The Restaurant and the Atmosphere
Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar is conveniently located within the Main Street Market complex on the way to Downtown Charlottesville. However, once inside, you are immediately transported to the Mediterranean.
The restaurant has a great ambiance with Laura Wooten’s landscape paintings on the surrounding walls. The kitchen is also partially visible so that any foodies out there wanting to witness some behind-the-scenes action can get it.
Ken Wooten, co-owner of Orzo and native of the San Francisco Bay Area, graduated from UVa in 1996. While attending UVa, he learned the ins and outs of the restaurant industry by waiting tables at Hamilton’s and Bizou.
Ken later began his management career and worked in personal service under the local billionaire Patricia Kluge. Before making the decision to open Orzo, he worked at the 5-star Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, where he orchestrated large-scale events and weddings.
Charles Roumeliotes, also co-owner and native of California, began his career working in restaurants in San Francisco such as Harris’ Steakhouse. After moving to Napa Valley, a deep understanding of wine culture added to his already impressive repertoire.
He later worked at Domaine Chandon, the top-notch sparkling wine producer in California. Charles, bringing 25 years of restaurant experience to the table, met Ken while at Patricia Kluge’s Fuel Co., and the two went into business together to create Orzo.
Combining Charles’ and Ken’s many experiences, they developed a mantra for Orzo: “anticipate a guest’s needs, exceed their expectations, treat them as family.”
Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar, named after the rice-shaped pasta, provides an array of Mediterranean dishes. It’s not just pasta and wine, there’s also salads, meat and seafood. And yes, I would argue that wine is a meal too.
The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner every night. The dinner menu is divided into “Appetizers,” “From the Butcher,” “From the Garden,” “Pastas & Grains,” and “Meats & Seafood.” Gluten free and vegan menus are also available.
You can decide either on your appetizer, entrée, and dessert, or just simply order a single entrée as the portions are filling. Charles allowed us the opportunity to try 8 popular dishes in order to give you the full flavor of Orzo.
First Course: Hummus
Second Course: Local Trout Salad
Prepared by Chef Adam, the special of the night was a distinctive salad with local trout smoked in-house, Belgian endive, quinoa, sweet local tomatoes, deep orange fennel purée, crispy trout skin tendrils and Caromont Farm’s goat cheese and herb vinaigrette.
Third Course: Butcher’s Board of Cured Meats
The third course was Orzo’s charcuterie board, comprised of Duroc pork shoulder terrine made in-house, Rock Barn’s Linguiça sausage, and 18-month Italian prosciutto. The surrounding additions were to die for: house pickles, beer mustard, pickled grapes and onions as well as chocolate cherry bread from Albemarle Baking Co.
Fourth Course: Seared Greek Halloumi Cheese
One of the most popularly ordered appetizers on the menu is Seared Greek Halloumi with Ouzo, lemon, butter, tomatoes, oregano, and baguette slices. If you have never had Halloumi, think of it as a combination of the softness of mozzarella with the firmness of feta.
Fifth Course: Slow Roasted Chicken Breast
The fifth course was a slow roasted chicken breast with romesco potatoes, grilled scallion, and black olive butter. The chicken was cooked perfectly sous vide style which means its cooked in an airtight plastic bag placed in a water bath. If you like olives, this is the dish for you.
Sixth Course: House-made Ravioli
The sixth course was the house-made ravioli with braised greens, fresh ricotta cheese, Shardondale mushrooms, pomodoro, basil and Parmigiano. The ravioli won’t leave you hungry, so come with an appetite.
Seventh Course: Brown Butter Panna Cotta
The seventh course was a brown butter panna cotta over lemony green apples spiced with star anise, almond and pistachio brittle topped with a pumpkin caramel sauce. Some say that restaurants serving great dinners lack the same mastery in their desserts; However, this was not the case. This dessert is a must-have at Orzo.
Eigth Course: Pot de Crème
Last and certainly not least, the eighth course was the traditional pot de crème composed of a cold chocolate mousse-like pudding topped with whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Two desserts are always better than one.
Overall, the restaurant stood up to its vision best articulated by Charles: “Start with the best ingredients possible, naturally raised and locally sourced. Treat these ingredients with care and respect. Stay true to traditional recipes and let the finished product shine!”
If you’re lucky enough to need an idea for a date, your parents are coming into town or you’re in need of a really delicious meal, definitely consider Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar.