FOOD- THE DISH- Fabulous Fabio's: The 'thunder' on High Street

"This is the 42nd pizza shop I've worked in or owned," says Fabio Esposito, who, with his wife, Elena, keeps the counter at Fabio's on High Street.

If you haven't yet discovered Fabio's on High Street, just before you get to Free Bridge, we apologize. The pizzeria opened a year ago, and we're not quite sure how this gem slipped under our radar. Sure, we have Christian's, Doctor Ho's Humble Pie, Sylvia's and an assortment of other pizza houses, but it's hard to imagine any of their owners having a résumé like Fabio Esposito's.

For years, the Italian-born Esposit0 (he grew up in a small town outside Naples) ran Fabio's in Gordonsville (although he sold it three years ago, it's still there); but it all started 25 years ago, when Esposito was just 13, learning to cook pizza in a wood-burning oven in his native Italy. 

"This is the 42nd pizza shop I've worked in or owned," he says.

And the first one he owned was in New Jersey, when he was just 19, after he emigrated to America to join his three brothers. Esposito's wife, Elena, whom he's known since they were children, eventually joined him.

 "I don't believe in machines, in frozen dough," he says. "I still do all the sauces and dough myself."

In fact, he says people call him "the thunder" because of how mad he can get when people mess with the things he likes to handle himself. 

"I've been making pizza all my life," he says. "That's all I know."

Fardowners over yonder

In December, Crozet welcomed a new restaurant, Fardowners, in the former Ombra's spot. The name refers to the name of the Irish immigrants who built Claudius Crozet's four tunnels through the Blue Ridge Mountains in the decade before the Civil War, an engineering feat whose centerpiece, the Blue Ridge Tunnel through Afton, still gets accolades.  

According to Fardowners' owner, Charlottesville native W.C. Winkler, the name is derived from "far down south in Ireland," though some think it's derived from "far down under the mountain." Either way, it makes for a nifty name! And that's just what Winkler had in mind.

"We want to be known as a local restaurant, and the name relates to the history of Crozet," he says. "We're also promoting local beers from Starr Hill and Blue Mountain Brewery, and local wines, too."

Winkler has also enlisted the help of chef Mark Cosgrove, formerly of Starr Hill Brewery, the Blue Ridge Café, the Milmont Grill, and the Greenleaf in Williamsburg, where he was executive chef. Andy Kielar, the former bar manger at Rapture, has also tied his wagon to Fardowners. 

Winkler describes the menu as "food that people know what it is when they look at– but with a twist."

For example, he describes a typical meat-loaf dish, but then it's grilled and covered with a wild mushroom demi-glaze. There's also a duck breast creation from Cosgrove that's become very popular. Winkler says they make three kinds of their own mustard, served with bread sticks when you sit down, which people have already suggested they bottle.

"So far, the reception has been wonderful," says Winkler. "And we haven't even been advertising." 

Scottsville notes

Our man in Scottsville, "Deep Palate," reports that the Dew Drop Inn's history as a restaurant is officially over. A local fixture for more than 60 years, and a regular mention on the 1970's television show The Waltons (Jason had his first job playing piano there), the Dew Drop went through a series of owners in the last five years, all of whom tried to continue the tradition. Deep Palate says the new owner of the building plans to turn it into office and retail space. 

On a brighter note, Minor's Diner is now serving Scottsville's first full breakfast buffet!