We ate in Richmond at places researched by our daughter, using Chowhound.com. Wow.
We had a delightful dinner and ice cream way out in Midlothian at the French Quarter Cafe, owned and run personally by a fantastic Italian gentleman named Tony. I know his name because I ordered, "Tony's favorite" from the menu and inquired who Tony was. The favorite was a grilled sandwich on NY rye, piled high with deli turkey, thin crisp bacon, swiss cheese, onion, mayo, and thick slices of avocado (the sandwich used almost en entire avocado) - it was terrific. On Tony's recommendation for dessert I had a raspberry mocha - his favorite specialty coffee - also wonderful. We had the little cafe (and Tony) almost all to ourselves, and his sweet princely courtesy and lovely voice were worth the trip (and my stopping to ask directions contrary to the rules of my gender). It was like visiting a long lost Italian uncle - like my great aunts, the Albano Sisters.
The other dinner, the first night in Richmond, was at a tiny Italian place, mamma'Zu, known for the surly attitude of the owner and wait staff (don't ask stupid questions), the big blackboard behind the bar (which IS the menu), and the authentic amazing food. We got there in a light rain, and found out they didn't open for 30 more minutes (5:30). It was a Friday night. I sketched the non-descript old brick one-story building that houses the tiny restaurant, trying to keep as far under the eaves across the street as possible, to keep rain off my moleskine. People started lining up well before opening - standing in the rain and eventually blocking part of the street. We got in line, too - figuring we had to, or we wouldn't get a table. My girls squeezed under my big umbrella with me and the boys stayed in the car until the line began to move. The place filled in 5 minutes and had enough people still standing at the bar and outside to fill the entire restaurant again. A wild frenzy of bread and order taking followed, while we and other patrons, shoehorned into tightly packed tables, craned our necks to pick our entres and appetizers from the board. Squid with beans and arugula, pasta fazul, eggplant parmesan, pasta and ricotta, lasagna, spaghetti and meatballs (which melted in the mouth), montepulciano d'abruzzo... The food was amazing. We all agreed the whole experience was priceless, and we understood why so many people were content to wait over an hour.
On our way out the last day we had pizza at Bottoms Up - practically under I-95, again (see the overpass in the photo to the left), by the old Main Street Train Station. The wait staff were fun to watch - lots of personalities. Bottoms Up will become a regular stop on our trips back and forth from family in the Northeast.
It wasn't our intention to eat all Italian... but the first night was entres, the second was deli, and the last was pizza - so it wasn't really the same. And these were all places we'll talk about for years, and revisit when we get the chance.