Roma Ristorante Italiano has been owned and operated by the Giambanco family since 1976. After crossing turbulent seas of marinara during their voyage from Palermo to Brooklyn, the Giambancos' culinary prowess and authentic Italian recipes finally landed on American soil in 1968. Chefs continue to cook the family’s homemade Southern Italian cuisine, which includes pastas, hand-tossed gourmet pizzas, and seafood. Their extensive dessert menu tempts sweet teeth with delicate profiteroles and sheep's milk ricotta cannoli. The dining room oozes comfort and charm with striped banquettes, a colorful mural of the Colosseum, miniature street lamps, and potted plants strung with white lights. Roma Ristorante Italiano's full bar, onsite banquet hall, and catering services ensure that parties can break bread and celebrate Italian culture without applying for a gondolier’s license.
Inside this elegant eatery, undulating mirror segments reflect glimpses of signature kebab and kahari plates precariously stacked along the waiter's arm. Below small ceiling lights arranged like a constellation, tables are festooned with traditional clay-oven tandoori and masala dishes—but this is a small part of Noorani's ample repertoire, which ranges from Indian and Pakistani fare to a completely separate menu of traditional Chinese dishes. The staff prepares fresh fish and chicken coated in zesty sichuan, ginger soy, and orange sauces over noodles or tender rice. Guests, meanwhile, can load plates with cuisine from the 15-item daily lunch buffet and question regulars about Noorani Kabab House's live entertainment. The merriment syllabus presents comedy nights, concerts, and some guy who used a single chopstick to eat a bowl of hot-and-sour soup.
Sharing is a must at Nile Ethiopian Restaurant. Orders arrive served atop communal platters, from which diners pluck bites stewed meats and vegetables using of injera, a sourdough flatbread made from the gluten-free grain teff. The batter ferments for three to four days, producing its signature tang and a spongy texture that's ideal for soaking up richly seasoned sauces and wine spills.
Staff are happy to explain the menu and the staples of Ethiopian cooking found on a menu that, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch, "offers enough diversity for the most seasoned diners but also provides novices an excellent introduction to Ethiopian food." Along with injera, the most iconic component of Ethiopian cooking is the powdered blend of chilies, basil, ginger, garlic, shallots, fenugreek, and cardamom known as berbere. This spice blend, prevalent throughout the menu, lends a pleasant kick to everything from sautéed beef and stewed lentils to slow-cooked potatoes and a blend of cabbage and whatever vegetables happen to be in season. Those entrees that don't star meat are vegan, as the cooks make them without butter or dairy.
A review in Style Weekly lauded recent renovations at Nile, along with service that "couldn't be better." The sensory experience starts even before you enter: the little brick building in the Fan bears a huge mural of a black-and-white crowd scene on one side and a brighter, more traditionally Ethiopian array of colors and shapes on the facade.
Inside the 19th-century River District building that now contains Julep's, industry seems to have progressed backward. The structure, which once housed a lumber house, a candle factory, a cyborg-assembly plant, and a locksmith, has transformed into a farmer's haven, where locally grown and organic products construct modernized Southern fare. It?s a place where executive chef Randall Doetzer looks to several pinpoints on the map?namely Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans?to inspire his menu. Duck confit and Cajun beer-barbecued mussels herald helpings of seafood gumbo, and the wine selection ranges from domestic Virginian bottles to Old-World European imports.
Randall's creations have helped Julep's secure awards in Richmond magazine for the Best Southern-Inspired Restaurant Dish of 2012, with shrimp and grits and fried green tomatoes taking first and second place, respectively. Julep's was also awarded a spot on the magazine's 2010 list of Richmond's 25 Best Restaurants for its "house-made stocks, baked-daily breads and farm-to-table ingredients" that "represent a true philosophy, not a nod to trends."
The magazine also lauded its ?sexy environs??lampshades stand on each white-clothed tabletop, illuminating a backdrop of exposed brick and polished wood. A winding staircase leads to an upper dining room flanked by artwork and a fireplace. Here, private parties order from prix fixe menus that rotate seasonally.
When The Melting Pot originally opened in 1975 just outside Orlando, the location was cozy and quaint, but diners had only three options: swiss-cheese fondue, beef fondue, or chocolate fondue. However, as the restaurant grew in popularity, so did its menu selection and atmosphere. The restaurant first expanded four years later under the leadership of a Melting Pot waiter and enterprising college student named Mark Johnston, who teamed up with his brothers Mike and Bob to open a new outpost in Tallahassee. This location grew in reputation to pave the way for future franchise expansion. Today, the company—now owned by the trio of siblings—reigns as the premier fondue, wine, and drink restaurant, stretching across North America with more than 140 restaurants linked by underground tunnels. The restaurant's menu has also ballooned, and patrons can now expect six varieties of hot dipping cheese paired with salads, meats, and molten chocolate.
On a given night, groups of foodies gather around tables to nosh on signature four-course meals, from cheese-fondue appetizers and various salads to steaks and seafood cooked in a choice of healthy broth or oil. Birthday revelers and couples can share decadent evenings at private tables, capping off meals with chocolate desserts that have defined The Melting Pot for decades.
Mezzanine's Chef Todd Johnson loves creating fine cuisine from local, sustainable food sources. His restaurant has garnered numerous accolades, including 2009 Restaurant of the Year from Style Weekly magazine and a nod from the New York Times.
Johnson's work as a master chef has led him all over the world, but he celebrates his deep Virginia roots by sourcing from farms and fisheries throughout the state, resulting in an eclectic menu full of diverse flavors and fresh ingredients. Daily-printed menus feature creations whipped up from whatever produce, meat, and seafood is readily available. The chorizo, mushrooms, and Polyface Farm chicken come from Virginia, as do oysters served on the half-shell with drizzles of spicy sriracha aioli. You might also find Aspen Ridge rib-eye steaks and Sunday brunches of lobster omelets, fried-green-tomato BLTs, and Carolina shrimp and grits.
Mezzanine's intimate, two-tiered dining room fosters a relaxed and jovial atmosphere, and a covered patio accommodates outdoor diners during warmer months. Small tables, ideal for conversation and morsel stealing, lean their weight into hardwood floors as ambrosial aromas delicately waft by, unable to contain themselves within the kitchen.