Several weeks ago, a small group of very vocal neighborhood residents voiced their opposition to a proposal for a restaurant leasing space in a commercial building being renovated at Belmont Boulevard and Dallas Avenue. Their vigorous protests included threatening legal action against the property owners, among them two elderly women who live out of state. The restaurant proposal, as submitted by the developers, was withdrawn, but the controversy seems far from over: The Belmont-Hillsboro Neighborhood Association has filed a further appeal to Metro’s Board of Zoning Appeals with regard to the aesthetics and business operations of all of the building’s future leaseholders.
Within blocks of the controversial Belmont property, over in the happily and healthily growing 12 South neighborhoodthe subject of a three-page spread by Bill Friskics-Warren in the Sunday New York Times’ “Sophisticated Traveler” insert magazineit’s quite a different story. For months, neighbors have been eagerly watching the progress of renovations taking place on the property at 2400 12th Ave. S. Since last fall, a sign on the construction dumpster outside has promised, “Coming Soon! MAFIAoZA’s Pizzeria and Neighborhood Pub.”
“Neighbors have been coming around, looking in the windows, stopping in to say hello, introduce themselves, asking what they can do to help us get open sooner!” says Michael Dolan, who works as an attorney by day. Along with Lars Kopperud, who is serving as operations manager, Dolan is the driving force behind MAFIAoZA’s. “We were doing final staff training on Saturday night, and we had to turn away nearly two dozen people for dinner.”
After several months of delays, the 250-seat restaurant opened on Tuesday night. MAFIAoZA’s has a state-of-the-art pizza oven with a dining bar looking right into the kitchen; the large outdoor patio has its own separate bar. The menu offers a dozen specialty pizzas, supplemented by appetizers, salads, pastas and sandwiches. General manager Ricky Pigg and catering manager Brett Corrieri are in charge of the kitchen.
The name of the restaurant is tongue in cheek, says Dolan, though he hopes it communicates the concept. “We want customers to know they would be getting New York-style pizza,” he says. “And in New York, 'za’ is slang for pizzalike, 'How about we get some 'za?’ And we are playing on the idea of 'family’ that the Mafia implies. Because that’s what this is, a family operation. I was best man at Lars’ wedding. We all live in the neighborhood, and we want to make our neighbors feel at home, part of the family when they come here.” (The family has already expanded: Just days before opening, Nicole Kopperud gave birth to the couple’s first child, Ella Claire.)
Dolan notes that he and his partners used members of the new 12 South Merchants Association in their plans: Corner Music put in the restaurant’s sound system, Ray’s Plant’s did the landscaping and Middle Tennessee Roofing installed the roof.
MAFIAoZA’s is at 2400 12th Ave. S. 269-4646. Operating hours are 4 p.m.-3 a.m. Mon.-Fri.; 11 a.m.-3 a.m. Sat.-Sun., with Sunday brunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The full menu will be offered until closing, and happy hour is 4-7 p.m. Tues.-Fri. There is parking in front of the building, as well as a newly paved, brightly lit parking lot in the back, accessible from Caruthers Street.
Feast in the East
East Nashville has been a hub of restaurant activity in recent months, and the latest dispatches from Woodland Street and beyond offer proof that there’s plenty of good eating in this part of town as the weather continues to get warmer and the daylight stretches into the dinner hours. At the Five Points intersection of Woodland and 11th streets, Margot Cafe and Bar is lightening up for the summer. In addition to the cozy bistro’s daily-changing appetizer and entrée options, chef/co-owner Margot McCormack has added a main course salad (Niçoise or antipasti) and an entrée sandwich (fried soft-shell crab or shrimp po’boy).
The bar at Margot is also getting in a warm-weather mode with a house-made specialty limoncello, a slightly sweet, very cold, light, lemony Italian degustif, typically enjoyed after a meal. New to the beer list is a Schneider Weisse hefe weizen, a lighter wheat beer, while new wines include a 1998 Marchesi de Barolo by the glass and a red and white blend from Marquis Philips.
