Dishing Up: Varia at The Main

Who doesn't love food? It fuels our lives, gives everyone something to look forward to and brings us together. 

As a foodie, one of my goals this year is to try out a different restaurant in Hampton Roads each week. If I head back to a favorite spot, the goal is to try out a new dish. 

I want to share this journey with you. Maybe my experiences will inspire you to try out a new restaurant, maybe they will save you a few bucks or just give you a glimpse at what's 'dishing up' around town. 

First stop -- something shiny and new -- The Main in Downtown Norfolk. The recently-opened hotel has been the center of a lot of buzz in Hampton Roads, especially becoming popular for it's three restaurants. 

One of the restaurants: Varia.

On the website, Varia is described as a "a romantic, trattoria-inspired Italian restaurant"... what's not to love?!

I figured Saturday night is as good as any to try out the new 'it' eatery, so I headed out with my best friend for 'girls night'. 

To set the scene for you, Varia is on the second floor of the hotel. You can take the escalators up to the restaurant. Panoramic windows give you a nice view of the urban Downtown Norfolk scenery. 

When we first approached Varia, it gave off an elegant 'Vegas-like lounge' feel.

 

One of our favorite spots in @varianorfolk, the space where we'll keep the wine! #winestagram #norfolklife

A post shared by Varia (@varianorfolk) on

The host quoted us an hour wait, which is pretty expected on a weekend night. One thing that did stand out to me -- we were told that if we walked too far away and the hosts couldn't find us when our table is ready, it would be given away. No phone call, no buzzer, no second chance. 

We headed to the bar, where the bartender greeted us with a rather extensive wine menu that featured a few signature cocktails. 

Here's where I need to give you full disclosure that I just returned back from a vacation in Italy about two weeks before my trip to Varia. So, at this point the 'real, authentic, non-Americanized taste' of Italian drinks and food was still fresh on my mind. 

Okay, back to the Varia bar. We ordered two Limoncello fueled drinks (think fancy concoction of hard liquor and lemons). It was quite delicious and enjoyable as we passed the time and chatted with a pleasant bartender. 

Speaking of time, remember how we were quoted an hour wait? Well, we didn't have to wait that long at all. About 30 minutes after putting our names down for a table, a hostess found us to let us know the table is ready. 

We proceeded to the main dining room, which is nicely decorated with furniture that to me looks like it was inspired by Restoration Hardware. 

The menu, was separated by 'red dot' and 'blue dot' offerings, meaning the entire menu is not offered every day. On that Saturday, it was 'red dot' night. 

Varia boasts about their hand-cut, made in house pasta, which I couldn't say no to, even despite my recent trip to Italy when I ate pasta for every meal for 8 days straight. 

 

Fresh homemade pasta & wine on tap in our cruvinet. @varianorfolk #TheMain

A post shared by Hilton Norfolk THE MAIN (@hiltonnorfolkthemain) on

My choice that night was lobster pesto spaghetti. The price tag - not so cheap... $27. Although, I've learned that you should always ask how much lobster actually comes on the dish, to see whether the price is justified. The waitress told me it's a lot, so I didn't hesitate. 

To start out, we were brought home-baked faccasia bread with olive oil and rosemary. It was soft, warm and a great start to the meal. 

Then, came the main dish. 

Boy, the waitress wasn't kidding. The dish came loaded with lobster meat, including claws and tails. It was perfectly cooked. As for the pasta itself? I didn't dislike it, but I wasn't impressed (maybe if Italy didn't spoil me, I would have appreciated it more). 

Overall, I enjoyed the dish a lot... mostly because of the amount of lobster. To be quite honest, I didn't even finish the pasta because I loaded up on the lobster. 

My friend ordered the shrimp tagliatelle, and she was a lot less impressed with her dish. To quote her, "It was mediocre, over priced and tasted like canned tomato sauce." Yikes. 

One thing we both agreed on: the service was superb. Our waitress was attentive and very pleasant.

The atmosphere is perhaps what stood out to me the most. The decor and vibe of the restaurant made me feel like I'm not in Norfolk. Sometimes we all need a getaway, right? Varia transported us straight out of Hampton Roads. 

Now, the big question: would I come back? Yes, for the vibes, mostly. I am curious to try Varia's pizzas as well. In fact, I'm heading back there this weekend to celebrate a friend's birthday. I think I see a pizza pie in my future. 

About the blog and the author: Kristina Zverjako is a digital content producer and reporter at 13News Now who started 'Dishing Up' in hopes of helping others explore the culinary scene of Hampton Roads. Have any suggestions for places or dishes Kristina should check out? Tweet her or send her a message on Facebook.

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