Goodbye, Expresso: Venerable food family exits Pantops space
About a year ago, the former owners of the famed Expresso Italian Villa on Emmet Street (now The Villa under new ownership), known by countless students and townsfolk for its 2am breakfasts, reprised an even older Charlottesville restaurant icon, the Expresso International Restaurant (whose original site on West Main now serves as a site of El Jaripeo). Up on the hill at Pantops Mountain, owners Margarita and Nick Vlavianos took over the Aunt Sarah's Pancake House space and launched Expresso Italian Restaurant & Pancake House.
"Same menu as the old Expresso," owner Margarita Vlavianos told the Hook, "but no pizza this time."
Since this was the culinary team that a Hook reviewer found back in 2008 to produce the town's best gyros, this was cause for celebration. On a recent drive-by, however, we discovered that Expresso had closed its doors. Compounding our shock and sadness is the fact that Vlavianos had in recent weeks been telling the Hook about the impending arrival of a new pizza oven.
With the phone disconnected, we were unable to make contact with the Vlavianos family, but according to commercial real estate broker Corven Flynn, they vacated the space about a month ago, and the building is once again for sale or lease.
Despite Expresso's struggles to establish a foothold at the location, Flynn contends that it's still a prime restaurant location, particularly with all the development that has taken place on the mountain. As he points out, the site served as Aunt Sarah's for 15 years. And before that, for many years, his own family ran Charlottesville's original Mexican restaurant, La Hacienda, which many fondly recall as "LaHa."
"And that was before all the development, before the hotel across the street went up," says Flynn. "It's zoned highway commercial, so anything can go up there. But the best use for it, with the least amount of investment, is still a restaurant."Read more on: Expresso Italian Restaurant & Pancake House