FOOD- THE DISH- Cocina del C'ville: Crozet's bright light comes to town

Less than three years ago, chef Alex Montiel spiced up Downtown Crozet with his lively Southwestern-style restaurant, Cocina del Sol. After working in hotels for years and opening seven Ritz Carltons, Montiel, a native of Mexico City, wound up as executive chef at the Boar's Head Inn.

Then, tired of working for the man and wanting more time with his family, Montiel decided to establish a place in the town where he lives, because, as he told Dish in 2003, "We live out here, and there just aren't enough restaurants in this town." In short order, Montiel made Cocina del Sol the talk of Crozet and beyond.

So naturally he began to look for a way to expand. "We had been thinking about Waynesboro," he says, "but then an opportunity in Charlottesville came up."

That opportunity was the sale of restaurant icon Rococo's last year. Montiel bought the restaurant in November and has been renovating since. As Dishphiles know, Pizza Bella's mother-son owners Christine and Willie Manning took over the spot in '04 from previous owners Bruno and Lisa Conti. They had bought it from the woman who built Rococo's reputation, Mary Ann Parr, an entrepreneur, cook, now real estate agent who had also opened a little restaurant you might have heard of when she moved here in 1974–The Virginian.

Cocina del Sol Charlottesville opened Wednesday, February 28 in the downstairs section of the old Rococo's. Why downstairs only? Montiel's planning to open a continental-style bistro and gourmet-to-go café upstairs in about two weeks.

It goes without saying that Montiel, like the previous owners, will have his work cut out for him taking over the venerable space, which ten years ago was a pioneer in our now-dynamic restaurant scene.  

Dish wishes him well.

Palladio University

Ever thought about becoming a chef? Well, a special event March 18 at the Palladio Restaurant at the Barboursville Vineyards may be just what you've been waiting for. 

Palladio's executive chef, Melissa Close, is hosting a visit from chef-instructors, recruiters, and current students from her alma mater, the New England Culinary Institute, who will be on hand for a cooking demo and to provide information about the school and discuss the hands-on training that makes Institute graduates so desirable in the restaurant world. The event will take place in the vineyard's Museum Room, filled with antique wine-making equipment and offering beautiful views of the vineyards. 

Close, a native of Mobile, Alabama, who graduated from the Institute in 1999, specializes in Italian regional cuisine. To help hone her skills, the restaurant affords her and her staff the opportunity to travel and cook at some of Italy's finest restaurants each year. In fact, Close just left for Genoa recently, and plans to bring back plenty of Genoese specialties in time for the March event. 

BBQ in Belmont

Adding to the growing number of premiere BBQ venues around town and beyond, barbeque-er Wes Wright has launched a new venue in historic Belmont. 

Aptly named Belmont Bar-B-Que, the shining new rib shack on Hinton Avenue opened for business a week ago. With La Taza and Saxx Jazz and Blues Club not far away– not to mention the godfather of Belmont's culinary renaissance, Mas– it looks like ole Belmont might start giving the Downtown Mall a run for its money. 

Cocina del Sol's Alex Montiel has brought the star of Downtown Crozet to Charlottesville, setting up shop in the old Rococo's space.



1 comment

For those of us who are regularly confused by what restaurants used to be where, when you refer to "the old Roccoco's" it doesn't really help find the new place. Do you mean the space off Hydraulic at Commonwealth? Or on Rt. 29? Or someplace else entirely?