Charred octopus with endive and blackberry sauce at Graffiato.

Scott Elmquist

Charred octopus with endive and blackberry sauce at Graffiato.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Updates on the suit against Mike Isabella, restaurant openings and other food & drink news

Posted on Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 4:11 PM

Last month, a Washington Post article revealed that a woman named Chloe Caras filed suit against Mike Isabella, a former “Top Chef” contestant who owns restaurants in Washington and Virginia, including Graffiato Richmond. The lawsuit claims that Isabella and his partners sexually harassed Caras, called her names and ultimately fired her.

Tuesday of this week, the Washington Post reported that Isabella’s company used nondisclosure agreements to prevent workers from speaking out about sexual harassment. According to the story, Caras’ lawsuit asks the court to declare the agreements unenforceable, which could allow more employees to speak freely about their experience working for Isabella’s company.

A former Graffiato worker told the Post that she signed two during her 14 months as a food runner, and that staff members were “afraid to talk” publicly about working at the restaurant. According to the Post, Isabella released a statement saying that the agreements “were established six years ago to prevent any news about our restaurant openings from leaking to press before we were ready to announce it. NDAs were absolutely never used to intimidate employees. In fact, we have always had policies in place to encourage employees to report incidents that made them uncomfortable.”

Graffiato Richmond, at 123 W. Broad St., is the second iteration of Isabella’s Italian-inspired restaurant serving homemade pasta, pizza and small plates. It opened in 2014.

Open for business

Last week we ran a story about Salt & Forge, Jackson Ward’s newest quick-service breakfast and lunch spot conceived by former Chipotle executive David Hahn. And as of Tuesday, the restaurant is officially serving up freshly-baked biscuits, Counter Culture Coffee and an extensive list of sandwiches and salads. Stop by this week for an Asheville chicken biscuit featuring spiced sweet potato puree, crispy chicken, coriander slaw, a sunny-side-up egg and sriracha aioli, or a turkey and blackberry sandwich with house-roasted turkey breast, homemade blackberry-serrano jam, brie, crispy shallots and arugula on honey wheat.

And shake it all about

Ever had sushi in a bowl? At Hoke Poke, a California-based restaurant that opened its first East Coast location in Short Pump last week, that’s what it’s all about. The Hawaiian-inspired fast-casual chain offers bowls and wraps featuring rice, raw fish and toppings like wasabi peas, avocado, Persian cucumber, edamame and macadamia nuts. Also on the menu are boba milk teas, iced green tea and lavender lemonade.

The real Beale

Welcome to the neighborhood, Beale’s! As of March 26, beer from Beale’s Brewery, located in the small Southwestern Virginia town of Bedford, is available in Richmond. The flagship Gold beer, a “Virginia version of a Munich Helles Lager,” is the microbrewery’s first to make its way here. At 4.8 percent alcohol it’s a smooth, easy drinkin’ beer that owner Dave McCormack says goes with anything. You can find the lager on tap at Fat Dragon, Lunch and Supper, the Hof Garden and Sedona Taphouse, and in eight-packs at Union Market, Shields Market, Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market and some 7-11s and Krogers.

No need to sugar-coat it

It’s April, and let’s be honest — most of those health-related New Year’s resolutions have long since fallen by the wayside. We could all probably stand to cut back on the sugar consumption, and Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market is holding an event addressing just that. At 6 p.m. tonight (Wednesday), local nutritionist Shelly Rose will share a series of steps you can take to reduce sugar cravings and incorporate more wholesome foods into your everyday diet.

Tickets to Crush Your Sugar Cravings cost $10 and available here.

The great indoors

Style critic Karen Newton just reviewed Pik Nik, the outdoor-inspired Fan restaurant serving dishes like balsamic-drizzled roasted cauliflower, black pepper and honey-glazed wings, crab cakes with garlic mashed potatoes, and scallops with smoked salmon caviar and a Panama prawn. It may be a bit dreary outside this week (calling your bluff, spring), but at least you can have yourself an indoor picnic.

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