Skip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
FINALLY An Opening Date for Graffiato, Chef Mike Isabella Spot in Former Popkin Tavern

FINALLY An Opening Date for Graffiato, Chef Mike Isabella Spot in Former Popkin Tavern

  • 0
Popkin Tavern

FINALLY there's an opening date for the Richmond Graffiato!

It's Wednesday, Sept. 10. at 4 p.m.

More from the news release:


Washington, D.C. restaurateur and Top Chef All-Stars Runner-Up, Mike Isabella, announces the opening of Graffiato in downtown Richmond on September 10.  

The Italian-inspired restaurant is located at 123 W. Broad Street in a historic building that served as a furniture showroom as far back as 1909. Isabella updated the interior of the historic building, adding a wood-burning pizza oven and pizza bar but preserving much of its historic integrity. Travis Croxton, owner of Rappahannock Oyster Co., and Hilda Staples, partner in Graffiato D.C., have partnered with Isabella on this project.


Joining Isabella is chef de cuisine Matthew Robinett who comes to Graffiato Richmond after serving as executive chef at Petit Louis Bistro and as sous chef at Pazo Restaurant, both Foreman-Wolf restaurants, in Baltimore, MD.

The Menu

The Graffiato Richmond menu features many of Isabella's best-selling dishes from the D.C. restaurant, like the sweet corn agnolotti, hand-cut spaghetti, roasted cauliflower and chicken with pepperoni sauce. There are also dishes unique to Graffiato Richmond, including crispy artichoke with boquerones, capers and lemon, a dish of hearty eggplant caponata and house-made cannelloni stuffed with shrimp and scallops. Dishes from the restaurant's new wood-burning oven are featured prominently, and include roasted vegetables and meats. The menu also reflects what is local and in-season from Shenandoah Valley and regional farms.

An array of artisanal, hand-crafted pizzas are available, including Isabella's knock-out Jersey Shore pie piled with fried calamari and cherry pepper aioli. Isabella will introduce new pizzas as well, available exclusively at the Richmond location, like the Clash of the Titans, a pie loaded with clams, calamari, crab, tomato and arugula.

The beverage program features beer and Prosecco on tap and a wine list with both domestic and global selections, including varietals from Virginia. Taha Ismail, beverage director for all of Isabella’s restaurants, oversees the craft cocktail program. Offerings include originals like the American Pride, which mixes moonshine with blackberries, lemon and mint, and the RVA Gin and Tonic, which supplements locally-crafted gin with strega and house-made tonic. Wine director James Horn’s wine list is inspired by the flavors of Italy and the Mediterranean. The whole list, which includes a number of local bottles in its domestic offerings, is a product of three years of experience pairing wines with Isabella’s refined Jersey-Italian cooking.

The Space

While Isabella borrowed design elements from Graffiato’s original location, the historic Popkin Building gives the space a feel and identity all its own. The design blends Graffiato's signature graffitied industrial branding with the building's unique historic features. The 6,700 square foot space will accommodate 210 seats, including 50 on the updated mezzanine and 12 at the new pizza bar.

About Graffiato

The original Graffiato opened in the Chinatown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. in 2011. The Italian-inspired spot serves seasonal, artisanal small plates, and handmade pastas and pizzas inspired by Isabella’s upbringing in a New Jersey Italian family. With heavy influence from his Latin and Mediterranean culinary training, Graffiato is anything but a traditional Italian eatery.

About Chef Mike Isabella

Mike Isabella is the chef/owner of Graffiato, Kapnos and G in Washington, D.C. In late 2014 and early 2015, he plans to open Kapnos Taverna and Pepita (respectively) in Arlington, VA. He is the author of Mike Isabella’s Crazy Good Italian; in 2012 he was named FOOD & WINE magazine’s The People’s Best New Chef Mid-Atlantic. Before opening Graffiato, Isabella was the executive chef of José Andrés’ Zaytinya. Previously, Isabella worked under Marcus Samuelsson, Jose Garces and a host of other notable chefs and restaurateurs. Outside the kitchen, Isabella appeared on Season Six of Top Chef, and he was the runner-up on Top Chef All-Stars.

Location:                              123 W. Broad Street, Richmond, VA 23220

Phone:                                  804-918-9454


Hours:                                  Bar opens at 4pm daily.

                                              Sunday-Wednesday, 5-10pm

                                               Thursday, 5-11pm

                                               Friday-Saturday, 5pm-12am

Team:                                   Chef/Owner: Mike Isabella

                                               Chef De Cuisine: Matthew Robinett

                                               General Manager: Tim Galvin

                                               Bar Director: Taha Ismail

                                               Wine Director: James Horn

Capacity:                             210, 50 in the mezzanine

                                             For private dining events, the space can accompany standing      receptions of up to 50 or up to 300.

Reservations:                  By phone at 804-918-9484 or online at

Branding:                          The General Design Company"

Previous from Feb. 4:

More on Graffiato coming to Richmond and Popkin Tavern closing.


OK, people, I finally put away my toothbrush and got to work - so here's a little more on Top Chef alum, celebrity chef Mike Isabella's plan for Graffiato in Richmond, in Popkin Tavern.

