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The Trellis Bar & Grill is no more.
David Everett, chef and owner of the restaurant said The Trellis closed Tuesday.
“It was just a good time and a good move,” he said.
The restaurant located in downtown Colonial Williamsburg served American cuisine, including its Death by Chocolate dessert, made famous by chef Marcel Desaulniers, the previous owner of the restaurant.
In 1980, Desaulniers opened The Trellis Restaurant, a new American fine dining restaurant with his business partners, John Curtis and Tom Power, owner of the Cheese Shop.
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The restaurant was known for its Death by Chocolate dessert and Desaulniers, author of 1992 book Death by Chocolate, won several accolades throughout the years, according to his Wikipedia page.
Power left The Trellis Restaurant in 1994 and opened the Fat Canary seven years later.
In 2009, Everett, owner of the Blue Talon Bistro, bought The Trellis and highlighted Desaulniers’ “Death by Chocolate” dessert on the new menu.
Besides The Trellis Bar & Grill and DoG Street Pub, Everett also owns Hair of the DoG Bottle Shop and Black Bird Bakery. He also co-owns Blue Talon Bistro with Adam Steely, co-owner of Illy Cafe, and Culture Cafe with his former employees, Scott Hoyland and Louise Wood.
The Trellis Bar & Grill’s lease with Colonial Williamsburg Foundation expired in December 2019, Everett said. He extended the lease this year and during the last 6 to 8 months of negotiations, he decided to change The Trellis Bar & Grill to La Piazza.
“When I first came into downtown, I was looking for a space,” he said, adding at the time the foundation wanted a high end Italian place. “It’s just one of those things I’ve had on the burner.”
The Trellis Venture LLC comprised of Everett and three silent partners felt they could offer Merchants Square something different by giving it a fresh look and reinventing themselves completely, he said.
Other reasons for the change include the challenge of operating a large restaurant and a tough time hiring waitstaff, Everett said.
The Trellis has 250 seats and after downsizing the space, La Piazza will have a total capacity of 100 seats. Renovations start Wednesday and include dividing the venue into two spaces, one for retail and most of the right hand side for La Piazza.
The new family-friendly restaurant will specialize in handmade pasta as well as gluten-free options and plant-based, Everett said. The goal is to cater to tourists, military families and other people who frequent Merchants Square by offering them something with a lower price point made with fresh ingredients.
La Piazza opens April 1.
“Prices are getting higher and higher,” Everett said of the restaurants in Merchants Square. “We think this is a way we can answer that –– something other people aren’t doing.”
“It will probably be as much Italian as Blue Talon is French,” he added.
The bakery connected to the space will stay and feature “grab-and-go items” like sandwiches.
So what about Death by Chocolate dessert?
“I think we’re gonna retire that for now,” Everett said, adding the Death Bombs will still be in the bakery. “It’s done well, it’s done okay…we may see it rear it’s head.”
When asked why he did not tell customers The Trellis was closing earlier, Everett said the negotiation with the foundation was signed on Monday and he could not release anything until it was signed.
“It’s a little abrupt,” he said, adding he understands it would have been nice for customers to visit the restaurant one last time.
Everett said the negotiations took time with the holidays and coordinating people’s schedules. If the negotiations ended in January during the slower season it would have been great, he said.
“I think we had a good run at The Trellis,” Everett said. “We’re just excited for the venture. It’s good –––change is good.”
Desaulniers was not immediately available for comment.