In a rising sea of competition, no Richmond restaurant is an island, even when it’s inspired by one.
Ciao Capri opened June 1 at 10478 Ridgefield Parkway in the Gleneagles Shopping Center. Brothers and veteran restaurateurs Alberto and Peppino Mastromano own the new venture, which is named for their birthplace, the Italian island of Capri.
Though they’re not native to Richmond, the Mastromanos aren’t strangers to the Gleneagles Shopping Center. They closed their previous restaurant, Little Venice, in January after a 12-year run. Ciao Capri opened in the 2,000 square feet right next door, where the brothers once operated another restaurant called Acanto.
Alberto Mastromano said the hope is that Ciao Capri will stand out from its peers with hard-to-find dishes that cater to more health-conscious consumers and cheeses, oil and wine that will largely come from the island the restaurant is named for.
“What we needed to do is to get away from the mainstream and find a niche that would bring people in,” Mastromano said. “We thought we needed to make a change.”
Mastromano said, for example, the restaurant won’t use butter in any of its recipes.
“It’s lighter food – not heavy sauces,” he said. “Now, everyone is diet-conscious.”
Mastromano said the Richmond restaurant market has come a long way since he and his brother got in the business more than a decade ago.
He said increased competition nearby, such as the neighboring Urban Tavern a few doors down, helps draw more people to what might be for some just another West End shopping center.
“Whenever you have foot traffic, you don’t have to depend on advertising,” Mastromano said.
Ichiban, Glory Days Grill and Gino’s Pizza are also in the Gleneagles Shopping Center, which is owned by Blackwood Development. The center for a time was home to the short-lived Libbie Market Ridgefield, which operated in a former Food Lion space.
The rise of Short Pump has upped the ante for smaller, more scattered plazas that cater to pockets of Henrico, Mastromano said.
“When we opened Little Venice in 2002, Short Pump was not there – we did very well business-wise,” he said. “Then when they put in Short Pump and West Broad Village, people tended to go there. It’s been hard.”
Mastromano said he hopes Ciao Capri’s scaled-down setting and unique menu can help it withstand the new era for restaurateurs. He said it cost about $75,000 to open Ciao Capri, and it will be a less expensive operation than Little Venice.
“The idea of a big restaurant is gone,” he said.