Westport is getting a bit of the bubbly. Ca Va, a new champagne bar that counts The Rieger Hotel Grill & Exchange’s Howard Hanna among its partners, will open 5 p.m. this Friday at 4149 Pennsylvania.
“Champagne is full of history. It’s super food friendly. When Sporting won the cup, they sprayed each other with champagne. When anybody gets married, you toast with champagne. It’s there for so many Americans at the best parts of their lives,” Hanna says. “But you think of it as being expensive and closed off. But the best stuff is being produced by farmers in a sustainable way and it doesn’t have to be out of touch.”
His idea is “champagne for the people,” one that partners Jim Coley and Justin Norcross echo when asked about the new champagne bar’s focus.
“There’s this idea that champagne is holier than thou or elitist,” Norcross says. “I think we can dispel with that real fast.”
Norcross has worked at The Rieger and as a butcher at The Local Pig. He’s also familiar with Westport, having been a manager at The Union. Since September, he has been working to renovate the Ca Va space, crafting the marble-topped wooden bar and tile backsplash. The champagne bar will seat 32 people inside and add seating on the patio this spring. There’s also a joint Cinco de Mayo festival in the works with Port Fonda chef and owner Patrick Ryan, who thought the open space next to his restaurant could be a fit for Hanna and his group.
CA Va will not take reservations, although Norcross does intend to jot down names for a waitlist, so people can get a call or text if the bar is full.
“My mom worked at Stroud’s since I was three years old,” Norcross says. “And when you show up, they want to get you seated. We want to do the same thing.”
Norcross will manage Ca Va, Hanna has developed a menu that can be executed by the bar staff and Coley is responsible for the wine list.
“It’s a great opportunity to do a place that you would normally find in New York or Chicago,” Coley, the wine director at Gomer’s Midtown, says. “But one thing I like is that we’re going to be really affordable.”
They’ll have two champagnes by the glass at all times, as well as a rotating cast of sparkling wines. They’ll also feature a series of classic champagne cocktails like the French 75, Kir, or Death in the Afternoon.
“The champagne market has developed like craft beer. There’s a real movement away from big name champagne houses toward farmer fizz,” Coley says.
CA Va also has two beer taps, one of which will serve Miller High Life – the champagne of beers. For those who don’t drink, the Westport spot will be making its own sodas. They’ll have soda water on tap, as well as homemade sugar cubes with bitters inside (those same cubes will be used for champagne cocktails).
For the menu, Hanna delved deep into the world of pork to create the jambon plate. He decided to tap three different Midwestern producers in a nod to the ubiquity of ham on menus throughout Paris. La Quercia’s Tamworth prosciutto will be paired with a hickory smoked country ham from Burgers’ Smokehouse and a pit ham from Paradise Locker Meats.
“The prosciutto is complex, subtle, nutty. There’s something almost floral about it. The country ham is more in your face. You get smoke and a little more salt, this big deep piggyness. And the pit ham is sweeter. It’s got more sugar. It’s juicier and moist,” Hanna says.
Ca Va will also have raclette made with Green Dirt Farm’s Prairie Tomme. Hanna intends to serve the melted cheese with a baguette, small potatoes, cornichons, and pickled pearl onions.
“The melter will be fired up on the bar at all times,” Hanna says. “You’ll see this weird contraption with the oozy, melty cheese.”
One of the more unique items will be the Missouri caviar service – hackleback sturgeon and paddlefish roe from a southern Missouri producer.
“It’s not super briny. It’s got this really deep black color. It’s not mushy and it’s just awesome,” Hanna says.
The caviar will be served with potato chips and a sauce gribiche (a French emulsion typically made with hard-boiled egg yolks, mustard and oil).
“I wanted the food to be Midwestern with a nod to Paris,” Hanna says. “This is about something you can’t get anywhere else.”
Ca Va will share one menu item with The Rieger – the Crossroad restaurant’s pork soup. Hanna expects to do prep work at Ca Va in the morning before heading over to the restaurant for lunch and dinner. He’ll then pop back at the champagne bar in the afternoon or before closing.
“I hope I can tweet that I’ll be behind the bar and I’m bringing four dozen oysters,” Hanna says. “This place is about having fun.”
Ca Va will be open from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Saturday. They plan to add brunch service later this spring.[Prairie Tomme image via Facebook: Green Dirt Farm]