Revisiting a Favorite Destination


Cape Charles is an eclectic sort of experience. At first glance, you see a classic Eastern Shore town, perched brightly along the sparkling waters of the Chesapeake Bay. But when you look a little deeper, all sorts of unexpected delights and experiences present themselves.

One such captivating treasure is Ambrogia Caffé & Enoteca, nestled in Cape Charles’ iconic downtown district. Celebrating its first year in business on May 1, 2020, Ambrogia is an incredibly authentic Italian experience, right here in the heart of Cape Charles.

In the past year, from its warm, welcoming dining room on Mason Avenue, Ambrogia has given people the gift of escape, comfort, and joy by way of extraordinary Italian food and personal service.

Proprietor and visionary behind Ambrogia, Dr. Cristina Carollo, is a powerhouse of an artisan who created Ambrogia by following her dreams. The Milan, Italy, native with a PhD in Oceanography originally came to Cape Charles to serve as a Senior Coastal Scientist at The Nature Conservancy’s Virginia Coast Reserve. After a time, she realized she wanted to begin a new chapter and follow another one of her passions…

The self-admitted ‘foodie’ decided to revisit the joy she remembered from the Italian food of her youth, opening Ambrogia Caffé and Enoteca in 2019.

A walk inside the dining room is a multi-level experience: first, the intimate, cozy space makes you feel at ease, with warm colors and simple, honest décor. Next, the rich aromas slowly greet you. Fresh, flavorful ingredients perfume the air with a sensory experience like no other. Locally sourced ingredients, freshly made pasta, expertly prepared meats and hand-selected cheeses…it excites and soothes at the same time. Guests often actively feel themselves relax and settle in, as if they’ve just arrived at the home of a dear friend for a meal.

“Ambrogia is not only about food. It’s also about the experience,” says Cristina. “You come in and experience a different atmosphere. Guests step into Ambrogia to be transported to Italy.”

The past year has been a whirlwind of new food creations, new friends and customers, and a healthy serving of warm, community support. In 2020, as restaurants the world over have worked to continue to serve their patrons, as well as keep their doors open, Cristina has continued to innovate and lean into the work—and art—of giving people good food.

How good? Here’s a sampling of the unique pairings and dishes enjoyed recently at Ambrogia: farrotto mari e monti with sausage and local

clams, prosciutto e fichi (Parma ham with fresh figs from Copper Cricket Farm in Machipongo), and homemade fettuccine with basil cream and butter- poached shrimp. You can expect new, palate-pleasing creations every time you visit.

Cristina’s beloved Ambrogia has experienced a bit more of its share of difficulty over the last few months. Despite the unfortunate loss in her work family of brilliant chef John Kohler in an auto accident, and the months-long restrictions on businesses, the ever-hopeful visionary is more committed than ever to continue her mission.

“John was an extremely talented and creative chef. We worked on a lot of interesting ideas,” she says.  “Like our beet “ravioli”, which are roasted beets thinly cut, then folded over and stuffed with our home-made ricotta. It is a delicious gluten-free option and ideal for vegetarians. We truly miss John and his creations.”

Recently, the former oceanographer turned restauranteur has found herself doing it all— prepping, cooking, cleaning and serving—with the gracious support of her boyfriend, Dr. Keith Johnson, and some loyal friends.

“It’s challenging but it is rewarding,” says Cristina. “When you make something and it’s your own, and your customers tell you, ‘wow, this is the best dish I’ve ever had here since you’ve opened,’ that is humbling. That is truly something I was striving for.”  Cristina’s goal is grand and yet simple: “I want my customers to always be looking forward to the next meal, and I want their next meal to be even better than what they had before,” she smiles.  “All of my customers have been very supportive and they’re really looking forward to the flavors that we’re creating,” says Cristina. “We had a great response to the last few months, with people saying we are really bringing some beautiful dishes to the table.”

Now, Cristina is excited to announce the addition of a new chef. “I am grateful that I now have Carlton Terry as our chef,” she explains. She plans to work with Carlton to continue some of the ideas she and former chef, John Kohler, were working on, like that intriguing beet ravioli.

What comes next for Ambrogia Caffé and Enoteca?
“In the name of our restaurant, besides my mom’s name, ‘Ambrogia,’ it’s says ‘Caffé and Enoteca,’ which is ‘wine bar’. I want to live up to our name a little more,” explains Cristina.

“We are talking about offering wine flights with food pairings. And, when have events in the future, I would love to focus on regional pairings,” says Cristina. “Italy is divided into 21 regions. In each event, we would feature the local food and wine from one region—Tuscany or Umbria or Sicily, for example,” she explains.

At its heart, Ambrogia Caffé and Enoteca is a place where people can come and feel at ease—via the atmosphere, the flavors, and the experience.  “It’s what’s comforting for me,” Cristina says of the food and environment of Ambrogia. “That’s been key for me, providing my customers with that experience.”

“At home, a meal is a social experience. And that’s why I’m so proud of our handmade pasta. It’s made fresh for my customers,” she says. “It’s like grandma used to make pasta at home in old Italian families to share with everyone…I feel that’s what I really want to bring back, the flavor, the experience and the comfort. We’re cooking from scratch just for our guests…so they can truly enjoy it,” Cristina explains.

Even though things have been atypical in the last six months, Ambrogia’s mission has not changed. “Wherever you are in the United States or in Italy or another country, we’re all in this together,” she says.

Indeed, there’s a bit of Italy still very much alive in that quaint little dining room on Mason Avenue where, for a few incredibly flavorful moments, time stands still and all is right with the world.

Cristina wishes to thank everyone who has helped keep Ambrogia moving forward this year, with special gratitude to her customers and her boyfriend, Dr. Keith Johnson.

Ambrogia Caffé and Enoteca offers up an unforgettable meal and the warmth of authentic Italian cooking and hospitality to all those who enter its doors. We invite you to experience it for yourself.

Experience the Italian delights of Ambrogia Caffé & Enoteca:
321 Mason Ave
Cape Charles, VA (757) 695-3049

TOLL-FREE 844.620.2900

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