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Short Order

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Off the Press

Two more businesses are facing troubled times in Shockoe Bottom and Church Hill.

Acappella, the Italian-German restaurant and pub at 2300 E. Broad St., has closed in the abrupt fashion that usually indicates cash-flow problems, though owners haven't returned calls to Style for comment. The space, with its beloved outdoor deck and cozy barroom, was formerly Mr. Patrick Henry's and a fixture on the neighborhood nightlife scene.

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but the Shockoe Bottom coffee shop Café Gutenberg faces an uncertain future unless it can find someone to print cash.

Steve Graca, part-owner of the shop, says he's looking for someone to buy the business or the building. An engineer by day, Graca opened the café with two co-owners but says "the ownership is moving in different directions." A final timeline is still being discussed, and he can't say whether it will close its doors before a new ownership arrangement is reached.

The kitchen is located on the top floor of the two-story café, so when Tropical Storm Gaston flooded the Bottom the summer of 2004, Gutenberg was able to launch in November.

David Napier, president of the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood Association, says he hopes that Gutenberg can withstand these financial challenges as deftly.

"They were the first place to be opened after the flood," says Napier, who owns the Old City Bar across from Gutenberg. "It really kept the Bottom alive until the rest of us got back on our feet."

-- Amy Biegelsen



The F-bomb

Which über-hot local restaurateur got so annoyed by four young professional women that he dropped the F-bomb on them during Sunday brunch? Which Italian place in Bon Air is on the permanent-boycott list by a group of regulars who were yelled at last month by a manager? Which chi-chi place so alienates customers with rude service that they regularly write Style about being shocked, bewildered and completely put off by the experience? We've received dozens of comments along those lines recently, which always seems to beg the question: Who took the hospitality out of the industry, and how do we get it back? We've heard it and said it before: The customer may not always be right, but you're guaranteed to get 20 times the negative word of mouth for a bad experience than you'll get for a positive one. With bloggers in the fray now, those odds are probably worse. So, dear offenders, 'splain yourselves. It's hard to keep hearing how our mostly-civilized city drops to new lows in the food-service world without understanding what in the hell you were thinking.



Watering Hold-out

"It's not as easy as people think it is," Bob Cox says of the restaurant biz. Now that he's hit the 10-year mark with Metro Grill, five years at Curbside Café and two at City Limit (he sold his interest in the Corner Café last year), the veteran operator says there's always room for more restaurants in the Fan and West End, but that "Richmond has failed miserably in the Bottom. When Mark Warner was governor, he lobbied for a zone that would have been immune from our arcane ABC laws, but it didn't happen. Otherwise it will never work down there."

And while Cox steered clear of investing in the Bottom, he faces other business challenges. "It's a ton of work to provide a service and a product, and if either is off, you'll lose a customer. You have to be on it constantly. People see the cash and think it pours in, but you have to pay your taxes, pay your people. Hiring good people is key, and trust is the biggest thing of all — then you can relax a little bit."

And while he's relaxing, Cox says he's digging into the pasta Courtney or the stuffed pork tenderloin appetizer at Metro's, a place that tends to pack in the 20-somethings, "the well-dressed, well-behaved professionals," he says. "We don't get the pierced and tattooed crowd." Guess they're going somewhere else.



Taste of the Boot

Wines from Tormaresca vineyards on the southeastern Italian coast are featured in this month's tasting dinner at

Europa

in Shockoe Slip. Executive chef John Hall pairs four wines with dishes such as braised monkfish, smoked wild boar chop and porcini fettuccine with venison Bolognese. The tariff is $35 per person, plus tax and gratuity; it's Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. downstairs in the Bodegas Room. Reserve a place by calling 643-0911 or e-mailing josh.europa@comcast.net.



Coming Attractions

Beginning next week, we'll preview the first of 12 new restaurants set to open in Richmond by springtime. Get a look at GlobeHopper Coffeehouse & Lounge, coming to Shockoe Bottom this month, and The Phoenician, now serving Lebanese fare on West Broad in next week's Style.





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