Back in the ’90s, Antonio Capece and business partner Carlo Gaione came to Richmond from Italy by way of Washington, where they both worked in fine-dining restaurants. They opened Carytown’s Amici in 1991, and three years later, La Grotta started serving customers in Shockoe Slip. There weren’t many Italian restaurants in town, Capece says, and even fewer serving northern Italian cuisine.
Capece sold his share of Amici in 2015 to concentrate on La Grotta, and now it’s on the move. The idiosyncratic space will shut its doors this summer and the restaurant will reopen at the Hilton Richmond Downtown Hotel, which occupies the old Miller & Rhoads building downtown. We spoke with Capece about the move.
Style: What made you choose the original space in Shockoe Slip — what attracted you to it?
Capece: It was a busy restaurant and retail neighborhood with unique features like cobblestone streets. In the early ’90s, we wanted to add our restaurant to the neighborhood to reach tourists. We also knew from the success of Amici that Richmond loved excellent Italian food.
You were successful in Carytown — how was La Grotta different from Amici? Were there things you wanted to do at La Grotta that you couldn’t do there?
Because of the larger space at La Grotta, we’ve been able to accommodate larger corporate parties, weddings, rehearsal dinners and larger crowds during the holidays.
Why move the restaurant to a hotel? And why now?
La Grotta has been in the Shockoe Slip for 21 years. For a while now we have been in search of a [larger] floor plan. The Hilton is in a great central downtown location for attracting tourists and reaching Richmond residents who enjoy the fine dining along East Grace Street.
Will the menu stay the same? Is all of your staff going with you?
We will serve the same menu featuring northern Italian cuisine. Our staff is aware of the move and are very excited for the new opportunity.
What are you looking forward to having in the new space that you haven’t been able to have in the old one? What are its advantages?
We look forward to offering our guests a patio to enjoy the weather while dining, especially on these beautiful sunny days. Advantages of the new space are walls that can be moved to create a number of private dining rooms. Overall the space is larger to accommodate more guests.
Is there anything you’ll miss about Shockoe Slip?
We love Shockoe Slip and will remember it very fondly. We will miss our retail and residential neighbors — and especially the cobblestones.
CORRECTION: Originally, this article stated that La Grotta was moving to the Hilton Garden Inn downtown. The hotel underwent a $12 million renovation last fall and became the first Garden Inn in the Hilton's history to convert to a full-service Hilton Hotel.