040 – C. Simon Davidson, The Charlottesville 29 and Roberta Vivetta Cintelli, Il Falcone, Caleb Warr, Tavola
Food Community. Whether you’re helping to feed the hungry or exchanging ideas and culture across oceans the concept of community is prevalent in Charlottesville. And important. Always has been. Not only does connection go in tandem with the concept of community, it acts as the glue holding neighborhoods together. When you make strong bonds, you create community. In this episode I’m thrilled and honored to present two examples of folks working to ensure we have strong connections so our food community remains equally robust.
First up is lawyer and food writer C. Simon Davidson. If there were a list of 29 restaurants in Charlottesville what would be the ideal 29? Simon asked himself this question four years ago. Then set out to create it. The Charlottesville 29 is the result of that idea. We talked together extensively about his project back in Episode 7 of Edacious. A few months ago he finished the list and asked the question, “Now what?” The result is The Charlottesville 29 Restaurant Auctions, an event benefitting the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.
For 29 days (which began May 23rd), one area restaurant from The Charlottesville 29 will present a once-in-a-lifetime food experience for bidding. Auctions last 30 days. Then once the auction has ended, everyone who placed a bid will have 24 hours to up the ante. The best part? 100% of every dollar donated will go toward feeding our area’s hungry. This means a bid of $1000 will provide 4,000 meals. Do the math. With 29 restaurants that’s a lot of food.
Not all participating restaurants are fine dining! My favorite auctions so far have included a Fiesta Mexicana from Al Carbon, complete with live music, and aStreet Food Feast from Pad Thai. Bidding numbers out of your budget? Gather some friends as group bidding is encouraged! These signature events would be great for special gatherings like birthdays, graduations, and rehearsal dinners. Way more unique than something you’d plan in a typical rented space or hotel banquet hall.
What aspects of the auction have been most surprising to Simon? Which area chef inspired the other participating restaurants to up their game? Which restaurant is bidding on an auction to use as their Staff Appreciation Day?
This is a win-win for everyone. McGuire Woods has stepped up to cover administrative costs and every restaurant is donating 100% of their efforts which means every dollar you bid goes directly to feed the hungry in our community. It’s rare 100% of funds go directly to the purpose of the event. Which makes this auction extra special. Bidding for the first auction ends June 23rd, then an auction ends every day after that. For 29 days. Here is the current list. I urge you to bid early and often. Simon is such a valuable asset to Charlottesville both for his great writing and unwavering passion for our food and community. Did you know he’s handling the logistics entirely on his own? Wow! I sure hope he gets to experience at least one of these fine events.
In the second part of the podcast I had the great good fortune to interview a Tuscan chef, Roberta Vivetta Cintelli, matriarch of Il Falcone in Poggio a Caiano, Tuscany, a restaurant that has been in the same family for seven generations. Yes, seven! The Martini family opened Il Falcone way back in 1862.
Chef Cintelli is visiting Tavola this week with her interpreter, Caterina Martini, and working with Chef Caleb Warr as part of the Charlottesville Sister Cities Program, which fosters international partnerships and cultural understanding. By coming together to exchange ideas we create stronger community bonds, both locally and internationally. What better way to do that than over food?
Several months ago owners Chef Michael Keaveny and his wife Tami contacted the Charlottesville Sister City Commission to create this partnership. As a result of their efforts, Chef Cintelli traveled over to visit our historic sites, but more importantly, to cook at Tavola and share her expertise. Chef Warr will reciprocate by showing Chef Cintelli how American restaurants differ both in their menus and in some of their methods.
Tavola will host Chef Cintelli for a week, June 6 to 11, and during her tenure she will be cooking special dishes from Il Falcone, including many secret recipes that have never been revealed outside the restaurant. Then in July Chef Warr will travel to Poggio a Caiano to work at Il Falcone. All of this fine collaborating will culminate in a street fair to be held this Saturday and a formal dinner happening this autumn where each chef will present the results of their partnership.
Tickets for the fair can be purchased online with a limited number at the door. An event not to be missed! Dishes like goat rack pops, porchetta sandwiches, chicken liver pate, and tripe salad will be available among many others, along with special wines and cocktails from Christian Kelly of Cichetti Bar. I profiled Christian on this very podcast in Episode 26!
What’s the most important aspect of Tuscan cuisine? How will Chef Cintelli convince reluctant eaters to try offal parts like tripe and kidneys? How are American menus very different from ones in Italy? What are the differences between the way Italian restaurants source their ingredients from the way we do here in America? Why is tradition, whether that be recipes, cooking methods, or keeping it all in the family so important to the Martinis? Why is Florentine steak so special? And what valuable lessons has Chef Warr learned from this master and matriarch?
As I walked out of Tavola and bit into the biscotti Chef Cintelli offered in thanks I teared up. It was gorgeous and perfect. The way good biscotti is supposed to be. In that moment I understood why she had teared up herself when describing her family and the importance of tradition and her love of Tuscan cuisine. And I knew someday I would visit Poggio a Caiano. Just to eat at her restaurant.
The street fair is a chance for folks to experience a bit of Tuscany here in Charlottesville. I’ve bought mine. Be sure and get yours before they sell out. And don’t miss this episode profiling all the wonderful ways folks here and abroad are working together to create community. Cheers.
SHOW NOTES – Links to resources talked about during the podcast:
- Business of Food Conference Homepage
- Sara Moulton at The Happy Cook – come learn from this celebrity chef and gourmet master!
This episode is sponsored by In A Flash Laser Engraving.
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