Keaveny's dream: Belmont welcomes Tavola

dish-tavola-crowd-webSince opening on July 16, Tavola in Downtown Belmont has been packing them in.

After years spent managing Coran Capshaw’s restaurant group, Micheal Keaveny appears to have stumbled upon a concept foodies have been hungering for. Since opening Tavola on July 16, his new Italian eatery in the old Crush Wine Shop space in Downtown Belmont, the chef-owner has barely had a moment's rest.

"Last week, there was an hour wait every night," he says, clearly taken aback by how busy he's been from the minute he opened his doors. "Also, we're already getting second- and third-time customers. It has really exceeded my expectations."

Indeed, on a recent Friday night, Dish had to wait over an hour for a table, as the small 37-seat restaurant was packed. We waited outside for a bit, then sat at a wall bar inside and had a few apps (shrimp kabobs and mussels) and a glass of wine. In the back of the room, Keaveny, his wrist bandaged from a serious accident with a paring knife the day before, was laboring hard in the open kitchen space with his sous chef Travis Hawthorne.

"Michael is an extraordinary chef," says Megan Headley, Tavola's Italian wine expert, reminding Dish that the former Capshaw manager is actually a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America with years of cooking experience, "but he just wants to create simple, rustic, hearty Italian food, just like he'd make at home. He's very excited to be back in the kitchen."

It appears his excitement is infectious. Dish overheard a half-dozen people exclaiming out-loud how much they liked the food, and one couple came up to our table and declared it was the best meal they'd ever had in Charlottesville.

Of course, there were a few negatives. Our apps were first given to someone else, a few of the pancetta-wrapped shrimp apps were singed, and the place could definitely use a bench or something out front, but for a restaurant that had only been open for a few weeks, there were remarkably few hiccups. In fact, Tavola's transition into the Belmont scene has been so smooth that you get the feeling it has always been there.

During a break, Keaveny stopped by and mentioned that his inspiration for the place had been those storefront restaurants you see in Brooklyn, one after another as you're walking down the street, where you can peer in and check out the atmosphere.

Indeed, Downtown Belmont, already home to Bel Rio, The Local, La Taza, and Mas, has turned into a little Brooklyn of sorts, where strolling foodies can check out dining scenes like displays in shop windows.

As Headley mentions, Tavola also hopes to be a wine lover's destination. On Monday nights through September, Headley, the former general manager of enoteca, is offering 2-hour classes highlighting five Italian old-world wines paired with small plates from the Tavola kitchen.

dish-tavola-kevkitchen-web"I wanted to create a place where I wanted to go to," says Tavola's chef/owner Micheal Keaveny (left), " a place where you feel like family when you go there."

"It's a great environment for people to really learn," says Headley, "and to savor wine and food together, without it having to be a scary or intimidating thing."

Keaveny says he's also trying to put a particular emphasis on service, on what he calls “passion and hospitality," so folks feel special every time they visit.

"Recently, I hired a waitress who had no experience, over many others who had a lot of experience," he says, "simply because she had such a great warmth about her."

As we ate our entrees, a delicious capellini gamberi "raucci" (sauteed shrimp, tomatoes, capers, gorgonzola-garlic butter) and a nicely cooked bistecca alla griglia (grilled prime sirloin strip, roasted Yukon gold potatoes, arugula, montepulciano-balsamic reduction), Keaveny and Hawthorne worked just a few feet away in the open kitchen, preparing the last of the night's meals, as the dinner crowd behind us began to break up and mingle.

Despite the crowd, and the pressure the staff was under, the space felt extraordinarily comfortable, like you'd just showed up at a large dinner party. At one point, the bartender dropped a tray of glasses, shattering a few, but it barely registered a nod from anyone.

"I was worried that the space was going to be too cramped," says Keaveny, " but it has worked out real well. This was definitely by design. I wanted to create a place that I would want to go to, a place where you feel like family when you go there."


Keaveny can't cook his way out of a wet paper bag. It's new and shiny & will bump for a little while, but this is no long term winner. I'll place a bet on it right now.

I also don't care about whining people in Belmont. It's a business in what is a commercial district. If you didn't want to live around these things there's plenty of spots in the county. First you cry about the amphitheater being too loud. Now you cry about restaurants. Meh!

