O.K., I need a bit of help.
Possibly by Thursday, January 17th.
First, a bit of background.
For those of you who have been in DC for five years or more, I suspect the name A.V. Ristorante is familiar to you.
It was a sketchy looking place from the outside (and not much better looking inside) at the corner of NY Ave. and 6th St.NW, where you could get the best white pizza ever made and also the best pizza I’ve ever had.
It didn’t matter what else they served, but if pizza wasn’t your idea of a good meal, and it was the right season, their sauteed soft shell crabs with garlic pasta (you needed to ask for the garlic pasta which was better than the very good red sauced one that usually came with the soft shells) was always good.
Otherwise, the spaghetti carbonara, the baked rigatoni, and/or the family platters of seafood with linguini were pretty good alternative comfort foods. The fried zuchinni that we use to order with our white pizza was the only vegetable we were ever able to get our daughters to eat (without threats or bribery).
You could usually find the old man, Augustus Vasaio, Sr., sitting at one of the two or three tables at the front of the restaurant, with a two-day stubble of a beard, reading the paper, smoking a cigarette with ashes somehow dangling but not falling despite their length. Good opera was usually blaring from the jukebox, and it was possible to get AV to talk about his latest train trip, probably the Orient Express or some such extravagance, if you sat down across from him and stayed a while.
AV would close his restaurant for up to a month in August (he’d put a sign up saying, “Closed for Repairs,” which he told me one time really meant they were washing the floor in the back part of the restaurant). Then he’d buy a ticket on the Concorde, fly to Europe, visit family in Abruzzi and then get on a train, his favorite form of transportation and relaxation (tho he always seemed relaxed to me).
After AV died in 1982, his wife Assunta (Sue) and sons continued to run the restaurant, and it continued to be a place we’d have to take our daughters straight from the airport when they returned home from being away at school.
Then the new Convention Center was built a block away and a competition between hotel chains and office developers for the properties on both sides of the new center commenced. Eventually, the sons couldn’t resist the goodly sums offered (no blame intended), and they sold the restaurant, closing it in May 2007. (Ironically, the DC government ultimately gave approval for a new hotel not on the block where A.V.’s had been but on the block on the west side of the Convention Center. The office building that the Washington Post said was going up on the A.V. property has still not been built.)
Sadly, for those many of us who felt we couldn’t live without A.V.’s, we were forced to face the reality of life in DC without A.V.’s.
I’m getting to my request.
Recently, I was sitting with Pepe Montesino (is there a pattern here?) in the front table of his restaurant, Mixtec in Adams Morgan. We were again reminiscing about AV, who Pepe says taught him everything he knows about the restaurant business (Pepe began his restaurant career as a waiter at A.V.’s).
I was bemoaning the loss of A.V.’s Ristaurante and wondering why one of his sons or even his grandson had not opened a restaurant somewhere else, when Pepe casually said the family had indeed opened two restaurants in Richmond, VA.
How come I didn’t know about this potentially life saving event?
I wrote down the name of the two places and began plotting how soon I could get there (Pepe had tried to capture some of A.V.’s crowd when he hired one of the former cooks, but somehow the food wasn’t the same, tho Mixtec remains one of the hidden little treasures in DC. Try their Tacos al Pastor, but I digress).
Ellen, tho she enjoyed A.V.’s, thought I was crazy to want to drive all the way to Richmond (she often thinks some of my better ideas are not exactly as wonderful as I do). However, that younger daughter you may have read about in a recent apology of sorts — Clearly, I Should Have Listened to My Daughter — on MillersTime, wondered why I hadn’t already driven there. (Note: Beth and I were known to eat at A.V.’s three nights in a row when Ellen was out of town).
OK. the pitch is coming.
Ellen will be out of town starting Wednesday evening, not returning until Monday or Tuesday. So of course I will head to Richmond.
My idea is to have lunch at one of the two restaurants and dinner at the other one.
Here it is.
Since I don’t know anything about Richmond, Va., I would love to know how I could best occupy my time between meals and rebuild my appetite, albeit without going to one of those places where you pay money to exercise. In fact, let’s leave exercise out of this altogether.
Anyone who knows the city (including the close in areas) and can suggest how I might pass a few pleasant hours between meals, please contact me or leave your suggestion(s) in the Comments section of this post.
