Welcoming Caffe Bocce

Posted on February 21, 2013 by

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Caffe Bocce comes from humble beginnings. Since its arrival in Charlottesville, chef-owner Chris Long has felt “humbled” and “overwhelmed” by how well the Scottsville-born “Neighborhood Italian” restaurant has been received.

Caffe Bocce

Caffe Bocce

Open for 10 years in what Long calls the “sleepy little town” of Scottsville, where he served as mayor from 1998-2002, Caffe Bocce returns after a seven-year hiatus. This time, they are making their mark on Charlottesville’s downtown scene, located at 609 East Market Street, a block off the downtown mall.

Unfazed by the less than stellar track record of that particular block of Market Street across from City Hall (four restaurants have come and gone in an eight-year time frame), Long is optimistic that he and his partners have found what needs to be done to make the space a success. “I think it’s the way we blend new American cuisine and traditional Italian cuisine,” Long said in an interview.

Caffe Bocce

Caffe Bocce

So, what exactly does the chef/owner of a well-loved restaurant do during his days? “I make my business to know what is going on in every pot,” he says.

From taking reservations, to making sauces in the kitchen, to interacting with and enthusing his guests, Long strives “to build competence in each corner.”

And that competence is tremendously obvious. The gracious hosts, including Long himself, begin your visit to Caffe Bocce in the warmest of ways, making sure you know how devoted the entire staff is to making sure you have the best experience possible. The wait staff’s concern for their guests’ well being is unlike any other I’ve witnessed. They even made me comfortable with trying a sardine – a fish I had unconsciously removed from my spectrum of edible animals. And, as is a given at Caffe Bocce, it was delicious. Long and I took a spin around the kitchen and through the dining room on Valentine’s night, and a cohesive, relaxed atmosphere radiated throughout the entire establishment.

This is unsurprising, though, when you consider Caffe Bocce’s Scottsville roots:

“I went back to college in New York, then I wanted to continue to do graduate work – so I came down to look at the University of Virginia. When I came to look at it, someone invited me out to their farm in Scottsville, and I went out there. My partner at the time and I found a building and it was for sale, and there was restaurant equipment in it, and we just began. The first day I think we had pizza and roasted chicken. The next day we had pizza, roasted chicken and mussels. The next day we had pizza, roasted chicken, mussels and carbonara. I think we started in 1995 with four ingredients and pizza, and went from there.”

Caffe Bocce

Caffe Bocce

It was immediately clear that Caffe Bocce is more than a restaurant; it is a community, and a legend. After gaining such a following while in Scottsville, Long told me he thinks “there’s not been a single evening when there hasn’t been three or four parties to come in here with faces that [he’s] so glad to see.”

As responsible Charlottesvillians, let’s ensure that the legend lives on. I know I will.

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Posted in: food, New to Cville