Oh, by the way, Belmont wasn't welcoming Tavola. Those from outside of Belmont were welcoming Tavoloa. Otherwise why the traffic jams?

never had a problem parking in belmont. and since when is the influx of viable business and willing consumers a bad thing for a neighborhood? anyway, haven't had a chance to swing by tavola yet, but i've heard that the food is absolutely fantastic and a needed addition to the cville food scene.

"perhaps you would prefer some open air drug markets?"

This part of the city does have an open air drug market--Belmont Park. Jungle gym and slides, used spray garden, crystal meth. Who could ask for anything more? Oops...used condoms, too.

Where are the "daylight" businesses now?Oh thats right, they failed.... So we can let the buildings stay empty, try another "daylight" business or try an "nighttime" business...

Who stepped up to the plate?

Obviously belmont has evolved and the EXISTING commercial buildings NEED people from outside the neighborhood to survive.

Leave it to beaver daytime shopping is no longer a viable option and the city has a RESPONSIBILITY to the TAXPAYING owners of commercial property to allow them to have viable tenants with reasonable limitations.

If there is a parking issue then that is something that needs to be addressed by the city and should be.


"Where are the ââ?¬Å?daylight” businesses now?Oh thats right, they failed”Š. So we can let the buildings stay empty, try another ââ?¬Å?daylight” business or try an ââ?¬Å?nighttime” business”Š"


Browns, Fitzgeralds, Chiropractor, Belmont Market, Hensley Radiator, Coles Imports, Birkhead Signs, the Yoga name a few.

The business where Taza was? Patrick's Furniture? Still in Business, but the new owners wanted to do something else and didn't renew their lease. They are now located on Forest St. That doesn't include failed.The electrical parts guy in that building, ditto from what I recall. Gene's Hair Salon did not fail. She passed away after being made miserable by the newly arrived businesses.

I must be honest and say the only business I am not sure about is where The Local is. But I think they are still in business as well.

The only recent flop was Crush, and Crush was really in the same kitche category as the new restaurants.

So, bull on your complaint about failures and empty buildings. If the city thought they could force Fitzgerald's to close and stick another bar in they would find a way.

aha: Tax revenue will increase? How is that? How will it increase? Are there MORE PEOPLE coming to Charlottesville to eat because of the new resstaruant? Or is it just taking sales from other places in Charlottesville? Think about it. If you can think. Oh, and is the place making a profit? Are any of them other than Mas and the BBQ? From what I heard, they were complaining they couldn't make it if they weren't selling booze until 2 AM.

Rog: Silly? Why silly? If yo walk past it everyday, you know if its full or not. Last night? Dead. Monday night? Dead in the few that were open. Shall I count heads for you when I walk by tonight? Will that make you feel better?

I really love how the cheerleaders love to make up all sorts of nonsense because they can't take realty when it collides with their pipe dreams.

When the students come back, it won't be dead, thats true. But then again, that's the proof the pudding isn't it? the Belmont Commercaiial area has been turned from serving the community to serving the interests of another transitory group of people. For which, the Belmont neighborhood pays the price.

Mas is the exception to the rule. Tavola is new. We'll judge them when they are no longer the latest fad on the block.

Silly to call any of the restaurants on the block "mostly vacant." On most nights, "mostly full" would be a better description. Unless it's Mas, in which case it's "always full."
FWIW, agree that Tavola is a nice addition with tasty food.

Yeah jampacked while the others sat collecting dust. It's not like it wasn't restaurant week. The Local was like this too when it opened. When the newness wears off, it will be another mostly vacant eatery on the block, that just nothing about complain.

Speaks volumes how interested all these restaurant owners were in the neighborhood, attending meetings until they got the city council to overturn - illegally since the guidelines were ignored - the Commission. Now they are all absent and couldn't care less.

Isn't it nice to know that an entire neighborhood is supposed to subsidize the short terms profits of a couple of small businesses?

America at its best!

The residents of Belmont do not own the commercial rights to Belmont. This is a CITY and just because the people in Belmont think that they are "special" because they paid way too much for what used to be the lower east side of C-ville doesn't mean that it is chic. If someone wants to invest a couple hundred grand opening a resturanat then let them do it.

More resturants mean more social life which means more chance of "some" people actually having a relationship with something other than a cat.

