Eric and Kevin at the 2009 Culinary AffAIR
Asheville found out during the last week that Savoy, a local favorite restaurant owned by Eric Scheffer, was closing its doors permanently on January 31. While many will miss this iconic restaurant that is the latest casualty of the current economy; there is a silver lining on the horizon. Eric will reopen the doors of the restaurant under a different name: Vinnie's Neighborhood Italian Restaurant. Vinnie's, named after a long time family friend: Vinnie Cappola, will open around Valentine's Day after some internal remodeling. Eric will offer lower priced options with entrees less than $22. and appetizers in the $5. - $9 price range. He will have a selection of pasta dishes, pizza, gyros and etc. This new concept in Asheville will be a must try for all of us.
Now that you are up to date on what will happen with Savoy, are you aware of the back story - the story of how Savoy came to be an Asheville icon? The following is reprinted from the Savoy website (which we will soon lose to be replaced by Vinnie's) and I didn't want this story to be lost to Asheville. So with the permission from Eric, here's how it happened . . .
Eric greeting guests in Savoy
(picture from Savoy website)
(picture from Savoy website)
Before moving to Asheville, Eric Scheffer was a motion picture and television commercial producer in Los Angeles for 19 years. In 1995, in midst of a fast-paced Hollywood lifestyle, Eric and his wife Heidi moved to Asheville with hopes of finding a community where they could raise a family.
After the birth of their daughter Jordan in 1999, life's priorities became even more apparent. The visionary decided to stop traveling the world to remain in Asheville with his family.
Eric Scheffer wanted to create his own restaurant - sharing his passions for food, wine and people with friends and community. He purchased Savoy from Alan Laibson and transformed the restaurant into what it has become today - a contemporary taverna with a focus on seafood and the intelligent blendings of the world's most distinctive flavors.
To produce the ultimate dining experience, Eric Scheffer set about casting a crew of great culinary talent in the kitchen and consummate service professionals in the dining room. Innovation with presentation and unwavering attention to service was a key philosophy to this endeavor.
Candlelite table in Savoy
(photo from the Savoy website)
Scheffer created a wine list of predominately Californian, South American, Italian and Spanish wines, with select appearances by French and Australian vintages. He also chose to concentrate on boutique and limited production wines - accessible in price buy with a breadth that extends to some of the world's finest producers.
Eric Scheffer's influence over Savoy's menu and wine list has been popular with the Savoy faithful and critics from far afield, alike. In addition to its wine-list accolades, Savoy was hailed "Asheville's restaurant of the moment" in a New York Times article.
Recognized for "Excellence in Service" in the Southeast by Sante Magazine, Savoy has been voted Asheville's "People's Choice" for best restaurant at the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce's Annual Culinary Showcase four straight years in a row, and consistently sweeps the Best of Show awards.
But it was not enough that the restaurant's wine list and menu were garnering rave reviews, Scheffer wanted Savoy's atmosphere and dining experience to meet his formula for the perfect meal: 1) the right mix of people, 2) fabulous food and wine, and 3) a comfortable and inviting setting.
To achieve the crowing touch of his formula, Scheffer remodeled the interior of the restaurant, personally selecting the tranquil colors, hand-hewn finishes and balanced decor, transforming the space into a modern and stylish dining room... with candlelight as its primary source of light.
Combining antique artifacts in the entryway with a new weathered-concrete topped bar, rich copper highlights and wrought-iron details throughout the room, the entire restaurant blends seamlessly into a relaxed, yet elegant setting for a casual outing, romantic evening, or even as a place for business over dinner.
With a focus on fresh seafood, pastas and prime meats, Savoy's menu features a diverse mix of flavors made from scratch daily, incorporating only the freshest ingredients into every dish.
Scheffer's knowledge of food and wine, coupled with his Hollywood entertainment background, make him the consummate host. While Savoy is a true reflection of Scheffer's style and love for entertaining, the professional culinary and service teams he has assembled are committed for the long-term, which provides consistency and a level of excellence that is rare in an industry that usually experiences repeated turnover.
Savoy's metamorphosis has been, and continues to be a true success story. The restaurant is packed every night of the week, with reservations a must. Savoy has earned its place as one of the city's premier restaurants in a remarkably short time, largely due to its commitment to present nothing but the best for guests who ultimately become part of the Savoy family.
(photo from the Savoy website)
After Southern California's 1994 earthquake and a series of crime-related experiences that were just too close to home, Scheffer and his wife set out to find a safer area in which to raise a family. Friends introduced them to Asheville, N.C., and they immediately fell in love with the city's charm.
With the birth of their daughter, Jordan, Scheffer searched his soul to identify a new career that would allow him to spend time with family and friends. Almost immediately it became clear that he would become a restaurateur. Scheffer's immense love for food and wine, coupled with the pure enjoyment he derived from entertaining, catapulted him into the business and he hasn't looked back.
Upon purchasing Savory from Alan Laibson in 2000, Scheffer began to redesign the restaurant's wine list by introducing labels from California and South America. The result was a list that Wine Spectator has called one of the country's best - four years running.
In April, 2001, Scheffer became sole proprietor of Savoy and continues to evolve and improve the Savoy experience. Just one step inside demonstrates that Scheffer has infused the place with highlights from his extensive travels and experiences at some of the world's finest restaurants. With a complete renovation of the restaurant's interior and the addition of a martini bar, he has created a sophisticated dining ambiance unrivaled in Western North Carolina.
As you can read, the story from the Savoy website was last edited during the height of its success. The recession has caused several Asheville area restaurants to close - I am thrilled that while Savoy is closing, Eric is listening to what guests are saying: value priced options, farm to table food and good service. Vinnie's will offer this. So while we say farewell old friend to Savoy, we can welcome the new kid on the block and thank Eric for offering Asheville another great opportunity.