When shopping for a home, feeling a connection to the property is important. That was the case for Lucia Zapata-Griffith, a resident of Charlotte for more than 30 years, who purchased a 130-year-old house in Fourth Ward. The home, much of which has been preserved and renovated as a cafe and wine bar, is slated to open on March 7. She was inspired by the home's rich historical roots. It was built in 1885 and named a historical landmark of Charlotte in 1977. Once owned by the Morrison family, it was home to the daughter of the first president of Davidson College, Robert Hall Morrison. One of his daughters was also the first woman in America to have a patent for architectural design. Zapata-Griffith is an architect with Metro Landmarks and felt a connection to the first owners of the home.
Her idea for a café started about a year ago with chef Bruno Macchiavello, who is also the co-founder of Viva Chicken. Initially, they wanted to serve coffee and desserts but expanded the concept to include sandwiches, salads and beverages — wine, beer and specialty cocktails. Zapata-Griffith and Macchiavello, both born in Lima, Peru, decided to incorporate aspects of their culture's food scene, which includes organic and fresh ingredients, to the eatery. Menu items and pastries are inspired by Peruvian cuisine.
The café has three rooms — dining room, bar and lounge — which are all accompanied with fireplaces. Historic pictures, paintings and maps line the walls and an antique piano sits in the hallway. When the weather warms up, patio seating will be available.
Creative Loafing: What makes this café special?
Zapata-Griffith: There are few historic buildings in Charlotte that are open to the public where the concept is fitting to the building. We fit the concept to the home, not the home to the concept. We wanted to be able to prepare fresh food in the building without disrupting the character of the home. This café blends together the old and the new, just like the culture of Peru. The home has an old feel to it and the furniture and décor feature a modern look. We believe in blending the two because that's how the places in Peru are. You may often see a colonial home that has a new and modern look. There are also local paintings lining the walls and some will be available for purchase. The most influential painting in the home is the one of Queen Charlotte, an original by Emily Andress, which adds to the culture and history of the home.
In addition to food, the cafe will be serving cocktails. What's your favorite?
The pisco sour is my favorite cocktail. It's a small, Peruvian drink with pisco, a liquor made from grapes. The cocktail features lime or lemon juice, sugar, simple syrup, and egg whites. The egg white creates a foam on the top of the drink for an interesting texture and flavor.
There's been a lot of buzz about the cafe prior to opening. What reactions have you had from the community?
The neighborhood is protective of the history of the home and they love that the home has been enhanced without taking away the character. Everyone was quite supportive saying that they were excited to have a new place to visit. We handed out about 400 of our passion fruit mousse cups at the Fourth Ward Holiday Home Tour a few months ago and they were gone within two hours. People were asking what made the mousse so different and delicious. They were also excited about the charcuterie boards because it gave an alternative to those who may not want a meal. The quinoa and kale tropical pesto salad also piqued the interest of several people. We've had people stopping by every day asking if we are open.