A shuttered Petersburg restaurant that’s been at the center of an ongoing dispute between its landlords and previous operators is being revived by a Chester-based family of restaurateurs.
Cesare and Teri Evola, owners of Antonio’s Restaurante and Bar on Ironbridge Road in Chester and Cesare’s Ristorantte on River’s Bend Boulevard, have agreed to take over the former Farmers Market Restaurant & Bar in downtown Petersburg.
Sandy Graham Jr., majority owner of City Market Investors LLC, which owns the historic building at 9 E. Old St., confirmed the deal. The restaurant will be renamed City Table at Farmers Market.
“We did not sell them the building, we are only changing the operators,” Graham said.
Graham said his group has been in talks with the Evolas since June, following Farmers Market’s closure in May after three months in business.
Cesare Evola said City Table will stray away from his typical Italian menu, incorporating more traditional American entrees such as steaks, pork chops, crab cakes, stuffed shrimp and oysters.
Operating their third venture inside the iconic Old Town building is nostalgic for Cesare. When he first arrived in central Virginia, he remembers dancing the night away in the Farmers Market.
“When I came here I started out working in Petersburg at my cousin’s pizza place,” he said. “At night, the Farmers Market turned into a disco … it was a fun place.”
Graham said there will be some slight modifications to the building, but nothing major.
He said Henry Dudley, a Virginia State University alum and executive chef at MGM National Harbor in Maryland, will serve as chef and partner at the City Table venture.
The restaurant’s 10,000-square-foot, octagonal brick building, bounded by Rock and River streets and Cockade Alley, is owned by the city of Petersburg and was revived by the partnership between Graham and Tom Wilkinson, founder and CEO of Richmond-based Maramjen Commercial Real Estate Development.
After a $2 million renovation, Farmers Market opened earlier this year, only to close on May 22.
Through City Market Investors, Graham and Wilkinson remain locked in a lawsuit with Farmers Market’s previous operator Frits Huntjens and his company Huntjens & Associates LLC.
Huntjens opened Farmers Market on Jan. 29, with a higher-end menu that featured raw oysters, crispy rockfish, pork belly and braised beef ribs.
The latest court filings in the case show City Market Investors sought, and were ultimately granted, access to Huntjens & Associates’ bank records from Dec. 1, 2016 to present. Other court documents highlight Huntjens’ request for a summary judgement – where his business entity admits to breach of contract and breach of a promissory note.
In an original suit filed by City Market Investors in June, the group sought nearly $180,000 in damages against Huntjens and his company, including $30,000 in back rent and nonpayment on a $100,000 promissory note.
David Spiro, a Richmond attorney with Spiro & Browne who is representing Huntjens, did not return a call for comment Tuesday. J.P. McGuire Boyd, Jr., a Richmond attorney with Williams Mullen who is representing CMI, would not comment on the case.
A hearing related to Huntjens’ summary judgement request has been set for Nov. 6 in Petersburg Circuit Court.