Vanessa Ziembroski, owner of the Opera House, Moundale Manor and more, keeps herself busy with her newest venture, Loma’s at the Opera House.
Loma’s, an homage to the name of the original sewing factory once housed in the building, was Ziembroski’s most recent commercial design project.
Ziembroski said she and her husband Edward purchased the building in 2003 and have wanted to establish a restaurant since the beginning.
Ziembroski has previous restaurant and catering experience by working with her brother, Daniel, who had catered for several high-end brands and large companies. She has also helped manage catering at the Opera House for several years.
Before Ziembroski purchased the building — built in the 1870s — parts of it had been a sewing factory. When she and her husband began gutting the place, she saw its potential for something more.
Loma’s officially began coming together in early 2017, when Ziembroski said the time finally felt right.
Ziembroski worked with Melody Farris-Jackson, LEED AP, and Matthew Brooks, AIA the principal architect for Nomi, during the process of combining what used to be former storefronts on the first floor of the Opera House building.
Ziembroski said Brooks and Farris-Jackson offered their expertise in structural design and layout while allowing her to put her heart into the look of the restaurant.
Vanessa and Edward did the majority of the construction work themselves while using local subcontractors for other aspects of the project.
After months of hard work, they completed the restaurant in September 2018.
Ziembroski juggled the construction project all while developing a menu, building a staff and purchasing all of the equipment necessary to launch a full-service restaurant.
In October 2018, the restaurant opened for two weeks for family and friends as they allowed guests to sample a test menu.
Ziembroski finalized the details for an opening menu, and the restaurant opened its doors to the public in November in time for the holiday season, finally bringing the Ziembroski’s 20-year-old dream to life.
“I feel very happy,” Ziembroski said.
Loma’s features bar seating, casual dining, formal dining and private dining options.
A first-floor art gallery is also available for viewing as well as private parties.
The total seating capacity, including the gallery, is about 270 guests — about 196 for the actual restaurant.
Customers can watch a University of Kentucky game and enjoy pub-style appetizers or experience the romantic elegance of table seating, white tablecloth and all, she said.
Eventually, Ziembroski said she would bring some more elements from the sewing factory into the restaurant.
Ziembroski was born in West Virginia but grew up on the eastern shore of Maryland. Edward was born and raised in Connecticut. The couple moved to Winchester in 1998.
Since then, they have worked on several projects in the community including Moundale Manor. So they have a long history of developing properties and bringing their vision to life.
Many of the features of Loma’s, an 8,000-square-foot space, pay homage to Winchester with its art from local artists, a fireplace from Mason’s and more.
Over the years, Ziembroski’s vision for her restaurant space has changed. She once thought of going for a rustic, bourbon-barrel inspired vibe. She considered a distillery. But ultimately, Loma’s evolved into what it is today: an affordable yet refined farm-to-table concept with Nouveau American-inspired cuisine.
The executive chef is Shannon Brady and sous chef is Codie Shoemaker. Destiny Spencer is the general manager.
“We like to put some contemporary spin on some old-time favorites with a focus on superior products,” she said.
Current menu favorites include house-fried pork rinds, pub wings, Loma’s chicken salad, iceberg wedge salad, glazed Brussels sprouts, pork belly tacos, beer cheese burger and more.
Ziembroski said Winchester has a limited selection of restaurants, so she wanted to ensure Loma’s was welcoming to everyone.
“I think the restaurants that we have here in town are all very different,” Ziembroski said. “And so I think it adds to the mix.”
Meal prices may range from $11 to $31 with a selection of more affordable items and higher-end items. Ziembroski said Loma’s offers a variety of menu options as seasons change and products become available.
Loma’s is preparing to launch its summer menu, Ziembroski said.
“We asked people for recommendations,” she said. “ … So we’re listening to our clients and customers … but I was so pleasantly surprised to find out that a lot of things they wanted, we had that intention of putting (on the menu).”
She said she would also like to add more vegan and vegetarian options as well as sustainable seafood choices to the summer menu.
“People want to see that I think,” Ziembroski said. “People who aren’t even vegetarian, just who are focusing on healthy eating.”
One healthy option Ziembroski is adding is “Perry’s Powerhouse Salad,” which will contain ingredients approved by the Olympic Dietary Commission, as Perry Williams, the salad’s namesake, owns an Olympic lifting gym, Strength Fix, on Main Street.
Having grown up on the Chesapeake Bay, Ziembroski developed an appreciation for fresh seafood, and that will show in the summer menu.
Ziembroski said she is looking forward to having her cream of crab soup and her signature Maryland crab soup for guests to enjoy.
Another dish Ziembroski is looking forward to adding is her recipe for stuffed shrimp, which she developed for her
brother-in-law, a New York restaurateur, as a way to celebrate his birthday. Ziembroski created this recipe 30 years ago, and she continues to offer it to clients with a positive reception, she said.
Loma’s also added outdoor patio seating and is looking into delivering food to businesses.
Ziembroski said she is excited about the distillery, brewery and other dining options coming into downtown as well as the strong resurgence of Leeds Center for the Arts. She said she is happy Loma’s is a part of that and everyone has been supportive.
“The more we have to offer,” she said, “the greater number of people will be drawn into our Main Street business district.” §