In the old days, it was Julian’s, a place that rewarded the post-cotillion set with pizza, and where families gathered for decades to scarf down the red-sauce Italian that was Richmond’s most ethnic dining spot for too many years.
Then it threatened to become one of strip-club owner Sam Moore’s new places, which might have been an act of revenge after his other spot, Velvet, closed down. That deal didn’t happen, Moore went to prison, and the big building at 2617 W. Broad St. stayed vacant and partially vandalized for a few years.
Now it’s the scene of a complete transformation, Pane e Vino Wine Bar & Trattoria. It has a flashy new dining room centered by a U-shaped, granite bar. With seating for 152, and a private party room for three-dozen more and another 42 seats at the bar, not to mention a large back parking lot, this is one of the area’s most spacious new restaurants, with a full-service format that begins at 10 a.m. Mondays to Saturdays.
General manager Kasey LoPresti married into the longtime restaurant family — owner Joe LoPresti also owns Mediterraneo in Chesterfield County, and relatives operate Maldini’s, Mary Angela’s and others.
“We wanted to create a family-friendly atmosphere,” Kasey LoPresti says — “to have people sit down and feel like they’re right at home, like in Italy, relaxed and enjoying a meal or a glass of wine.”
Besides pizza and subs, they highlight a lengthy wine list of European and Californian vintages, most priced below $30, and a dozen pastas ($11-$18). Unique to the scene is a choose-your-own meat and cheese board. A case by the bar holds the options, which are sliced to order and sell for $1.50 an ounce. Seafood, fowl and veal entrees come in familiar versions, and a happy hour runs from 4-7 p.m. daily.
The business opened Jan. 22 during a snowstorm and didn’t get much attention for the first couple of weeks because weather kept diners away. LoPresti hopes for a change any time now. 257-9930. paneevinowinebar.com.
Bigger and smaller: Patrick Harris continues to parlay his Boka Tako empire into new areas. He’s just signed a deal to take over the former Racine (later a short-lived pizza place) at 304 N. Robinson St. to make a smaller version of his Boka Kantina cafe in the West End. He’s targeting an April opening, serving the fusion tacos, empanadas and seasonal specials that define his business. Since starting here in 2010, Boka has grown from one truck to two full-size trucks, two carts and now two restaurants. “It’s a cool, fun concept that fills a niche,” Harris says, also crediting the craft beer culture that supports the approach. Bokatruck.com.
Breakfast in Carytown: Organic eggs and granola, oatmeal and tofu scramble are on the new breakfast menu at The Daily Kitchen & Bar, now serving at 2934 W. Cary St. Breakfast hours are 7-11 a.m., Monday-Saturday, and until 10 a.m. on Sunday, when the brunch menu takes over until 4. thedailykitchenandbar.com.
Chefs share the billing: One of the city’s most generous chefs, Joe Sparatta at Heritage, opens his kitchen to colleagues hoping to start their own places in a dinner series called Guest Chef Takeover. Each meal is $45 for four courses, and the chefs will collaborate for all six events. The featured players are Randall Doetzer (Julep’s), Feb. 24; Bryan McClure (Pasture), March 24; Bill Foster (SausageCraft), May 9; Mike Braune (Secco), April 28; Mike Yager, (formerly of Charlottesville’s Glass Haus and others), June 23; and Tim Bereika (Mosaic, formerly Secco), July 14. “These chefs aim to have their own restaurants, so we’re giving them an arena to show their true style outside the confines of their current jobs,” Heritage co-owner Emilia Sparatta says. Reservations can be made at 353-4060. heritagerva.com.
Drink up: Some three-dozen events surround the bigger-and-better Virginia Wine Expo, coming back to town Feb. 18-23 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center and various wine-focused venues around town. Among them is an event presented by Style Weekly, the Best of Virginia & France Premiere Tasting at the convention center Friday, Feb. 21, from 7-10 p.m. It’s intended to be a more intimate, mellow tasting session, “comparing Old World style wines from France with the New World wines of Virginia.” Wines will be featured here that won’t be available during the Walk-Around Grand Tastings on Saturday and Sunday. See details on the event and a weeks’ worth of opportunities to explore the grape — even run a 10k — at virginiawineexpo.com.