On Friday September 20, The Refectory, Villanova University’s first on-campus, full-service restaurant, opened its doors to the public. It is located within The Commons, on the corner of Ithan and Lancaster Avenues and across from the Performing Arts Center.
The University and Greg Dodge from Zavino Hospitality Group partnered together to bring this new American restaurant and bar to campus.
“It’s the kind of place that you can come in, eat three or four days a week and have something different every time” General Manager David Hamm said. “It’s supposed to be something that is approachable by everybody.”
“Villanova is excited about the addition of The Refectory to our campus and proud to be partnering with Greg Dodge and Zavino Hospitality Group for the University’s first full-service restaurant,” said Ken Valosky, Villanova University Executive Vice President. “We believe this will become an iconic gathering place for all Villanovans.”
The Refectory takes its name from the term used to describe a dining room for communal meals at academic institutions and monasteries. The restaurant features a central horseshoe-shaped bar, accented with marbled tabletops and a casually elegant dining room, complete with wood-finished banquettes and cedar-stained floors. There is also a vault room for private parties and special chef’s tastings. The sizable restaurant will comfortably seat more than 150 guests, including 18 seats in the bar area. Additional décor details highlights Villanova’s history and tradition, with both artwork and other design elements.
“Inspired by memorable meals at restaurants such as The Capital Grille and Butcher & Singer, we’ve created a classic American steakhouse and grill to serve the entire Main Line community from the heart of Villanova’s lively campus,” Dodge says. “We designed this restaurant with students, alumni, faculty, families and neighbors in mind, as a place where they all can gather and linger over a great meal and delicious drinks, surrounded by friends.”
Guests can choose from a variety of salads, sandwiches, steaks and sushi, among other options. The diverse menu allows people the opportunity to experience a high-end, nice night out or a slightly more casual dinner. Hamm said having “a mix of everything” was the “aim in the cuisine.”
Along with its many tables and booths for eating, The Refectory has a full bar with a varied selection of craft beers, wines, and cocktails.
The restaurant currently serves dinner seven days a week, 4 to 10 p.m. from Sunday through Thursday and 4 to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Beginning on October 21, The Refectory will be open for lunch, Monday through Friday, in addition to its dinner hours. “We like to set everything up, make sure the execution of dinner is perfect, get everything to where we want it and then we can start adding all the facets to the restaurant to get it to what we do in all the other locations,” Hamm explained.
Hamm also told The Villanovan that once both lunch and dinner are in full swing, The Refectory will most likely add brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.
“No date has been set on that yet, but it’s in the books somewhere,” he added.
Villanova University’s Family Weekend fell on the restaurant’s second week of business. Days before the weekend began, Friday and Saturday were already booked out with reservations.
Freshman Kylie Barton ate dinner at The Refectory over the weekend and remarked, “It was nice to be able to get a really good meal with my family right on campus.”
“Now that everything is on OpenTable and articles are getting published about us, reservations are filling up quick,” Hamm said.
Students can conveniently eat at the restaurant, if they are craving a more upscale meal out, as the restaurant accepts NovaBucks as a payment method.
The staff is a blend of Villanova students and people from the area, taking on roles of bartenders, servers, hosts and bussers. Hamm said that the best and easiest way to hire is to get people right from the area and on campus.
In addition to the restaurant, Villanova also has a new cafe on campus: Parliament Espresso & Coffee Bar. Connected to the Refectory, Parliament is open every day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. ZHG and Villanova partnered with Parliament Espresso & Coffee Bar, created by Elior North America’s premier dining and events brand, Constellation Culinary Group to create the an adjacent grab-and-go café.
At Parliament, guests can choose from a small menu of prepared breakfast options, sandwiches, house-made pastries, salads and coffee drinks. Specializing in “seed to cup” offerings, Constellation sources their coffee beans from a family-run farm, La Virgen Coffee Estates, in Nicaragua.
The menu includes coffee, some breakfast options, sandwiches, pastries and salads. “This is perfect for students to come grab coffee before going to class” Hamm said, or to sit down in the cafe and do some homework or studying. It is especially convenient for individuals coming from South Campus or The Commons, since “it’s a stop on the way.”
There is bright lighting, a variety of seating options and an open floor plan. Parliament is student-friendly as most employees are Villanova students, and although meal swipes are not accepted as a payment method, NovaBucks can be used. Hamm said that the system has been working well and since the cafe’s opening, “most of our transactions have been all NovaBucks.”