Photo by: Stephanie Breijo
No, you can't get an extra-large supreme pizza from Pizza Tonight Restaurant & Bar, and no, the restaurant will not supply you with jumbo slices dripping with grease. It does not keep the bar stocked with two-liter bottles of soda, and while you can call ahead for pick-up, don't expect a heated case full of slowly rotating slices for takeout. Owner Victoria DeRoche learned the hard way that a name can make all the difference. That's why she's rebranding the Shockoe Bottom Italian restaurant to Nota Bene at the start of June.
"I've had people walk in, sit down, look at the menu and walk out," she says. "I've had people walk in and sit at the bar and say they'd never been in before because they thought all we did was pizza. I've had people be super surprised at the quality of the wine list or the beers, because they already had their expectations lowered because it's a 'pizza place.' "
And all of those "Can I get pizza this afternoon, instead of tonight?" jokes weren't helping, either.
Yes, the Italian restaurant does offer pizza — and it did stem from DeRoche's mobile pizza operation, Pizza Tonight — but it also serves house-made pasta, oven-roasted meats and fish, and a selection of seasonal vegetables and salads. And brunch. And happy hour. About an month into the restaurant's opening, DeRoche realized she needed to rebrand in order to drive this home.
She wanted a new name that was ideally Italian, one that people could pronounce, one that wasn't already the moniker of a famous restaurant owned by a celebrity chef, as was all the case for Scopa, her first choice. DeRoche realized all of this as she researched that name, but in the process she found exactly what she was looking for. "I found that people would do a little 'NB, nota bene,' that means 'pay attention to this passage,' " she says. "It's a literary term and people use it in legal documents as well, or when they're reading any type of scholarly works. You'll see in the margins a little 'NB' or a finger pointing, which means 'take note.' And I like that. It's Latin but it could pass for Italian, and there are so many design aspects around that term that could really work well on a menu or for signage. The whole identity."
The mobile truck will most likely keep the name Pizza Tonight if DeRoche continues that operation beyond the events she currently has scheduled, though she's not sure she will.
She's still deciding on the logo, which will be designed by Campfire & Co. Sure Hand Signs, which painted "Pizza Tonight Restaurant & Bar" across the restaurant's brick exterior, will repaint it as "Nota Bene" by June 3. The restaurant is also planning on refreshing the menu, both in design and offerings. Perhaps, DeRoche says, guests will find something fun like a pasta glossary, and a revamping of the to-go case, which already offers house-made noodles, but could also stock containers of antipasti for quick, gourmet grab-and-go options. Nota Bene guests may also notice lower prices than Pizza Tonight Restaurant & Bar originally presented; it's something DeRoche and consultant Rachel Zell are working on together. Randall Doetzer, the restaurant's executive chef, is currently rolling out new items such as roasted asparagus with bottarga, and roasted turnips finished with honey, plus a charcuterie board and a new focus on house-pickled items such as eggplant, mushrooms and cipollini.
"The pizza's always going to be there," DeRoche says, "and it's an amazing opportunity for us to get people in the door because it's always been a really important part of what we do, but it's not the only thing that we do."
Pizza Tonight Restaurant & Bar is located at 2110 E. Main St. and will change its name to Nota Bene at the beginning of June. The restaurant is currently running a Mother's Day special where one can treat their mom to a $30 floral flight of mimosas with additions of syrups and Crème de Violette, plus an included copy of the "804ork: Vol. 2" cookbook. Call 477-3355 to reserve.