Bye, Bye Bocce: New Scottsville spots evoke Ms and mmms
Winter is generally a quiet time for restaurants. But big spring-like changes are already well under way in Scottsville, as not one but two new eateries prepare to open on Valley Street.
Fans of Chris Long's 10-year-old Caffè Bocce surely noticed its permanent hibernation– the restaurant closed for good on January 1 after a rip-roaring New Year's Eve party. Long and his partner Marcia Miller had planned on just selling the building, but then a mysterious someone with restaurant dreams of his own made them an offer that, well, they couldn't refuse.
"Our business was as strong as ever," Long says, "but we basically realized our goals in Scottsville and we're ready to move on to new challenges now."
Long and Miller– now in Rheinbeck, New York– are currently investigating new restaurants possibilities both in the Hudson Valley and Charlottesville. They encourage friends and customers to keep in touch via caffebocce.com.
As for the new restaurants taking Bocce's place, Scottsville can expect The Brick, a casual pizza and Southwestern café to open first (in the Bar Bocce spot), maybe even before March. A few weeks later, look for the slightly more elegant River Rock Chop House in the adjacent space.
In charge of these twin eateries is owner and Executive Chef Timm Johnson. Johnson, a friend of the enigmatic new building owner, is just a few classes away from getting his Le Cordon Bleu diploma from the Orlando Culinary Academy in Florida. When we met in Scottsville last week, Johnson was actually on his way back to Orlando for the school's attempt to create the world's largest crème brulée!
Johnson and general manager (and pizza maker) Ken Woldt were putting the finishing touches on The Brick, including about 10 different paint colors on the walls and an equally fun and varied menu. Teasers include fresh mozzarella and tomato Cheese Skewwers, Garlic Knotts and a fish-n-shrimp-n-scallops Ceviche. (Weird spelling is an intentional play on the chef's name– Timm with two m's.)
In addition to competition-qualified "Chilly" and Wings ("10 fer $6.36"), The Brick aims to tease and please with a create-it-yourself pizza (thin cornmeal crust!), sandwich, and Mexican menu that you'll really have to try for yourself 'cuz here I can't do it justicce herre.
The Brick will be open seven days for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A fully stocked bar is planned.
What does Johnson– who spent many years in the Tampa metroplex– think of Scottsville?
"I grew up in what they call a 'poke and clean' town in Iowa– poke your head out the window and you're clean out of town– so I'm very glad to return to a smaller community," he says.
The 41-year-old chef, who gets many ideas from his collection of vintage cookbooks, is still working on River Rock's "nouveau French-American with heartland traits" menu, but promises lots of fresh seafood and certified Angus beef which he plans to butcher himself using the lessons he learned on his family's Iowa farm.
Hold the pool tables
A few months ago, Dish heard that a downstairs pool-hall was in the works at the Fusion Restaurant and Deli on the Downtown Mall. Well, though the city did approve owner Andreas Gaynor's request to convert the downstairs room into an entertainment space, Gaynor told Dish that the plan is now on hold.
"With all the remodeling the city required, it's just not cost efficient for us at this time," he explains. But March will bring several significant enhancements to the restaurant that are sure to please– a full bar (wine, beer, liquor), "unplugged" acoustic music nights, and hours extended to midnight on weekends.
Two Ms mean two restaurants: Chef Timm Johnson of The Brick and River Rock.
PHOTO BY CHRISTINA BALL