Ashwani Ahluwalia, proprietor of BRX American Bistro, has always set high standards for himself, graduating with honors from the Bermuda Hotel and Catering College at 18 and immediately joining the staff at the fine-dining restaurant Romanoff. After working in restaurants in the Grand Cayman Islands, cooking for celebrities, Supreme Court justices, and athletes, Ahluwalia eventually settled in Grand Falls. Here, he helms BRX American Bistro, pairing upscale American cuisine with more than 30 wines available by the glass and 95 by the bottle. This service strategy helped Ahluwalia's restaurant earn the 2012 Diners' Choice Award from Opentable.com. He draws inspiration for his menu from his background. This helps Ahluwalia create the hickory-smoked barbecue jamaican baby-back ribs with a housemade sauce's Caribbean flavor, as well as the samosas, which he fills with creamy potatoes and a fresh cilantro-mint chutney inspired by his Indian heritage.
Named for brix, the measure for the sugar content in grapes for wine making, the restaurant naturally features a glass-enclosed wine cellar and an extensive wine list. The establishment welcomes oenophiles to become cellar members and store their prized bottles, purchased at a discount through BRX, in the cellar lockers. Past the cellar and the full bar is the main dining room, lined with long booths and lit by a flickering fireplace and natural light streaming in from the patio doors. These doors grant views of wooden trellises covered with thick green vines and a certain jungle legend swinging from them: Tarzan's stunt double.
Ahluwalia also works hard to give back to the community by hosting charity events and fundraisers for organizations such as the Rotary Club and Food for Others. He notes, "What gives me joy is serving people and not just at the restaurant, but also through community activities," according to an interview on the restaurant's website..
Located inside Leigh House, a Victorian mansion built in 1880, Dante Ristorante fosters a homey atmosphere with friendly service and antique furnishings. Beneath high ceilings festooned with brass chandeliers, chef and owner Giuseppe Di Benigno mingles with his guests, discussing his herb- and vegetable-gardening techniques and sharing recipes from his hometown in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Meanwhile, waiters pile white tablecloths with house-made pastas, salmon topped with prosciutto, and Giuseppe's signature seafood soup brimming with scallops, mussels, calamari, and clams.
Chef Di Benigno was drawn to the Leigh House not only for its architecture, but its eclectic past: the mansion has served as everything from a dairy-farm headquarters to a hospital during its 130-year history. A 10-month renovation transformed it into a modern restaurant space with cozy dining areas, classic artwork, and natural lighting. Outside, a fountain gurgles on a patio lined with tables topped with umbrellas and patrons practicing their Mary Poppins impressions.:
Incorporating Spanish, Italian, and North African influences in their French-inspired Mediterranean fare, the eclectic Old-World cuisine of Mediterranee Restaurant earned a spot on Gayot's list of the Top 10 French Restaurants in Virginia Suburbs in 2012. In addition to classics such as house-prepared pâté and rack of lamb encrusted with herbs de provence, the chef and his staff occasionally move beyond the French borders by incorporating flavors like house-made curry into their dishes. For an extra twist, they'll also add Asian flavors with ingredients such as sichuan peppercorns and baby bok choy.
The culinary wizards of Deli Italiano Gourmet Pizza & Subs?who have been in business for 24 years and know their regular customers by name?court discerning palates with a selection gourmet and create-your-own pizzas crafted with homemade sauces, dressings, and dough and decked with toppings ranging from breaded eggplant to prosciutto. An arsenal of specialty calzones, saucy pastas, and a well-heeled selection of bottled beer and wine round out the menu.
A lot can happen in a single year in the restaurant business, but, remarkably, very little has changed at L’Auberge Chez François since it opened in 1954. Chef François Haeringer—a native of Alsace, France—opened the restaurant only six years after immigrating to America. Though he didn't know how to speak English when he arrived, his cuisine translated into quick success. In 1976, he moved the eatery to its current 6-acre refuge in the hills, styling it after an Alsatian auberge, or "family inn." There, the restaurant has continued to thrive, first under François and now under his successor, his son Jacques.
Alsatian cuisine is notable for fusing both German and French fare. This influence is readily apparent in dishes such as the Alsatian feast, which pairs sauerkraut, sausage, and pork with duck confit and foie gras. But adherence to Alsatian traditions doesn’t deter the chefs from exploring the East Coast’s own bounty, as evidenced in the veal scaloppini with Virginia ham and the poached Maine lobster with sauternes-butter sauce.
If L’Auberge Chez François never prepared another morsel of food, people would still come to visit for the ambiance. Embroidered pillows and French murals make the waiting room feel more like someone's living room. In the dining areas, Haeringer family heirlooms lend a dash of authenticity and beauty. In the outdoor courtyard, red wooden chairs and benches mingle among flowering plants, and antique streetlamps illuminate a gazebo nestled amid bushes and hanging shrubbery.
Chefs at Romantica Italian Grill & Pizzeria concoct pizzas, subs, pasta, and a smattering of other Italian entrees with traditional italian cheeses and fresh bread delivered daily. Twelve specialty selections of gourmet pizzas include creative amalgams such as the Romantica ($14.99 for a 12-inch pie; $17.99 for a 16-inch pie), which seasons sausage, ham, pepperoni, and meatballs with salty notes of anchovy and a sprinkling of veggies. Build-your-own options pile freshly forged dough and pizza sauce with a mix of more than 20 meat and veggie offerings, such as pancetta and roasted peppers, to create meals with more variety than a picnic on a holodeck. The pizza czars top off each pie with Pollio Italian Cheese Company's rich mozzarella, which also makes cameos in the baked ziti ($12.99) and eight styles of calzone ($7.59). Sandwiches, subs, and pastas provide options for patrons excommunicated by pizza kingdoms after accidentally revealing their favorite shape, the octagon.