Photo by Stephanie Breijo
Shockoe Bottom's Castanea closed on Tuesday after just over a year in business. The Mediterranean- and Iberian Peninsula-focused restaurant was located at 1814 E. Main St. in the former MoFauzy’s Lounge space. Chef and owner Philip Denny cites as factors in his closure a rainy summer that kept his patio closed; negative critical reviews, including one from Richmond magazine; staffing issues; and opening about a year too early to reap the rewards from the neighborhood housing expansion.
Castanea’s unique, chef-driven cuisine will be missed. Denny put much of himself in the menu and scattered idiosyncratic whimsy around the space, such as the Ms. Pacman table and a shrine to kitchen personnel in the retail area. Personal food favorites included eggplant parmesan pizza, baba ghanoush with house-made pita, seafood panzanella, arancini and creative house-made pasta dishes utilizing seasonal ingredients, like figs, in savory combinations.
Denny left McCormick’s Big Whisky Grill, where he was an executive chef, to build out his gelateria, bar and eatery alongside his father-in-law, Michael Nakoneczny. Prior to Big Whisky, Denny worked at Aziza’s on Main, which was selected as 2013 Restaurant of the Year by Style Weekly during his tenure. Denny resigned his position as executive chef at Six Burner to helm Aziza’s after chefs Caleb Shriver and Phillip Perrow departed to open Dutch & Co. Denny studied culinary arts at Le Cordon Bleu in Chicago before working for Michel Richard at Citronelle in Washington, D.C. Castanea was nominated by a group of restaurant industry professionals and food writers for the 2016 Elby Award for Best New Restaurant.
As for his next move, Denny says, “I am going to stay away from social media and the restaurant scene for a minute to regroup.”
Clarification: Castanea closed on Tuesday of this week, not "last Tuesday" of the week prior, as previously worded.