When Il Giardino Ristorante co-owner Tony Gargiulo saw a wood-burning pizza oven for the first time during a trip to Florence, he knew he had to have one for his restaurant. And now for more than 25 years, his trusty oven—among the first of its kind in Virginia, due to how recently wood was introduced to America—has baked a cavalcade of thin-crust pies topped with vegetables, sausage, and sprigs of basil. Elsewhere in the kitchen, cooks hand make tender fettuccine and crown veal chops with porcini, shitake, and portobello mushrooms. The pastry chef whips up tiramisu, cannoli, and other Italian desserts. In a special lounge area, Il Giardino hosts live music, including a jazz vocalist who covers Sinatra songs each evening Sunday through Tuesday. Though not valid with this Groupon, the restaurant has an extensive wine list of featured reds and whites by the glass and bottle.
Neatly packaged in a converted Victorian house, Press626 offsets its shell of Dickensian charm with a cream filling of locally sourced noshables. A small yet diverse menu perks up even the most jaded palates with appetizers such as rosemary sun-dried tomato shrimp ($11.95) and baked chèvre goat cheese ($10.50) before insulating stomachs against stray cannonballs with duck confit in a tart-cherry-cabernet reduction ($19.95) or pumpkin risotto ($13.95 vegetarian, $17.95 shrimp). Those who prefer their meals bookended by bread will gravitate toward the monster steak sandwich, accented with caramelized onions, pepper-jack cheese, cilantro, and chipotle aioli on sourdough ($8.95). For dessert, relive childhood without the early bedtime and constant bogeyman ambushes when you order homemade jumbo cupcakes served with a glass of chilled milk ($5.99).
Carafe's micro-wineries brew and bottle their own grape blood on-site, harvested from the fruit of the world's many vine varieties. Tapping into the thrills of kiddie chemistry experiments, the wine-masters at Carafe custom-mix each bottle of inebriation-fuel at their creation station, imbuing brews with the extra love and care that enables them to mature into responsible citizens of stomachs everywhere.
Tapas orbit groups, drawing conversation out into long afternoons measured in slowly drained bottles of wine. Chatter drifts toward the ornate paneled ceiling at C’est Le Vin, where the small-plate style of dining leans heavily on those Spanish traditions. Chefs sear spiced-steak kebabs, roast tilapia on planks, and broil artichokes with goat cheese and thyme, which can be eaten at tables or on comfy couches. Soft lighting illuminates a rotating display of artwork and glimmers off ranks of bottles brimming with the rich earthiness of garnacha and tempranillo grapes. Most nights of the week, entertainment may include writers reading their poetry, musicians strumming their guitars, and artists unveiling their work. Tango lessons introduce the dance’s lilting moves and provide a place where people with roses super glued to their mouths can fit in.
The Virginia Wine Pass is like a key: its holders gain access to the state's wine country and all the delicious treasures and historic sites that lie behind its doors. Good for two people, each one-year membership unlocks complimentary wine tastings, free tours, and discounts on purchases and other events. Instead of training a bloodhound to sniff out the state's best wines, pass holders can discover current offerings on the website. Or, they can take to Virginia's 24 wine trails themselves, exploring the picturesque surroundings and artisanal wines provided along the way.