Soleil, there are people who have lived in Cville/Albemarle for their whole lives and never been to Belmont, or know where it is, because until just a few years ago it was "the wrong side of the tracks." And always will be to them. FWIW, property values are falling. There are several "short sales" and at least two "foreclosure auctions" plus many unsold $500++K houses that are now rentals, all within just a few blocks of "downtown Belmont." The money's stopped, at least for buying houses.


"Belmont was not brought back by the people that lived there it was ââ?¬Å?created” by the local restaurant scene that fooled people into thinking that the shacks over there are worth way more than there actual construction costs."

Really? You know what the problem with that logic is?? Your own stupid argument about house pricing and dates.

If Belmont was SO UNCOOL and UNDESIRABLE, why were the values rising before anyone including Mas showed up? Why did they peak the time the 3rd restaurant - the BBQ ( which I think fits actually) opened - and why have they declined 30% since the opening of The Local and Bel Rio?

Using your logic we could easily blame the restaurants for the decline.

People didn't move into Belmont because of Mas bucco, withe the Mall so close. They were welcoming though.

And for older residents, why should they take a lower value so someone else can profit?


"never had a problem parking in belmont. and since when is the influx of viable business and willing consumers a bad thing for a neighborhood?"

I used to never have a problem parking in Belmont either. The real snobbery in your statement comes from the term 'viable' business, as if Belmont didn't have that before now. How long has the Belmont Market been there? Or Fitzgerald's Tire? Do you know?

I bet not, but I'll tell you: it can be counted in decades. And they won't be closing their doors because of poor sales. Yet while the city cuts exceptions left and right for the eateries ( it didn't for Mas or Taza ) regarding parking, etc, it is twice as hard on the places like Fitzgerald, for whom suddenly rules must be enforced. In addition, now the taxpayer will have to pay for infrastructure to accommodate these restaurants, whereas it didn't need to diddly for Fitzgeralds or the Market, or the Chiropractor...

You post shows how little you either know about the Belmont area, its history, or the reality of how you keep a healthy neighborhood alive.


>>The residents of Belmont do not own the commercial rights to Belmont.<>This is a CITY<>the people in Belmont think that they are ââ?¬Å?special” because they paid way too much for what used to be the lower east side of C-ville doesn’t mean that it is chic.>>

People in Belmont paid too much? How do you know what people have paid? What is too much? More than you can afford? Is that the problem? Plenty of the disgruntled were around long before the jump in housing prices in Belmont. They are the very people who brought Belmont back, and without whose work their would be no restaurants. Why didn't La Tavola show up back in 2000 when property was still cheap? Or The Local? Oh, but then Belmonters were just to spit upon by the hipsters.

The only people trying to promote Belmont as Chic are those who think the restaurants are cool and want to come and party. People like you. Not the Belmont residents who WELCOMES Tapas and Taza, but recognized there was a stauration with the arrival of the BBQ.

>>More resturants mean more social life which means more chance of ââ?¬Å?some” people actually having a relationship with something other than a cat.<<

One thing Charlottesville is not short of is restaurants with social crowds. Are you saying that you are incapable of having a social life without a bar scene to hang out? Are people in this town that unimaginative? How absolutely sad your life must be. People in Belmont sure had a social life before the restaurants, and didn't need to drink to get happy. But you wouldn't know that becuase it didn't exit for you and your fellow hipsters before you decided Belmont had a couple of bars masquerading as restuarantsin it. You didn;t give a crap about Belmont.

See, that's why you and your ilk are part of the problem, not the solution.

1)People in belmotn paid too much what is too much...
since the values have dropped 30% in the last 18 months i would say that 30% is too much.

2) The people tha bought in 2000 still are siting onm a tidy profit and have little to complain about.

3)Belmont was not brought back by the people that lived there it was "created" by the local restaurant scene that fooled people into thinking that the shacks over there are worth way more than there actual construction costs.

4) If people don't like the resturant or bar scene then the businesses will fail and you can open up a book club or knitting store.

5) city neighborhoods are fluid, things vhange, perhaps you would prefer some open air drug markets?

The sort of half truths and falsehoods over the Belmont conflict is the same reason why no real solution can be found on healthcare. Everybody has an agenda based on what they want.

Calling the houses in Belmont - many of them with solid plaster and lathe inside of solid brick - shacks, only kills the credibility of side of the argument using it. The same goes for claiming that Belmont had no value before the restaurants. Of course it did,or the amount of investment and bidding wars on those homes wouldn't have been going on as far back as 2001-2002. that was before Mas, if you didn't know.

