If you spend any time inside Virginia’s on East 11th Street, you quickly get the sense that the restaurant was born simply out of its founders’ desire to hang out with each other all the time. Christian Ramos, former sous chef of Per Se, and Reed Adelson, formerly of Locanda Verde, lead the squad, which is rounded out by sous chef Lauren Calhoun and wine connoisseur Conrad Reddick. It‘s a team that met at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago several years ago, and on the morning before a series of friends and family dinners were to commence last week, one found the group chumming it up near the kitchen, eating breakfast burritos picked up from Tompkins Square Bagels. For the group’s first restaurant opening, things seemed to be in remarkably good shape. The kitchen was up and running, spewing out dishes like carmelized romanesco salad and Atlantic striped bass with saffron and manila clams. Tables (handmade by Ramos’ uncle in Indiana) were set, and framed vintage menus (collected over the years by Adelson) were ready to be hung as finishing touches on the walls.
“Dreams and aspirations a long time in the making are coming together with this project,” said Adelson, who had gathered everyone around the tawny banquettes for the interview. “It’s a group effort.” That effort was helped along by the know-how each team member picked up from their post-Trotter gigs: Ramos at Per Se, Adelson at Locanda Verde, Calhoun at Roberta’s, and Reddick at Alinea in Chicago. Virginia’s can be seen as a combination of these experiences. “We want to be a place where anybody can come for both a special occasion and just any night of the week,” Adelson said. “A place that appeals to people like us, and people who really aren’t foodies or industry people that read blogs — people who maybe live on 11th Street and want to come in and have a glass of wine on Monday night after work.” (Aside from the extensive wine list, they offer a range of cocktails like the Sunny Girl, with vermouth, lavender syrup and mint.)
“I’ve always liked to cook in a more relaxed setting, more casual. I like to cook for my friends and family,” Ramos added. “Per Se was a great education for me. But the food has a pristine quality to it, and that was never something I wanted to have in a restaurant.” Still, the sepia a la plancha is served with a beautiful swipe of togarashi mayonnaise and the chocolate beet cake is a lovely shade of maroon. “It’s a neighborhood, approachable restaurant but we do have high goals,” Adelson said. “You know, [we’d like to have] a girl’s night out on one end, having a couple bottles of rosé and some appetizers, and then some foodies on the other drinking a bottle of Bordeaux and having the steak. A lack of pretense is extremely important to us here.”
647 E 11th St. between Avenue B and C