The owners of Cedar Door open Italian eatery La Volpe in downtown Austin.
By Chantal Rice, Exterior photos by James Bruce, Food pictures courtesy of The Velox Standard
A sultry Italian fox has settled into a cozy den downtown. But don’t let her Southern European flair fool you; she’s a local to the core. In a cunning move that may have surprised longtime lovers of decades-old happy-hour hot spot Cedar Door Patio Bar and Grill, Owners Heather and Steve Potts opened an upscale yet welcoming Italian eatery right next door, in a coveted Central Business District space near Second and Brazos streets that was previously the bar and grill’s parking lot.
La Volpe, Italian for “the fox,” is full of sly and subtle surprises. Smartly styled by Jennifer Long, a film and set designer by trade, La Volpe radiates the kind of elegant sophistication expected of a shiny new downtown restaurant, but also includes cheery, lighthearted elements that enhance the overall delightfulness of the space. From the cozy dining nooks and plush bar-table seating to the lush outdoor courtyard, exposed brick and beams, and strategically placed curated vintage curios, La Volpe beams with cosmopolitan charm.
“I loved the idea of breaking from the traditional rules of interior design and creating something unexpected and playful like a movie set,” Heather Potts says, noting even the lighting “emulates the face of a fox, which is a clever, subliminal touch to the design.”
Also surprising are La Volpe’s food and beverage menus. Inspired by his upbringing in the Carolinas, Executive Chef Will Eason infuses the flavors of his Southern background into traditional Italian dishes, creating a unique and winning menu that shines with marvelous specialties like blue-crab risotto, lasagna Bolognese, rack of lamb and grilled shrimp served atop a bed of perfectly garlic-forward linguini. Even the small plates—particularly the charred okra, the fried baby artichoke with crema, the delicate scallop crudo and the graham-cracker-crusted fried calamari—speak volumes in their discernable flavor. And throughout the menu, from the cheese and charcuterie boards to the fresh salads, rib-eye steak, grilled meats and bright vegetable sides, even down to the olive oil served with the house-made focaccia bread, La Volpe strives to feature locally sourced ingredients from some of Central Texas’ most prized food vendors.
“Partnering with local farmers and purveyors was an easy and apparent choice on many levels,” Heather Potts says. “Working with small farmers promotes overall well-being for both the community and the environment…[and]allows us to incorporate the freshest ingredients as part of our restaurant recipes.”
In addition to the dazzling happy-hour, dinner and dessert menus (Pastry Chef Amanda Neber’s sweet-tea tiramisu is a definite must-try dish.), La Volpe’s beverage menu, developed by bar manager Kristen Kleypas (one of many women helming the restaurant) is particularly special. After months of research and experimentation, Kleypas created an assortment of herbaceous craft cocktails that pair superbly with Eason’s dishes.
And speaking of pairing, La Volpe offers one of the most unique wine-pairing menus in town. Abandon any ideas of conventional wine-pairing stereotypes. Here, the wine, which does indeed complement the food offerings, is paired with other wine. From delicate whites to full-bodied reds, the wine-pairing menu, which Heather Potts notes has been a huge hit with La Volpe guests, features eight different pairs of Texas wines coupled with their Italian varietal counterparts, allowing diners to sample the differences and similarities, and each wine’s distinctive synergy with the food.
Whether it’s for an after-work happy hour, a special-occasion dinner or a post-show glass of wine with dessert, La Volpe offers a new take on the classic Italian restaurant in Austin, one that (if the long-standing success of its sister bar and grill is any indication) is here to stay.
“While Austin has its fair share of Italian-inspired eateries, La Volpe makes a real effort to stay true to its roots of being local. The restaurant is intimate and cozy, with a strong focus on the guest experience,” Heather Potts says. “Cedar Door is beloved for being Austin’s neighborhood spot. We hope to create the same endearments for La Volpe, where people feel welcomed by staff hospitality, enjoying locally curated dishes and craft beverages that are delightful and unexpected.”