Petite Fleurie: New bistro pois'd to open

Just a few weeks after opening, Fresco­ the little Mexican café that took over the Baja Rapido spot in Central Place­ shut its doors. Dish is still trying to unravel that mystery­ difficult to do when the owners are silent.

Luckily, the new owners have names and faces and an acclaimed French restaurant just around the corner: Fleurie. C'est vrai! Partners in crème Brian Helleberg and Brice Cunningham are already busy transforming the little space with the choice patio into Petit Pois ("little pea"), a classic casual French bistro.

"I've had my eyes on this location for a while, and the time was finally right," Helleberg told Dish as he awaited the plumber. The entire Rapido interior– kitchen, furniture, walls– is already history. Helleberg expects Petit Pois to be completed some time in August, just short of Fleurie's fourth anniversary.

A few planned elements include a semi-open kitchen, a seated dining area, and a full bar. As for the menu, we can expect classic (and affordable) bistro fare– bouillabaisse, charcuterie, patés, steak frite and tartare, and simple desserts à la lemon tart. Open for dinner and late-night, Petit Pois will be more nocturnal than its predecessors, and more in line with next door neighbor Zocalo.


Revolutionary Zazus

 If all you west-of-towners wondered about Zazus' shortened hours last week, Dish is here to explain. You see, this quick, informal lunch and dinner spot located in the Townside Shopping Center on Ivy Road got a new owner on Monday, June 13: Allison Campbell.

No stranger to the wrap, Campbell actually ran the show at Zazus as its general manager from 1998-2001. She left in 2002 to buy and run downtown lunch fave Revolutionary Soup, which she still owns. Despite being elbow-deep in gazpacho and chowder, Campbell couldn't resist the opportunity to take on a second venue.

"This was where I got my beginning," she says of Zazus, "so it's kind of like a homecoming." Campbell intends to focus on customer service and on high standards all around.

The menu will stay the same for the moment, but within a month or so she'll introduce "revolutionary soups" into the mix. By the time this paper hits the streets, Zazus should be back to its normal hours of operation: 11am-9pm daily.


Belmont Boom, cont'd-

 Judging from the steady crowds streaming into La Taza last week, Belmont is hungry for new eateries. Dish promised to provide a few more details on downtown Belmont's apparent "boom."

Classic jazz-lovers will be glad to hear that Sax, a restaurant featuring live jazz, is still in the works. Ryal Thomas signed a lease on the Easter building's prime corner spot just a few weeks ago. But Thomas, who owns Ready Restoration across the street, never seems to be around when I drop by. Word has it he could be in New Orleans, drumming up performers for his new venue.

Lucky for me, Hal Brindley, owner of Creature, a gallery and café-in-the-works at 824 Hinton Avenue, is always around. He happens to live in the historic brick building that he's dramatically renovating. Brindley, a wildlife photographer, originally had a gallery in mind, but the vision kept expanding– first to include wine and beer, then (since it's Virginia) to embrace food.

Everything about Creature will be environmentally friendly­ from the photographs on the wall to the reclaimed Mountain Lumber floors to the seasonal organic menu designed by Hindley's friend, a macrobiotic chef. For a town with a significant percentage of vegetarians, there are surprisingly few vegetarian restaurants in Charlottesville.

As places like Mas and La Taza are suggesting, rapidly transforming Belmont could be the perfect place to introduce­ or feed - new trends in the restaurant world.

In Belmont, the future home of Sax– or is this Creature? [It's Creature–editor.]