I’m hoping to head to Richmond this weekend, possibly as early as Thursday morning, January 17, so don’t put this off.
So jealous, I hope you go. Report back and take pictures!
Sal Giambanco said:
As the former capital of the Confederacy, there is much historical legacy in Richmond. I did a historical walking tour many years ago — it was truly fascinating. There are also some wonderful architectural treasures in the City — beautiful stately homes — many in the historical register. Enjoy!
If you wait until Friday, can I come with you? I arrive at 10am at National and would be delighted to eat my way through Richmond with you. I’m only partially joking. That being said, I’ve never been to Richmond so I would not be a helpful tour guide.
Jess Gordon said:
On Saturday night, see whatever’s playing at the Byrd Theatre (http://byrdtheatre.com/organ/), a historic landmark from 1928 that starts Saturday night shows with a Mighty Wurlitzer Organ performance. Even if the movie doesn’t interest you, it’s worth going for the concert and to explore the theater. Enjoy!
Nancy C Wilson said:
Am no expert on Richmond either, but it has a marvelous Museum, which I have been to at least twice in the last few years–It’s regular collection is extensive, and has some interesting features–including a Tiffany display that reveals how varied were the company’s wares-and an excellent show of handmade modern furniture–along with some marvelous African objects from the Nooter Collection (a local family recently donated this)
I also recall a lively neighborhood around VCU with some funky stores and dives–the previously mentioned tour of the capitol area was fascinating also–lots of historic sites– Have a great time!
Richard Margolies said:
Richmond has a fascinating (if you are interested) Museum of the Confederacy. It gives you some wonderful experiences through its exhibits of what life was like for the soldiers. And of course its about the Confederacy so you can learn something about the enemy’s perspective, and perhaps something about today’s Republican Party, which no longer calls itself the Party of Lincoln. The Museum is attached to Jefferson Davis’ house, which is also of interest.
Richmond also has a good art museum, with a Lewis Modern Art wing.
so i like richmond a lot , and i would normally want to join to find the veal saltimbocca of my youth , but i have to cater a meal for now 60 ppl this weekend . so here’s the list of richmond things :
– buz & ned’s bbq
– vis art museum
– virginia science museum
– the hippodrome
– carytown is the funky ecclectic neighborhood full of interesting things
also carytown is the home of the galaxy diner … a damn good version of a greasy spoon .
sadly the smokey pig which was just north of richmond is now closed forever . boo .
Glen Willis said:
I would plan on spending a few days there.
The museum of the confederacy has 3 stops I would reccomend. The museum and the White house of the confederacy are close to each other at 12 and Clay.
Another museum at Appomattox is worth the trip too.Not sure of the distance.
Lastly, in Petersburg, visit Old Blandford Church and Cemetery.
It is noted for 13 Tiffany Stainglass Windows, 1 for each confederate state.. They are really spectacular. Lot of history in the cemetery too , Revolutionary war, 1812 and of course Civil war.
Tell Ellen its educational not a tasting party.
Liz Frost said:
Have a great time!!!!!
Susan Butler said:
Richard: As a native of Richmond here are my suggestions:
Virginia Museum–a must for permanent collection. Chilhuly show just closed, but there is over a day’s worth of great things to see–Decorative Arts, paintings and sculpture from 1960s forward, African, Faberge items, a selection of Melon-donated aniumal pictures which are not my cup of tea.
Right next door–uses same parking lot–is Virginia Historical Society, NOt stuffy at all; am, not sure what the current exhibit is
White House of the Confederacy and the Valentine Museum
If it were spring time, walking around the seeing the gardens would be nice.
Monument Avenue—-the statues are famous and the one of Arhurs Ash, truly terrible.
Much thanx to all those who sent comments and ideas, here on the site and others by email.
There was quite a lovely response, and in addition to the primary purpose of the trip, I now have several days worth of good things to pursue between meals. I plan to start with the Chilhuly exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum as it is only there until Feb. 10.
I am considering some of those Confederate suggestions, but dare I say I tend to be more interested in existing life events over those from the past.
Anyway, I am appreciative of the responses, struck by the power of asking for and receiving suggestions, and no doubt will report back.
Richard — I cannot help you on Richmond, but in your description of AVs you should have mentioned the fence-encircled fountain out front, which I always found to be one of the unexpected, out-of-place sites in Washington.