31/52 – Tazza Kitchen (Richmond)

7/28/16—I was traveling to Richmond a ton for work, and as such didn’t have time to set up a dinner in DC for this particular week. Since I was on per diem for work travel anyway, I figured “why not try a new restaurant here in Richmond?!” Ravi happened to also be staying overnight in Richmond, so we invited Lyuba to have an impromptu team dinner. Our office and hotels were both in the Short Pump area of Richmond, so Lyuba suggested a place nearby—Tazza Kitchen.

The place was packed when we got there. Apparently Tazza Kitchen is the place to be in Short Pump on Thursday nights during happy hour. The only option for a table that was immediately available was out on the patio. Even though it was a pretty hot evening, we opted for the outdoor table to get seated faster. The first thing I noticed about the menu was the tagline at the top—“know your farmers, love your food”—followed by a list of all the farms they source their food from. All of the meat was antibiotic-free, hormone-free, and humanely raised, and the seafood was sustainably harvested and chemical-free. I loved that they didn’t just claim to be locally sourced and organic—they  backed it up by letting you know exactly who they were working with.

We started out with a couple of appetizers to share. We ordered the meatballs at Lyuba’s suggestion—they were made with pork, beef, veal, grana Padano, and parsley, and served with bread from the restaurants brick oven. The sauce on the meatballs had big, fresh, delicious chunks of tomato and plenty of garlic and other flavors running through it. I was glad for the delicious charred bread so that I could use it to get every last bit of the sauce. The meatballs themselves were moist and juicy.

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We ordered our second appetizer at the suggestion of the waiter—the brick oven cauliflower (this place is all about their brick oven, and now I understand why). The cauliflower came with poblano peppers, red onion, aged cheddar, lemon, scallion, and a delicious crema on top to add some creaminess and richness. The cauliflower itself had all the charred flavor from the brick oven, with some tang from the lemon and cheddar. I would definitely order this appetizer again.

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Given the brick oven they use to make so many of their menu items, it should be no surprise that many people rave about the pizza here—and it’s true, they had a wide array of delicious sounding, and somewhat unconventional, pizza offerings that they make in their brick oven. Some of the more adventures ones were a kale & cheddar pizza, and a spicy sausage & black pepper honey pizza. Lyuba kept it traditional, though, and ordered a classic margherita pizza. You could clearly taste how fresh the tomato sauce, basil, and mozzarella were.

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Ravi and I both went the taco route (they also had an array of taco offerings). He chose the chicken tacos, which were marinated with a five spice rub and served with smoky tomato jam, pequin slaw, pico de gallo, and crema. He ordered the black beans as his side, which came topped with more pico de gallo and crema. He said the tacos were very good.

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I ordered the shrimp tacos. These were made with a house dry rub, and topped with guacamole, cured cabbage, pica de gallo, and papaya hot sauce. They were spicy, fresh, and flavorful. For my side, I ordered the watermelon, which was mixed with queso fresco, orange juice, and basil. It was the perfect refreshing side for a hot summer day.

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Tazza kitchen is a perfect example of how fresh ingredients can go such a long way. I appreciated the inventive twists on classic menu offerings. I would definitely eat here again the next time I’m in Richmond for work.

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