Jims Galley

Jims Galley

Friday, May 24, 2013

Restaurant Report: the new Venture Kitchen and Bar Hampton VA

Restaurant Report: The New Venture Kitchen and Bar Hampton VA

9 East Queens Way, Hampton, Virginia 23669  TELE 757 325 8868

I can’t say enough how pleased I am to have dined only the second day of opening at the new Venture Kitchen and Bar. This place is owned and operated by my friends Carlyle Bland and his lovely wife Chrissi who also own one of Hampton’s most popular pubs, Marker 20. The new Venture is located only a few doors down from Marker 20 in what used to be Brents. When you go there you will not recognize the place at all. They did a MARVELOUS renovation. Awesome bar, very clean lay out throughout, all custom built tables, the place just has a great feel to it! Really comfortable.

When I first heard Carlyle was opening up a second place it did not surprise me because they have done so well with their first restaurant venture that now has celebrated its tenth anniversary. What did catch me ear was that they were going to be featuring gourmet pizza. Now THIS I was excited about because I have been researching pizza and artisan dough making for many more years than I care to remember. Yes, I am getting old.

In the Hampton area as far as I can tell from the many experiences of trying local pizza fare, the news is not good. Only one or two places even do a half attempt at a good New York style pizza. And if you are like me a true Neapolitan pie is something to die for, but will die trying to find one around here. I have not found even one place that even runs oven temps high enough to do a Neapolitan pie, 900 to 1200 degrees, San Marzano tomatoes, maybe some buffalo Motz. I just cant find it and that is why I make my own. But even on my outside grill I can barely break 550 degrees. To my dismay pizza places around the Hampton area run oven temps anywhere from 450 to 550 degrees and folks, that just does not cut it.

For something as basic and simple looking as a pizza, to do it right is an extremely complicated thing and involves minute details in every step and every little thing makes a HUGE difference. Things like oven temp, the type of flour and oil, the kind of water, sourdough cultures or commercial yeast, kneading time, resting and ferment time, cooked or un cooked sauce, the type of tomatoes, fresh ingredients or dried, and the list goes on and on.

So, my hope was that at this new restaurant they would put together at least a decent version of a NY pie. I knew nothing of what they were really planning on doing so I got a big surprise when I walked in and checked out the kitchen.

The owner and my friend Carlyle was there and greeted me and was kind enough to let me take some pics and interview the head chef John Ledbetter. John is an experienced capable young man who knows his stuff and was a delight to talk to.

What I quickly realized is that this was not a cheap sub shop and frozen pizza dough outfit. No, this is a high class Tapas and Pizza place with probably the best Pizza you will find anywhere in Hampton Roads. I guess it is best described as California style however with some good legacy to the real neo style pie. They are doing some pretty amazing things like this…….
Toppings, lets start with braised short ribs, homemade real smoked sausage and home made meatballs made with their own slow roasted pork. Nothing frozen, all homemade, and nothing that fell out of a food service truck. This is the real deal. You will not believe the difference this makes. Absolutely delicious!

For cheese, they had fresh motz whole and grated which was fine. The may of had buffalo motz but did not see it and forgot to ask. It was good and just the right amount. The server also grated fresh parm and pepper at the table. Great touch!

FINNALLY A RESTAURANT THAT KNOWS HOW TO TURN ON A OVEN!!! The pizza oven in the kitchen is new and my friend chef John cranks it up to a decent 650 degrees. This means a pie in four minutes and giving the crust a nice spring. Also they have an excellent char on top of the dough that usually will only be found in a neo pie baked over 900 degrees. Keep up the good work!

The other nice thing about the dough is that they are doing a longer bulk ferment, two days or maybe longer. So far they are the only place I know that does it and it makes a difference. Most pizza places around here do a one day cold rise if even that long. My pies I bulk ferment for three to five days.

The flour is a bread flour which is a higher gluten content. They are not using a high gluten commercial flour like most places. They don’t need it, the preparation they are doing with the dough is very good and they are turning out a very nice dough.

One thing that the restaurant really pushes is that everything is made there on site, and fresh. I could not get pepperoni on my pie because they will be making it there fresh and just had not starting doing so yet. Not prob.

All in all I can’t say enough good things about this place. If you want something close to a real Neapolitan pie this is about it. It is flat out delicious and none of the places I have been to around Hampton Roads can compete with this. Their selections also are really well done.

So, give them a try! Prices are reasonable for a 10 inch pie. Don’t be expecting anything larger, they only have one size but it is a full meal for one, or even two.

This restaurant just opened and the oven is just starting to be seasoned. The only thing this place will do is keep getting better, and they hit a home run right out of the gate.

Good eats, Good reads, and tight lines.


Jim Baugh
Author of HOOKED
Soon to be released COOKED

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