Food Check-in: Red Pump – A Tuscan Kitchen

Posted on July 21, 2014 by

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DSC_0459As someone who lived in Italy for over two years, it is safe for me to say that Red Pump Kitchen is the piece of Tuscan flare that Charlottesville was missing. The beautifully decorated, intimate environment is the perfect place to stop in for a uniquely created cocktail at the bar, or to gather friends and family around a table for a bottle of wine paired with a delicious pizza.

I recently had the chance to dine and chat with Molly Lapekas, a Project Manager for Easton & Porter Group. Easton & Porter oversees all of Lynn Easton Andrews & Dean Andrews’ companies, including Red Pump. For Red Pump, specifically, Molly used her keen eye for decorative detail to oversee renovations, design decisions, and general ‘behind-the-scenes’ work that occurred before opening day.

Molly Lepekas at Red Pump Kitchen

Molly Lapekas at Red Pump Kitchen

According to Molly, Red Pump has fulfilled the Andrews’ longtime dream of creating a restaurant based on the food of Northern Italy, where they were married in 2000. Lynn and Dean see Charlottesville as a vibrant, progressive city with a strong food scene that is only getting better.

“The residents of Charlottesville, Albemarle, and surrounding areas have shown an interest in enjoying food created from locally harvested ingredients, and Red Pump is a restaurant that supports that local sustainability,” explains Molly.

In Italy, food is like religion; it is taken very seriously and ingredients are carefully selected for each course of each meal. Meals are to consist of the simplest of ingredients that are rich and flavorful. Courses often consist of an antipasto, a primo, a secondo, and dolce. The ingredients of each course aren’t complicated, and each dish is created slowly and carefully.DSC_0674

“Chef [Todd] Grieger designs the menus on flavor components that are based on the fundamentals of Tuscany and traditional Mediterranean cuisine,” says Molly.

“In Italy, there’s a deeper connection to the soil and to the sea. It’s simple, organic food that tastes great and isn’t complicated. Chef Grieger changes the menu based on what ingredients are available locally and what is in season.”

Chef Todd Grieger of Red Pump Kitchen

Chef Todd Grieger of Red Pump Kitchen

Some of the local purveyors with whom Red Pump has ongoing relationships are: Local Food Hub, Manakintowne Specialty Growers, Sharondale Farm, Spring Gate Farm, The Chef’s Garden, International Gourmet, Seafood @ West Main, Free Union Grass Farm, Timbercreek Organics, Border Springs Farm, The Rock Barn, and JM Stock Provisions.

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When asked where the name of the restaurant comes from, Molly explained the connection between Red Pump Tuscan Kitchen and Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyard. “Red Pump Kitchen and Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards both operate under Easton & Porter Group; therefore, both businesses share similar philosophies. Pippin Hill has a series of red water pumps on the veranda, where guests sit to enjoy lunch and wine. The water pump concept at Pippin came from seeing the same type of agricultural style all over the world.” So there you have it. The name is a nod to the water pumps at Pippin Hill.

From a culinary perspective, Molly described the similarities between Red Pump’s dishes and the type of cuisine that Pippin Hill has to offer.

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“Chef Amalia Scatena, Executive Chef at Pippin Hill, also oversees all of the culinary teams underneath Easton & Porter Group. As a result, you see her culinary expertise and unique touches throughout Red Pump, Zero George, and Pippin Hill because she’s a resource to all of our chefs.” explains Molly.

“Chef Scatena and Chef Grieger share a passion for Mediterranean and Tuscan-inspired dishes. Like Pippin Hill, Red Pump has an authentic wood fired oven. All of the pastas are prepared in-house, as are the breads, which are also cooked in the wood fired oven. At both Red Pump and Pippin Hill there is a focus on using local ingredients to create dishes that are inspired by the seasons.”

DSC_0549While observing the bartenders and the kitchen staff, it is evident that the team at Red Pump carefully deliberates each creation. They are artists in the kitchen and behind the bar. Not only are the ingredients for the food locally sourced and seasonal, but the cocktails currently consist of refreshing summer flavors. They embrace the Italian mindset, carefully pairing ingredients while constructing their thoughtful beverages and dishes. Their emphasis is placed both on simple yet rich flavors, as well as creative presentation. Ingredients are fresh, creative, flexible, and as local as possible for both their cocktails and their dishes.

The folks at Red Pump describe the Tuscan-inspired dining experience to be, “comfortable, festive, and unique.”  After having dined with them, I would have to agree that these are the perfect adjectives to describe the atmosphere and cuisine. And I have to admit, the Roasted Garlic and Arugula Pizza left me nostalgic for one of my favorite pizzas from my neighborhood pizzeria in Rome.

See the slideshow below for more photos of their delicious dishes, and to get a feel for the lush atmosphere of Red Pump – A Tuscan Kitchen.

Words and photography by Shannon Gillen

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