

    We had our first date at a restaurant name Bouchon in Asheville. Always feels special to go back 🙂
    Julie @ Running in a Skirt recently posted…Merry ChristmasMy Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 8:36 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      I love having that touchstone place that you can return to. We had our first date at a restaurant on the corner, and we’ve been back several times, but they are on their 3rd or 4th iteration of the concept since then!

      December 28, 2014 at 10:04 am
  • Reply Stacie @ SimplySouthernStacie

    Mmmm the Italian mac and cheese! Wait, isn’t all mac & cheese Italian really? Deep life thoughts over here this morning…
    Stacie @ SimplySouthernStacie recently posted…Christmas in NYC and WIAWMy Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 8:53 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Bahaha, I’m not so sure that Kraft qualifies…

      December 28, 2014 at 10:03 am
  • Reply Amber

    It’s been a while since I stopped by, and I am so happy to see you so happy, and enjoying such exotic things, hOME MADE MARSHMELLOW, I’m jealous! Have a very Merry Christmas my special friend <3 xoxo PS. i always over eat when things are delicious, I believe "gotta eat it while it's fresh" 😛
    Amber recently posted…Ditch the Holiday Guilt & ENJOYMy Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 9:19 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      PREACH. Glad you stopped by my dear 😀

      December 28, 2014 at 10:03 am
  • Reply Erin @ Erin's Inside Job

    Neil and I got “courthouse married” in July and had the whole to do in October of last year. So it was just the two of us in July and we went to s nice restaurant called Lightfoot right across the street. We had made it a tradition to do it on that anniversary, but have only been able to go twice. I don’t know that we will head back to VA to do it next year, but maybe if we are ever around in that time frame we will make a special trip.

    Looks like a great time and way better than my smoothie Im having right now.
    Erin @ Erin’s Inside Job recently posted…WIAW: Early Morning EditionMy Profile

    December 24, 2014 at 10:24 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      OMG did you get married in Leesburg? Lightfood is one of my favorite restaurants! If it is the same place, I love the vault in the middle of the room 😀

      December 28, 2014 at 10:02 am
  • Reply Suzlyfe's mommy, Clare

    Orzo was my favorite of the C-ville’s restaurants when you lived there, long before you ever worked there. I miss it and I’m so glad that you and Alex had a chance to go back to that wonderful place on your recent trip.

    December 24, 2014 at 11:20 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      Me too–it was lovely to be back, and to see some of my old friends, as well as how things have changed.

      December 28, 2014 at 10:01 am
  • Reply Kate @ Baking in Yoga Pants

    Our place is a pizza night, on the couch, with the dogs snuggled up next to us, a game on the TV, and a delicious dessert to follow 🙂 Merry Christmas to you and yours, XO
    Kate @ Baking in Yoga Pants recently posted…Perfectly ImperfectMy Profile

    December 25, 2014 at 4:58 am
    • Reply suzlyfe

      That sounds just about perfect! Hope you had a lovely CT Christmas!

      December 28, 2014 at 10:01 am
  • Reply Chicago Christmas: Runner Gifts #2 and Friday Favorites! - Suzlyfe

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    December 26, 2014 at 5:24 am
  • Reply Arman @ thebigmansworld

    test test.
    Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted…Top 10 Reader’s Favourite Recipes + Blogger Survey Link upMy Profile

    December 28, 2014 at 9:09 pm
    • Reply Arman @ thebigmansworld

      FINALLY. Okay. I finally downloaded the updated Safari and for the first time in ages…I can finally comment. I may or may not have stalked your last few WIAW because let’s face it. You give pure restaurant envy and you try EVERYTHING.

      I need to move to your city.
      Arman @ thebigmansworld recently posted…Top 10 Reader’s Favourite Recipes + Blogger Survey Link upMy Profile

      December 28, 2014 at 9:10 pm
      • Reply suzlyfe

        Thank god. I legitimately (as in, not saying it just to say it) was thinking that I was one of “those people” that was bugging the crap out of you, but I’m glad that you do love me, you really do! You can stalk away–you know that I like it!
        When you come to the other side of the world next, you and I need to go and try all the things. I am definitely down 😀

        December 29, 2014 at 3:27 pm
    • Reply suzlyfe

      check 1 2

      December 29, 2014 at 3:25 pm
  • Reply Charlottesville Pt 3 (Fry's Spring Station) Pizza and Beer #Wiaw - Suzlyfe

    […] Charlottesville Pt 2: Orzo Kitchen and Wine Bar #wiaw […]

    December 31, 2014 at 7:06 am
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