Editor’s Note: This is episode three in a three episode Matty Hart series.
Editor’s Note: This is episode two in a three episode Matty Hart series.
I was thinking about the restaurant scene in Charlottesville, Virginia this morning. After giving it some thought, I had a difficult time compiling a robust list of restaurateurs who own both their restaurant and the real estate their restaurant is situated on. I was thinking specifically of the restaurants located within Charlottesville City Limits, where the cost to purchase commercial real estate is very high.
Please find a couple names that came to mind listed below. If you know of any others, please let me know, and I will gladly update this story. (Charlottesville City Limits only).
(1). Peter Castiglione and Christian Kelly own both Maya Restaurant and the fabulous West Main building and the outside patio Maya calls home. (I also believe that there is an upstairs apartment above Maya that Peter, a savvy entrepreneur, rents for additional income. Don’t hold me to that…)
(2). Giuseppe Joe Finazzo and Nina DiMarco Finazzo own both Sal’s Caffe Italia and the Sal’s building. Along with creating an iconic restaurant on The Downtown Mall, Giuseppe and Nina had the courage and vision to purchase the building in 1985. Sal’s has served guests for more than 33 years on The Downtown Mall, which I’d say is the most competitive micro marketplace in CVille.
(3). John Domvakaris owns the venerable Jak ‘N Jil Restaurant. This greasy spoon has enjoyed more than 50 years of success on High Street. Interesting side-note: I once spent an after-hours evening drinking Sambuca and negotiating a real estate purchase with John (aka Zaneeze) and Dr. Charles Hurt while seated in the back booth inside Jak ‘N Jil. We scribbled counter offers on a napkin with a blue pen and slid the napkin back-and-forth across the table while Zaneeze smoked European cigarettes. It was an unforgettable experience.
(4). Adam Frazier owns two restaurants and two restaurant buildings in Downtown Belmont. Adam literally helped design and build The Local Restaurant and Catering and Junction Restaurant himself. In fact, I would say that Belmontonians have Adam to thank, more than anyone else, for the increase in their real estate property values over the last 10 years.
After compiling this list, I wondered: “How much of an edge does owning the building offer the restaurateur in Charlottesville, Virginia?”
I asked Matty Hart, the thought-provoking executive chef at The Local, this specific question on The I Love CVille Show powered by Greenberry’s Coffee at Barracks Road. Matty has seen firsthand as Adam has purchased, demolished, remolded, opened and evolved The Local, which is one of the most profitable restaurants in CVille without question.
“[Owning the building] is huge. I don’t want to speak for Adam because when it comes down to the spending of the money and the expansion… That’s him,” Matty explained. “But he could not have expanded the way he did [without owning the building].”
Matty and Adam opened The Local in 2008 when Belmont was still sketchy. Adam has lived in Belmont with his wife and two kids for awhile, so he’s super invested in preserving the authenticity of the neighborhood while also guiding its future and its brand identity.
For example, Adam overpaid when he purchased the Jean’s Beauty Salon building, which is about 20-inches away from The Local. However, Adam made the move to ensure the neighborhood was not raided by a corporate outsider. The salon has now been converted into an intimate private dining room, but the outside of the building remains authentically the same. I absolutely love Adam’s execution with this space.
For two more examples, consider Adam’s investment into the back deck at The Local and his purchase and preservation of the Junction Restaurant building. The back deck is a well-designed breezy structure that’s evolved into a mecca for private parties and cocktail hours. It also offers The Local some of the largest seating capacity in Charlottesville.
Before Adam opened Junction, he spent years planning and preserving the building. When you analyze Junction today, you see gorgeous design complimented by a large, comfortable dining room. Adam leveraged his experience with private parties at The Local and scaled the strategy across the street. Adam masterminded Junction’s second floor for private parties and rehearsal dinners.
“Adam never shied away from putting the money back into the business. As an employee, that’s what you want,” Matty said. “You want that safety of always making the place better. Not getting stagnant. Adam never shied away from that. He always had a vision he went with.”
In episode two, we learn the “path of action” Matty and Adam took when opening The Local Restaurant more than 10 years ago. Matty, once again, crushes this interview.
Editor’s Note: This is episode one in a three episode Matty Hart series.
Matty Hart was a teenager when he stepped into the C&O kitchen for the first time. It’s 1996, and the C&O is the pinnacle of the profession. The restaurant boom in Charlottesville, Virginia has yet to happen, so Dave Simpson’s C&O was the hot spot on The Downtown Mall.
Matty just finished a short stint at Hot Tomatoes, a pizza joint on The UVa Corner that’s been long gone. Now, onto his second kitchen job, Matty walks into the C&O and immediately knows there’s something special about the place.
“There was fire everywhere in the kitchen!” Matty remembers. “Everyone is yelling. Johnny Cash is blaring.”
Matty loved it. He was hooked immediately. He was prepared to log the hours, learn the craft of cooking and climb the ladder from the dish pit to the line.
“C&O is where I really became interested in cooking and the restaurant business,” said Matty, who grew up in Waynesboro. “It was amazing good fortune. I got lucky and worked hard at the same time. It was just a fantastic place to fall into.”
“I never met anyone who was more passionate about food [than Dean],” Matty said. “Dean opened my eyes that [being passionate about food] was an actual thing. Dean was just so into everything. He was so passionate about everything, about the building of the flavors. It just blew me away.”
Matty said his time at C&O working under Dave Simpson and Executive Chef Thomas Bowles and alongside Dean Maupin had a tremendous impact on his career. He also recognizes Angelo Vangelopoulos, the executive chef and owner of the Ivy Inn Restaurant, as a mentor who helped shape his approach to cooking. Matty worked under Angelo at the Ivy Inn and at Wild Greens, which used to be located in the Peter Chang’s location in Barracks Road North.
“I thought Angelo was a rockstar just like Thomas and Dave,” Matty said. “Those guys were rockstars to me. I thought they were the coolest guys in the world. The fact that they were taking their time to teach me… It was amazing.”
In episode 1 of “The Matty Hart Story,” we spotlight Matty’s rise to prominence as one of the best chefs in Charlottesville, Virginia. Matty has helped turn The Local into one of the most profitable restaurants and catering outfits in Central Virginia. He’s been there since day one, too.
“The Matty Hart Story” on The I Love CVille Show is powered by Greenberry’s Coffee in Barracks Road Shopping Center. Greenberry’s is Charlottesville’s longest running coffee roaster. They’ve been serving Central Virginia since 1992.
If you liked this article, you might also enjoy Journalist Hawes Spencer Discusses His New Book: “Summer Of Hate” And Other Charlottesville, Va Events On The I Love CVille Show and Is Charlottesville, Virginia A Better Place Today Than It Was 30 Years Ago?
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