Charlottesville Breaking News

Goodbye, Expresso: Venerable food family exits Pantops space

About a year ago, the former owners of the famed Expresso Italian Villa on Emmet Street (now The Villa under new ownership), known by countless students and townsfolk for its 2am breakfasts, reprised an even older Charlottesville restaurant icon, the Expresso International Restaurant (whose original site on West Main now serves as a site of El Jaripeo). Up on the hill at Pantops Mountain, owners Margarita and Nick Vlavianos took over the Aunt Sarah's Pancake House space and launched Expresso Italian Restaurant & Pancake House.

"Same menu as the old Expresso," owner Margarita Vlavianos told the Hook, "but no pizza this time."

Since this was the culinary team that a Hook reviewer found back in 2008 to produce the town's best gyros, this was cause for celebration. On a recent drive-by, however, we discovered that Expresso had closed its doors. Compounding our shock and sadness is the fact that Vlavianos had in recent weeks been telling the Hook about the impending arrival of a new pizza oven.

With the phone disconnected, we were unable to make contact with the Vlavianos family, but according to commercial real estat...

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Taliban blowback: Fiction tackles reality in debut novel

Fathers quietly bring home the burdens and responsibilities of their work, which their children often notice in his tired eyes or a heavy sigh. For local author Mark Saunders, that boyhood curiosity must have been especially complex. When his dad, former U.S. diplomat Harold Saunders, returned home after helping Henry Kissinger negotiate peace agreements between Egypt and Israel, or after having coordinated efforts to secure the release of American hostages during the Iranian Hostage Crisis, what did the young son absorb? 

"I don't know how Mark Saunders tapped into the material for his novel," says author John Casey, who has had high praise for Saunder's debut novel, Ministers of Fire, "but it rings true. An instructive but above all exciting book."

Indeed, as a curious young man, Saunders was intrigued by his father's work. 

"At some point in my twenties," says Saunders, now 45, "I was reading a pretty obscure book about the Chinese intelligence services, and I stumbled on the fact that the CIA and the Chinese had worked together in the late 1970s to arm the Afghan freedom fighters, the mujahedin, which was something my father was involved with."

From this, the seeds for of a literary thriller were planted. Saunders would come to the University of Virginia's Creative writing program, where he would work on the book, and in the late 1990s he beg...

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Barefoot's baby: Earless Rabbit jumps out

He's best known in Charlottesville as a WINA radio host, but author and historian Coy Barefoot now has an addition to his resumé: co-founder and creative director of Earless Rabbit, an online video site that features professionally produced clips on local topics from music to art to food.

"Earless Rabbit is what comes after newspaper, radio, and television as we know it," says Barefoot, who says the idea– named for the old-school television antennas– grew from his frustration with the interruptions caused by pop-up, banner, and video ads, all of which, he says, are relics of 20th century advertising models.

"The whole idea of a TV commercial is that it's an interruption," says Barefoot, who spent the past year working with his cofounder, filmmaker Kent Williamson, in preparation for the launch. 

While the content will indeed be interruption free, earless rabbit is admittedly not always a pure journalistic endeavor. While Barefoot offers his friendly and info-packed history lessons known as "Barefoot Excursions," other folks might pay for their coverage. Businesses, musicians, and artists can pay for professional treatment, which they can then use in their own social network marketing efforts or post to their own websites.

"The commercial of the 20th century is the content of the 21st," says Barefoot. "But...

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Culpeper silence: Citizens, top cop slam shooting inquest

Three months after a Culpeper police officer gunned down an unarmed woman and despite an official explanation that has been contradicted by at least two witnesses, there's still no action. Frustration has grown so intense that about 500 citizens have signed a petition, and now Central Virginia's leading law enforcer is speaking out about the case and its allegedly slow pace.

"What I've heard about it stinks,"says Albemarle Sheriff Chip Harding.

A former Charlottesville police captain who gained a national reputation in DNA technology, Harding says that 80 percent of a police shooting investigation typically occurs in the first five or six hours. Here, the State Police, aside from issuing a pair of press releases essentially blaming the victim, have released little– even denying multiple requests for the name of the officer in question.

Harding says that normal procedure when an officer engages in deadly force is for the police administration to release his name. It's okay, says Harding, for a chief to support the officer who goes on administrative leave with pay while the matter is investigated.

While the town of Culpeper steadfastly refuses to identify the officer, other sources have filled that information void. The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg cites two unnamed officers confirming that the shooter's name is Daniel Harmon-Wright....

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FunStuff: Charlottesville events May 17 and beyond

Batesville Day
Now that Batesville got its country store back, or "café-market" as the owners of the recently opened Plank Road Exchange are calling it, there will again be some tasty food at this year's Batesville Day, the area's iconic small town extravaganza with music, a parade, a 10K road race, and even an Ugly Truck raffle. The 10K starts at 8am, the parade starts at 11am, and the food, tunes, and fun go on until 2pm.
May 19, Batesville, 8am-2pm, Free


Maino at the Paramount
In between a line-up of opera, classic films, and Municipal Band of Charlottesville performances, the Paramount Theater has slipped in something edg...

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Editor's Note
4Better Or Worse