Richmond Magazine / Tazza Comes to Town
The smoky aroma wafting outside the understated exterior at 1600 Altamont Ave. in Scott’s Addition is an enticing indicator of the work underway within the building that used to house an old diesel repair shop.
Inside, in a big, gleaming, high-ceilinged industrial kitchen, Tazza Kitchen (the name combines the “ta” of tacos and “zza” from pizza) founding partner Jeff Grant’s phone flashes updates on potential new hires to staff the restaurant’s sixth location (the third in the Richmond area) at 1500 Roseneath Road, four blocks away.
The 6,000-square-foot Altamont site opened with administrative offices and meeting space in May. The facility has been in operation since September, and Tazza partners are calling this space The Big Kitchen because of its size and its many uses, including as a custom kitchen for recipe development and testing. Within is a smoke house with two custom-built wood-fired smokers, two Italian brick ovens and a custom wood-fired grill. There’s talk of a possible future market and using it as a community engagement venue.
Half hipster lab, half clubhouse, inside a colorful Mickael Broth mural runs the entire length of the 58-foot wall up to the top of the 22-foot ceiling, representing the Tazza team’s food-focused trips to Italy and Mexico and illustrating a striking landscape and bright, mouth-watering eats. All around Grant, Tazza Kitchen staff make sausages, soup bases, cookies, desserts and drinks.
“It’s a hub for smoking and grilling,” says Grant’s partner John Haggai of The Big Kitchen, which includes a bar as well. “It has a creative life of its own.”
Smokers parked outside the property give a sense of the food preparation possibilities. A fire roars in the wood-burning hearth where Michael Sturges produces a crispy-on-the-outside, creamy-on-the-inside slice of polenta with some fennel tomato sauce to sample. Next comes a crusty pizza. A fish taco completes the offering.
Tazza is known for its wood-fired specialties, and the restaurant’s 3,850-square-foot Roseneath location, set to open in December, will also have an open kitchen where diners can view the dome-shaped Neopolitan-style oven churn out charred delicacies and also enjoy an expanded menu courtesy of a custom-built wood-fired grill.
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