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Food Pyramid

In the space of seven months, David Bess has begun to assemble a mini-empire in Richmond's restaurant world, and his newest holding promises to bring new tastes to a familiar Fan location. Bess, 32, has built his company, Hospitality of Richmond, with the purchase of Cha Cha's Cantina and Lucky Buddha last fall, and now Verbena, coming next month to the corner of Floyd and Robinson avenues.

That space was Konsta's and then Carlton's, and changed hands quietly New Year's Day. Bess is deep into an ambitious renovation and plans to add booths to the front street-side windows, a fine-dining room downstairs and a small-plates lounge upstairs. He's also bringing some of Richmond's best chef talents with him: Todd Richardson (who helped open None Such Place with chef Michael Hall, and later Havana '59, and served as sous-chef at Dogwood Grille) and Noah Sandoval (also of the former Dogwood Grille).

They'll serve "redefined American cuisine," Bess says, "with quail, rabbit, duck, ravioli of the day, salmon, prosciutto-wrapped red snapper -- a different menu from anyone in Richmond." That includes a cheese menu, nightly tasting menus with wine pairings, as well as nightly specials, with most entrees under $20. Eventually, the adjacent bakery will serve pastries and coffee, boxed lunches and to-go items.

Bess, formerly of The Hill Café and Maggiano's, is quick to praise his mentors, including his former employers with the Richmond Restaurant Group and Kevin Marcuse, now with Black Finn. Mostly, he credits his mother, Virginia Bess, with building his palate through frequent entertaining, visits to restaurants and her own cooking prowess. "This is something I've been waiting for since I was 16," Bess says of the venture. "Finally we have the opportunity to put our handprint on Richmond, and for the food to be the presence."

Open and Shut

Sammy's Bakery, the tasty family-run Portuguese business on MacArthur Ave. in North Side, has closed. Metro Bakery in Carytown closes after Mardi Gras.

Cafe Rustica, chef Andy Howell's downtown business, now serves dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays at 414 E. Main St. The diverse menu — from seafood to sauerbraten, salads and soups to roasted beets — is complemented by an affordable wine list. The place also serves weekday breakfast and lunch and Sunday brunch. 225-8811.

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