First, what might've gotten a little bit missed in this whole Graffiato is opening in Popkin story is that Popkin is closing.

The restaurant is still open and will be through Saturday, Feb. 15.

Popkin GM Brian Lawrence says he's going to have a lot of great beer to clear out of this Chicago-owned restaurant, so stay tuned for specials. (And, incidentally, Lawrence is a great GM who's always functioned a lot like an owner in that space, so if anyone's hiring...)

Now onto Graffiato, Isabella's Italian-inspired, coming to Richmond restaurant.

First, Richmonders can expect a lot of the same handmade pasta, seasonal, local produce, and wood-fired pizzas as in the D.C.-spot, but Isabella says Richmonders can expect a lower price point (and Graffiato is pretty cheap, with most things in the mid-teens or lower. Check out the menu), plus a few new things.

Isabella is planning some light renovations in Popkin and will be pulling out the pool tables to make way for more tables and a wood-fired pizza oven and pizza bar. 

And yes, D.C. Graffiato fans, there will be Prosecco on tap.

So why Richmond?

“It all started with some friends,” Isabella  said. “Like my buddy Travis Croxton, who owns Rappahannock River Oysters, he was like you’ve got to check out this area.”

Isabella also said he's a fan of Richmond's history and stellar mixology programs. He said he's only been to Richmond a few times, but is looking forward to eating everywhere. 

And, incidentally, he'll be in town this Friday, if anyone is looking to do some celebrity chef stalking.

Travis Croxton, owner of Rappahannock restaurant on Grace, is a partner in the Richmond Graffiato spot. He and Isabella have been friends for years, meeting when Isabella was buying Rappahannock oysters for his restaurants.

“I also know Jason Alley,” Isabella said of the Comfort and Pasture restaurants chef / owner. “I came down, looked around at spaces, and fell in life with the city and the [Popkin Tavern] space.”

Isabella is currently apartment hunting in Richmond and plans to be on-site at the new restaurant, which he’s hoping to open in May.

“If it was up to me, I’d open tomorrow – I’m super excited to come down there. I’m friends with a couple of chefs there and I hope to be friends with everyone [in Richmond dining],” he said.  

“Graffiato is one of the coolest places in the country,” Croxton said, noting that bringing a name like Isabella to downtown Richmond will help boost Richmond dining overall."

So Graffiato in Richmond in May, if not sooner. Boom.

Previous from urgent posting this morning:

I maybe choked on my toothbrush this morning while scrolling through emails on my phone and hitting the one that said, "

"Washington, D.C. chef and restaurateur, Mike Isabella, announces plans to open a second location of his Italian-inspired restaurant, Graffiato  along W. Broad St. in Richmond this spring."

Yes that Mike Isabella, from Top Chef. Opening a restaurant in Richmond. ON OUR BROAD STREET!

The chef was rumored to be in Richmond a few months ago, hanging at Secco Wine Bar, and I guess we all know why now.

According to the news release, Isabella is partnered with Rappahannock owner Travis Croxton on the deal and is opening in Popkin Tavern (which appears to still be open, but working on that).

I'll have more later. For now, I have to put my toothbrush down.

For now, from the news release:

"Washington, D.C. restaurateur and Top Chef All-Stars Runner-Up, Mike Isabella, announces plans to open a second location of his popular, Italian-inspired spot, Graffiato, in Richmond, Virginia this spring. The 6,700 square foot space is located at 123 W. Broad St., formerly Popkin Tavern. The building is a Richmond icon, serving as a furniture showroom as far back as 1909. Isabella plans to update the interior and add a wood-burning oven while maintaining the integrity of the space. Graffiato Richmond is expected to open this spring.

“It’s an exciting time to become part of the Richmond dining scene,” said chef/owner, Mike Isabella. “I can’t wait to bring Graffiato to Virginia’s capital. The location on Broad Street will make the restaurant accessible to college students and everyone downtown, and the building itself has so much history. When I saw the corner space with high ceilings and big picture windows, I knew this was the place to put Graffiato.“

In addition to giving the space a makeover to maximize seating and add Graffiato’s unique, industrial branding with graffiti, Isabella will install a wood-burning oven to accommodate the pizza and wood-oven sections of the menu. The Graffiato Richmond menu will include staples like handmade pasta, oven-roasted vegetables and an array of pizzas. The menu will also reflect what is local and in-season, and its location ... will influence the type of products that can be sourced from local farms. 

Similar to its D.C. location, the beverage program will feature beer and Prosecco on tap and a wine list with both domestic and global selections, including varietals from Virginia. Taha Ismail, beverage director for all of Isabella’s restaurants, will also oversee the craft cocktail program at Graffiato Richmond.

Travis Croxton, owner of Rappahannock Oyster Co., and Hilda Staples, partner in Graffiato D.C., have partnered with Isabella on this project."

Karri Peifer is the editor of and the site's senior food writer. Follow her on Twitter @KarriPeifer.


Related to this story

  • Updated

In case you missed the news, Popkin Tavern (123 W. Broad St.) is closing after Saturday to make-way for a little Mike Isabella restaurant call…

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News