Margot’s summer cooking class series kicks off July 21 with a study on shellfish. McCormack teaches the three-hour tutorials in the restaurant kitchen, where students will have the opportunity to get on the line under the chef’s direction. Classes are on Monday nights from 6-9 p.m. and are $25 per person. For information on class specifics and reservationswhich are strongly recommendedcall the restaurant. Margot is at 1017 Woodland St. 227-4668.
Two blocks up Woodland Street, chef Meg Giuffrida has hitched her Red Wagon Cafe to the proven industry expertise of restaurateur Rick Bolsom, owner of Tin Angel and a partner in Zola and Mirror restaurants. Bolsom and some unnamed others have invested in the year-old restaurant and will be providing Giuffrida with some assistance on the business end, as well as the capitol to make some physical improvements and upgrades. (A new AC system is being installed next week.) “I have such admiration for her, as a cook and as a hard worker,” Bolsom says. “We hope to be able to focus on running the business and provide Meg with a platform on which she can perform.”
“It is a great partnership,” says Giuffrida, who opened Red Wagon on May 31, 2002, with husband Paul Burch. “I can focus on the kitchen and not worry about everything else spinning out of control.” Giuffrida has already been tweaking the menu, adding new daily dishes that take advantage of the abundance of organic produce now being delivered weekly by Bugtussle Organic Farm in Gamaliel, Ky. The wine list has also expanded. Red Wagon is at 1112 Woodland St. 226-2757. Lunch: 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Fri.; brunch: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.-Sun.; dinner: 6-9 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.
Still deeper into East Nashville, Fred Grgich has announced that the backyard garden/terrace of his latest dining venture, Chapel Bistro, is now open. Chef Ted Prater’s full dinner menu, which changes seasonally, is being served al fresco amid the herbs and plants that have been thriving there, thanks to Nashville’s rainy weather. Chapel Bistro is at 701 Chapel Ave. 627-1088. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., until 11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Two doors down from the Green Hills Bread & Company, Jack Russell’s has introduced a new menu of Southern coastal cuisine, as created by owner Tony Moon and his staff. With influences from New Orleans, South Carolina, Florida and California, the new menu combines the flavorful cooking of coastal waterways with the new Southern twist that Moon first introduced to Williamson County in the late ’90s, before moving his popular restaurant to Green Hills almost two years ago. He has kept many of the longtime favorites on the menu, among them Jack Russell’s fried chicken salad, the pit-cooked pulled pork with tally-ho cakes, the meatloaf and sunset mashed potatoes, the bleu cheese-stuffed filet and the crunchy catfish. The new menu additions include Charleston oysters, Cajun crawfish cakes, she-crab soup, stuffed flounder roulade, sweet potato-encrusted salmon, a Savannah steamer pot and fried po’boy sandwiches.
Jack Russell’s serves lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch, and the patio is now open. The restaurant is at 4014 Hillsboro Circle. 269-3535.
Nashville has nothing to beef about when it comes to steakhouses, with a whole herd of cow palaces to choose from. Though big slabs of beef may be the signature item at places like Fleming’s, Morton’s and The Palm, it’s not the only thing they offer.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar is boldfacing the second half of its name with the June 1 introduction of the “Fleming’s 100,” its new wine-by-the-glass list. The Fleming’s wine staff has spent a year tasting hundreds of wines (where do I apply for that job?), and the final selections are now making their debut on an honor roll of excellence from around the world. Among the new additions are a 1998 Freemark Abbey Bosche Cabernet, usually seen only on reserve lists and rarely available by the glass; a BenMarco Mendoza Malbec from Argentina; and a Gloria Ferrer Carneros Blanc de Noirs NV, a cherry-flavored cool-climate sparkling wine.
On June 24, the restaurant hosts Fleming’s Night of Discovery, a food and wine sampling from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Available to the first 90 guests who call 342-0131 for reservations, the complimentary affair pairs samples of five appetizers with five wines from the Fleming’s 100. Fleming’s is at 2525 West End Ave.
Beat the heat with a plunge into cool Canadian waters as The Palm serves up sweet jumbo lobsters in a special promotion running now through Aug. 31. The dinner-for-two deal, for $75, includes one split jumbo 5-pound Nova Scotia cold-water lobster, a choice of either two mixed green or traditional Caesar salads, and a choice of any two side dishes. The Palm is at 140 Fifth Ave. S. 742-7256.