By the way, some of the new food places are guilty also of paying the peak prices for real estate in Belmont they just did it in the commercial district. That might have had something to do with why the business they displaced or moved.

The issue here folks is balance. A few food places are great, but there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. how can lots of people running around late at night and driving their cars be a bad thing? Well, just ask your neighbors to have parties for several nights in a row, and you'll get it. The residents of Belmont, be they humble or great, have a right to expect some peace at night in their neighborhood, and to sleep. Chnage doesn't have to be noise, and commercial development doesn't have to mean rowdy late night bars.

Jobs were were just created for Charlottesville. A huge multiplier effect just took place from people buying and selling all sorts of goods and services. Tax revenue will increase for the City. I'm glad this project was approved, and I'm excited to attend once the crowds go down a bit!

Jim that sentence does read weird doesn't it? I am sorry about it being misleadng. Gene passed away because I guess it was her time. What I recall is the difficulty she had with her drive way being used as a through way for one of the new business because they owned the section behind it and wanted to basically turn it into a parking lot. They didn't ask or anything. She had to put up a big chain around her property to prevent that.

She was made miserable by at least one - not all - of these wonderful new businesses. As were some of the other long time business owners.

My point was that I am sick of the attitude that because some people who didn't give a crap about Belmont before these eateries want to spout falsehoods about the other businesses there to justify what is happening. The businesses didn't fail and its not like Belmont has been saved by the new development.

BigDonkeyDisco - There was a reason that the Pavillion was turned down by surrounding counties before C-ville stupidly allowed it. Living next to a commercial district doesn't mean anything goes. Never has, never will so stop trying that as a tactic to avoid the issue. Plenty of those places in Belmont impacted by the noise are zoned 100% residential, not commercial. They had a BIG legal complaint.

Tell you what, I'll just turn a property behind your house into a junkyard, and throw my trash in your yard. If you don't like it, move into the county and buy several acres so I can dump on a part of your property not next to your house.

Try having a concert every night in Greenbrier and see how well that flies. The people inBbelmont got there first and did something with it. If they are zoned residential, they have a right to complain about non-residential noise impacting their neighborhood.

Besides which, the Pavillion is essentially taking a public park for a private purpose.

crush failed because of the same people who are going to open that new restaurant that re-started this whole fight.

IJS, if you are so uninformed that you don't know that Belmont Park is at least half a mile away from the area in question, then how are you to be taken serioously on any Belmont topic? Actually, the city's police department is much closer, but no mention of that?

The suggestion that the only alternative to having noisy business that interfere with quiet living in Belmont is to have open air drug markets is almost as absurd as the crap that Sarah Palin spews. Get real, there were plenty of daylight business in Belmont for years and there still are a few. It's noisy, night time business that bring more people in cars than can park in the area that are the problem. Lets see how far you would get with that idea in any other residential neighborhood in the city.

I've lived here now almost five years and I *still* don't have a fricking clue where or what "Belmont" is.


I used to go to Crush every Friday. I could find a place to park but it was crowded.

My big objection is not converting old businesses into restaurants but turning residental housing into restaurants. That destroys the neighborhood.

Also the folks who bought 10 or more years ago and fixed their houses up have revived the neighborhood. None of the current upscale restaurants would have located there if the neigborhood hadn't improved.

I don't know if Tavola will be a Mas or The Local. I certainly will give it a try but I am going to wait because I do suspect the crowds will thin out after the novelty wears off.

So let's all chill out,


"Gene’s Hair Salon did not fail. She passed away after being made miserable by the newly arrived businesses."

Um, wha?

Bravo to Caesonia for telling it like it is. Show me a person who thinks the residents of Belmont have no right to complain about commercial encroachment, and I'll show you a newly arrived hipster idiot or club kid. Donkey, you have zero concept of where Belmont has been, where it is, or what it could be.

The only thing Donkey is marginally correct about are Keveany's cooking abilities. He's actually better than Donkey gives him credit for, but nowhere near as good as his own overblown ego tells him he is. At best, 6 out of a 10.

And Orchid nails it for the win!

Had a fantastic meal here. This place rocks! A very welcome addition to the food scene of Cville and the chef is amongst the best in town.

@Soleil Here's the City's map of neighborhoods. Not too complex or hard to find