Italian eatery takes former Morton’s steakhouse space in Shockoe Slip

Italian eatery takes former Morton's steakhouse space in Shockoe Slip

Sprezza, an Italian restaurant, is taking over the former Morton’s The Steakhouse space at 111 Virginia St. (Photos by Mike Platania and courtesy of Sprezza)

For her first restaurant, Angela Petruzzelli is looking to bring a slice of Puglia to Shockoe Slip.

Petruzzelli is preparing to take her Italian pop-up concept Sprezza full-time and has leased the former longtime home of Morton’s The Steakhouse at 111 Virginia St. in the Turning Basin building.

Petruzzelli, who was born in Italy and grew up in Miami, started Sprezza in March 2021, popping in at Broken Tulip in Carytown, Pizza Bones in Church Hill and in Mise En Place nearby in the Slip. She launched it on the idea of ​​offering truly authentic Italian food.

β€œ(It’s) things that you wouldn’t find here but you would in Southern Italy,” she said. β€œIt’s all authentic to the culture in Italy. It’s not at all Americanized.”

Sprezza’s pop-up menus included pasta dishes like cacio e pepe, pasta amatriciana and pappardelle with basil crema. Petruzzelli said with the brick-and-mortar space she’s planning to offer more fish dishes and other entrees that didn’t lend well to to-go sales.

She added that she’s planning to have Sprezza open in the weekday mornings for coffee and pastries and to eventually open for lunch.

β€œIn the future I’d like to introduce brunch on Saturdays and Sundays,” Petruzzelli said. β€œI’m going to try to make Italian brunch a thing.”

At 7,800 square feet, Sprezza’s space is sizable for a restaurant β€” particularly one from a first-time restaurateur. Petruzzelli acknowledged the size of the task ahead of her.

β€œTo be honest I’m kind of almost delusional in the way that I believe in myself, which is maybe not a great thing. But I always feel like everything I’ve put my mind to, I’ve achieved,” she said.

β€œSo for this I (told myself), ‘If you get a small restaurant, you’ll do great, but if you get a big restaurant, you’ll also probably do great.’ I kind of just went for it.”

She said she’s planning to give the former steakhouse space a considerable makeover. It has been vacant since Morton’s moved out in May 2020.

β€œI want to brighten it up a little bit because it did seem like a 90s man-cave in there. It was very dark, the wallpaper was suffocating and the carpet didn’t help,” she said. β€œI hope (Sprezza) feels very Italian. I hope people walk in and forget they’re in Richmond.”

Petruzzelli said she’s overseeing the renovation of the space herself. Thalhimer’s Reilly Marchant represented the landlord in lease negotiations.

When Sprezza opens as planned this November, Petruzzelli said she’s hoping her restaurant can help bring others to that part of Shockoe.

β€œIt has a charm that is kind of European and it fits with the cobblestones. It’s dreamy over here,” she said. β€œPeople tell me it used to be such a popular location and it makes me sad it’s a little more quiet now. So, I’m hoping that adding another restaurant will help liven it up again and give other people the confidence to move back here for something.”

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