Opening-week crowds found a lot to like at the new Outer Banks Seafood Co. in Midlothian. After one of the fastest turnarounds in recent memory, the former Bottega Bistro at 11400 W. Huguenot Road is now a third location for the ambitious business. (The others are in Corolla and Virginia Beach.) It serves dinner nightly, starting with happy hours from 4-7. A minor redesign of the 240-seat space took out heavy cabinetry and replaced mirrors with enlarged vintage photos of fishermen, bathing beauties and the Nags Head shoreline. But it's the heaping platters of Southern nouveau seafood that are getting diners' attention.
Co-owners Mike Bishal and chef Wes Stepp have enough confidence in their product that they're eyeing other mid-Atlantic cities for future growth. But for now they're concentrating on Richmonders with a fondness for the Outer Banks experience who want an upscale interpretation of fish and shellfish classics without the kitsch. Redneck risotto and sassy slaw compliment the flounder, crab cakes, scallops, shrimp and tuna, with most entrees in the mid-$20s and apps about $10. The “ocean impaired” diner can go with chicken or steak, but Stepp's Bangkok shrimp appetizer and the restaurant's signature dish — shrimp and grits with bacon, tomato and spicy cream — have caught the early buzz. 464-1835. outerbanksseafoodcompany.com.
Bellytimber Tavern: Now serving dinner nightly at 1501 W. Main St., this Fan corner tavern got a total gut job and is ready for new life with a sounder infrastructure and a Victorian-era name. The menu is classic and hearty — beefalo burgers, wood-fired pizzas, pirogie, tortas and daily specials — and has vegetarian and vegan options beyond the sweet-potato tots. Entrees are mostly $10 and less; the kitchen stays open until 11 p.m.; and the bar, with its big bottled-beer selection and eight taps, runs until 2 a.m. Co-owner Mike MarundAc handled many of the construction chores on the circa-1874 building and operates it with a fellow musician and restaurant veteran, chef Matt Conner. 592-5592. bellytimbertavern.com.
Stuzzi: Chef Peter Caserta, who now calls himself Pietro, is the force behind a new business replacing the former French landmark at 1 N. Belmont Ave. Stuzzi's wood-burning oven is firing 12-inch pies in the authentic Neopolitan style, “a great bargain,” Caserta says, at less than $10. The menu also has 20 appetizers and five pastas, but it's the classic margherita pie with house-made mozzarella, crushed tomatoes, sea salt, first-pressed cold extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese that gets Caserta excited. “It's a pizza revolution,” he says, “and with our roots in Naples, we are the real deal.” The restaurant has been outfitted with original paintings, Murano glass chandeliers, travertine marble details and a new bar. It serves lunch and dinner daily. 308-3294.
A local chapter of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs is forming. The membership kick-off event, to be held June 14 at Acacia Mid-Town, 5:30-6:30 p.m., is open to women working in food-related businesses. Chefs, culinary teachers and students, farmers, restaurant owners and others in the food profession are invited to attend to learn about the educational and networking group. Chefs Ellie Basch of Savor and Sally Schmidt, a caterer, are organizing the Richmond chapter.
“I do believe in their value in my own career advancement and professional development,” Basch says of the group. “I've been a member since 2002 and have experienced many benefits and opportunities, not least winning the Olivado ChefQuest and going to the White House to attend the first lady's launch of the Chefs Back to School Program. I've also met and picked the brains of culinary luminaries.” Scholarships, classes and an annual conference are among the organization's offerings. womenchefs.org; e-mail at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.