Under the guidance of chef and owner Vira Chudasma, La Riv Wood Fired Italian Grill in Georgetown aims to marry fresh local ingredients and flavors with traditional Italian fare.

Meet the chef

Chudasma first fell in love with Italian cuisine during her travels through Italy. Journeying through Tuscany, Northern Italy, Parma and Bologna, she felt a connection to the fusion of culture, wine and food in local eateries known as trattorias.

She opened her first wine bar in 2012 in downtown Belton, Texas.

“Wine has always been my first love and then it evolved to food,” Chudasma said. "It's usually the story with a lot of chefs and sommeliers either they fall in love with one or the other because they cohesively go together.”

Though her first restaurant did not work out, Chudasma discovered a deep passion for cooking and running restaurants. In 2016, she hired Anthony Strauss as a chef. She later partnered with Strauss to develop a series of restaurants that offer a wide range of cuisines, including Italian, Indian and contemporary American.

While Chudasma and Strauss sold multiple concepts and a few smaller restaurants, they kept their larger venues. These included La Riv Wood Fire Grill and 3 West Alehouse & Grill in Temple.

The pair expanded La Riv with the Georgetown location opening on Nov. 9, which she designed herself. The restaurant is centered around an open, seamless environment to create a synergy between customers and staff, Chudasma said.

“I always felt like my restaurant should feel like people coming to dinner at my house,” Chudasma said.

On the menu

La Riv’s menu includes traditional dishes like Osso Bucco, Branzino and Meatball al Forno as well as American favorites like Truffle Mac N Cheese and wood-grilled steaks. Chudasma said favorites include Bistecca Fiorentina, a certified all Angus beef steak grilled and brushed with butter and fresh herbs; Rigatoni Bolognese and Pappardelle, which is braised short ribs, ricotta cheese, Parmigiano cheese and a red wine demi-glace on top of wide ribbon pasta, which La Riv makes fresh by hand daily.

“We have an amazing pasta lab,” Chudasma said. “At any given time, customers can watch us making homemade pasta.”

For drinks, La Riv offers a wide selection of wines from Italy, California and other European vintages.

“We do a lot of regional-focused wines," Chudasma said. "We have a lot of wines from Tuscany and Northern Italy that pair with our food, and we have some amazing California cabernets and pinots from the Russian River Valley."

Cocktails include Opening Night, a take on a margarita and La Riv’s specialty, as well as a Cucumber Martina.

Another detail

On May 22, tragedy struck two of Chudasma’s three restaurants when two tornadoes blew through Temple.

“We were serving customers at 5:30 p.m.,” Chudasma said, “When the tornado struck, we received a 15-minute warning, so we knew in time. My staff did a great job, they grabbed everybody and shoved them into the walk-in cooler. Nobody got hurt.”

La Riv Temple wasn’t so lucky. Chudasma said cars were turned upside down, windows were shattered and furniture was tossed into a corner. The rear exit was completely blocked by debris, and the building nextdoor was completely destroyed.

Her second Temple restaurant, 3 West Alehouse & Grill, sustained a caved-in roof.

What’s next

Chudasma feels that even though she has run restaurants for 10 years, she has a long way to go.

“I plan on staying in the restaurant business for the rest of my life,” Chudasma said. “I think this is what I do the best. I love doing what I do. I absolutely love my job and we are continuing to grow.”

As for La Riv, Chudasma plans to continue establishing new branches.

"It’s a neighborhood restaurant that specializes in Italian food, and you know we all love Italian food. It’s such a cool concept and I would absolutely love to see La Riv in multiple states,” Chudasma said.