It’s been a little over eight months since owner Andrew Ferlazzo opened the doors to Grass Rootes Kitchen and Cocktail on Davis Street. It is in the same historical building that formerly housed The Hazel River Inn owned by Peter and Karen Stogbuchner who still operate the Hazel River Inn Bed and Breakfast on Eggbornsville Road.
“We’re still working together,” laughs Ferlazzo recalling many times that Chef Peter has stopped into his former kitchen haunt to taste a dish or the two will concoct something new. “They’ve been amazing and very supportive,” said Ferlazzo, “it’s all about a celebration of food.”
Ferlazzo laments that when they first opened the doors last spring that things didn’t run smoothly.
“It’s all on my shoulders,” mused Ferlazzo, “we’ve got great locales.” While not wanting a sense of regret to heavily hang on him he is optimistic that the word will get out that things have vastly improved.
For Ferlazzo, a history lover as well as passionate about food, it’s a vision realized.
As a young boy, Andrew Ferlazzo would ride his bicycle on Davis Street often passing one of the oldest buildings in Culpeper. The dreams of opening a restaurant in a building that once served as a Civil War jail for both Union and Confederate soldiers was planted early. For most, memories of this building date to the early 1900s when it was Yowell Hardware Co. Inc.
A 30-year veteran in the restaurant industry, Ferlazzo has worked for France’s Master Chef Alain LeComte and the LeDuc family when they owned Prince Michel Winery. He has had apprenticeships throughout Europe.
He opened Kirsten’s of Culpeper in 2002 with Chef Virginia Burton. That establishment was sold in 2005. Ferlazzo spent the next decade as an industry consultant with family-owned restaurants on the East coast.
And then in 2016 he learned that the historic building where he envisioned a restaurant was for sale. At last, a dream fulfilled.
Finally rooted in his native Culpeper and with a passion for offering farm-to-table cuisine in a historical setting, Ferlazzo named his restaurant Grass Rootes. A bill of sale from 1790 has Thomas Reade Rootes as the original owner.
Open since June of 2016, Grass Rootes is one of the newest additions to the menu of restaurant offerings in downtown Culpeper.
“It’s my restaurant, his kitchen,” laughs Ferlazzo describing Chef Kevin Scott who commandeers the inner sanctum while he takes charge of the front operations.
Finding Scott could be one of Ferlazzo’s most serendipitous moments. When he saw his resume, a graduate of the L’Academie de Cuisine, a French cooking school in Gaithersburg, Maryland as well as high profile work in the kitchens of the Georgetown Club under Chef Pascal Dionot, The Watergate Hotel, under Jean-Louis Palladin, 2941 under Jonathon Krinn and the Old Ebbitt Grill, under Chef Robert McGowan, he couldn’t believe his find.
Now, would Scott move to Culpeper.
Turns out that when they spoke, Scott shared that they had just enrolled their daughter in school in Culpeper.
The two are a match made in culinary heaven – each has their strengths – they are a team and together they have created a menu that represents dozens of local farms in the area.
Ferlazzo chuckles. “Actually, as it turns out, we were moving in many of the same culinary circles but didn’t have the opportunity to meet…we hail from the same French cooking background.”
“I could talk about food all day long,” beams Scott who met his wife Territa while they were in culinary school together. His grandmother, Olive, is perhaps his main influence when it comes to cooking. Watching her and the gift to his family that her cooking brought was inspirational. He wanted to do it too.
One of the restaurant’s signature salads has a bacon/onion jam (that Kevin and Territa created) that will keep you guessing as well as eating. It’s delicious and when combined with fresh spinach from Corvallis Farms and goat cheese from the valley is a dish that will bring you back.
Scott is keen about the restaurant pace taking a break in the conversation to learn of the arrival of fresh tomatoes. Scott chuckles, “I go through about eight aprons a day.” Most often they are sprinkled with flour as he bakes bread daily.
He jokes about the comradery that he has established with owner Ferlazzo but respect is deeply rooted between the two for their respective talents.
“At the end of the day, we’re all cooks,” beams Scott.
Ferlazzo is quick to add that in many ways he feels that “he is standing on the shoulders of giants” referring to other restauranteers who have anchored the downtown area. For Ferlazzo, their presence has opened the doors for others, like himself, to follow.
Ferlazzo has added live music Thursday through Saturdays. The music is meant to complement not distract restaurant goers from enjoying their meals.
It’s all about ambiance and pleasing the customer.
His decades of being a seasoned maitre d are also deeply rooted.
Plans are in the works to utilize the downstairs section of the restaurant but for now, Grass Rootes Kitchen and Cocktail anchors the upper level.
“We do this because we are passionate about food,” says Ferlazzo, “it’s all about a celebration…we do it for love.”
Located at 195 E. Davis Street, 540-764-4229