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Daniel Sangjib Min/TIMES-DISPATCH Graffiato, at 123 W. Broad St., has a bar, a 12-person pizza bar, private dining for 50 and two 14-person communal dining tables.



Daniel Sangjib Min/TIMES-DISPATCH

Mike Isabella, who competed on “Top Chef” and owns a restaurant in Washington, is co-owner of Graffiato, which opened in the former Popkin Tavern space in Richmond.

Since the initial announcement in February, Graffiato has been one of the most eagerly anticipated Richmond restaurant openings of 2014 — and the opening is finally here.

Mike Isabella, celebrity chef, “Top Chef” contestant and Washington restaurateur, opened the Richmond location of Graffiato on Wednesday.

Isabella, with partners Travis Croxton (of Richmond’s Rappahannock restaurant) and Hilda Staples (partner in Bryan Voltaggio’s Family Meal, coming to Willow Lawn), took over the former Popkin Tavern space at 123 W. Broad St. and set about what they called “light renovations” in February on the more than 100-year-old building, shooting for an April/May opening.

“We put a little more work into the space than we originally thought we needed,” Isabella said. “But finally, I have a restaurant in front of me.”

The renovations included an entirely new bar; adding a 12-person pizza bar; converting the former pool table space into private dining for 50; and moving a wall partition to make way for two 14-person communal dining bar tables.

The entire restaurant now seats 210 with private dining space for as many as 300 people (standing).

“I’m super excited,” Isabella said. “It’s been a long process, but I love the space and the people here — I’m committed.”

Richmond firms Fultz Architects, Habitus Interiors and RS Brightwell Construction worked on the renovations, but Graffiato general manager Tim Galvin noted that the industrial look and clean lines came from Isabella.

The result is a unique space that blends the best of D.C.’s modern Graffiato with the historic feel of Popkin.

Like its sister restaurant in Washington, Richmond’s Graffiato serves a menu of Italian-inspired entrées, such as sweet corn agnolotti ($11) and Amish Chicken Thighs ($10), and artisanal pizzas, such as Jersey Shore (with fried calamari, $14) and Porky’s Revenge (soppressata, pepperoni, sausage, tomato, mozzarella, $15).

But Isabella and chef de cuisine Matthew Robinett also came up with plenty of menu items original to Richmond, such as Bucatini Carbonara ($10), Roasted Bone Marrow ($9), and the Clash of the Titans pizza with clams, calamari and crab ($14).

The only thing on the menu more than $16 is the five-item charcuterie plate and a chef’s tasting, a $49 per person four-course prix fixe tasting in which the chef sends out … well, whatever he likes. Beverage pairings can be added for an additional $29 per person.

The beverage program at Graffiato includes a selection of craft cocktails, such as the Peaches and Cream (aperol, peach shrub, house grenadine, prosecco) and Put Me in Your Mix (bourbon, amaro, orange, honey, hefeweizen), plus such classics as the DC Mule and Empire State of Mind (bourbon, Ramazzotti amaro, Fernet Branca).

All cocktails are $9.

Graffiato Richmond also features wine on tap, with the opening two taps offering rosé and prosecco ($8) and 10 taps reserved for craft beer.

The restaurant won’t start with happy hour, but it’ll likely add it down the road, along with Sunday brunch in a few weeks.

For now, Graffiato is open for dinner daily from 4:30 to 10 p.m., with later hours on Thursday (until 11 p.m.) and on the weekend (until midnight).

Also in the works:   Monday Night Industry Takeover Night — during which chefs from other restaurants “take over” the kitchen. One already is confirmed for Oct. 13 with chef Jonah Kim from Baltimore and Danny Lee from Mandu in Washington .

Reservations will be accepted via OpenTable beginning Sunday.

Karri Peifer is the editor of Richmond.com and the site’s senior food writer. Follow her on Twitter @KarriPeifer. Got a scoop for her? Email kpeifer@richmond.com.

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