Style Weekly / Food Review

Food Review: Short Pump’s Tazza Kitchen raises the standard of suburban dining.

Barring a handful of good local spots, Short Pump is known mostly for chain restaurants. But Tazza Kitchen is doing a bang-up job of trying to change that.

The first thing you notice is the grayish-tiled, wood-burning oven. The second is the beautifully appointed fireplace. Tazza Kitchen looks good, real good. An impressive bar spans the length of the restaurant and connects to an open kitchen — a little inconvenient for the expediter on a busy Saturday, but sexy nonetheless. An enclosed patio is lined with ceiling heaters to allow for simulated outdoor dining during the colder months.

The menu is heavy on small plates and pizza, perhaps to encourage sharing, and makes good use of the behemoth of an oven. Brick-oven cauliflower ($5) has a lovely crunch and char. A surprising, minty aftertaste is interesting and peculiar when combined with grainy cheese. Halved and roasted Brussels sprouts ($5) are on the sweeter side because of a heavy coating of maple vinaigrette. Spartan chunks of bacon add depth while the tiny pieces of egg white are superfluous. The red pepper hummus ($7.50) is assertive. Heavy on red pepper and light on chickpeas, the hummus is oddly served with even more peppers for dipping, warm brick-oven bread and several pieces of zucchini. Fingerling potatoes ($5.50) are slightly smashed and attractively served with a seared lemon half. Spicy from the first bite because of an aggressive jalapeño sauce, they’re a master class of salt and acid balance.

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