When Chef Rob Minichiello, 36, decided to move to Burlington, he was shocked to discover not a single Spanish restaurant in the area. That’s about to change. In March, Minichiello will open the doors to a tapas bar called Via Loma, located on the corner of Main and South Champlain streets where the Euro Gourmet Café used to be. The name refers to the spot’s location on lower Main, but loma also means hill in Spanish.
Minichiello — a Bostonian who attended a small culinary school in Baton Rouge, La. — used to own a restaurant and wine bar called Theory Bistro in Newburyport, Mass. Although the eatery won acclaim from its customers and the Boston Globe, the town couldn’t support it year round. “It was on the seacoast; winter was very stark,” Minichiello says. Wanting a community that bustled all year, he moved to Burlington last April and began seeking a space for his next venture. Finding one took six months.
The restaurant, its windows currently covered in brown paper, is getting a facelift. The result will be an open kitchen, so customers can belly up to a bar and watch the chef simmer and stir as they dine. Beer and wine will flow at a second bar with its own handful of seats. In summer, Minichiello intends to open up an outdoor patio.
Although he plans to have a bunch of pinchos — tiny bar snacks — and around 25 different tapas, Minichiello isn’t yet ready to divulge the contents of the Via Loma menu. “It’s so rough draft right now,” he admits.
The one item he’s sure of: meatballs with smoked tomato sauce. “There will be some shellfish … we’ll do house-cured bacon, some nose-to-tail dishes,” he says. “It’ll be very casual, very approachable.”
His culinary school was “a melting pot,” but to date, most of Minichiello’s kitchen experience has been in French restaurants. After school, he did a stint at the famed Commander’s Palace in New Orleans. Now, though, Minichiello says he’s looking forward to serving a different style of cuisine. “French restaurants seem so serious and so subdued sometimes,” he says. The ambiance of a tapas bar, by contrast, “can bring strangers together.”