Victoria Rothberg, co-owner of answer. Restaurant in Sylvan Park
Anyone asking the question, “Where is a good place to go for dinner or drinks that is fun, has great food, and feels like home?” need only look as far as Sylvan Park and answer. Anyone asking where they can find a place where, on any given night, they will spot their neighbors, their friends, and even their rabbi, should also look to answer. Indeed, the local restaurant serves up equal portions of consistently great food and welcoming community. The face behind answer. Is Victoria Rothberg who, along with her partner, chef Chris Rauci, opened the restaurant nearly six years ago.
The Denver native was raised in a Reform Jewish home and describes herself as more culturally Jewish and less religious. “I had a Bat Mitzvah, but we were not super involved,” she says. After earning her bachelor’s degree in business at New York University, Rothberg entered the management training program at Houston’s, a large hospitality company. “Houston’s is the industry standard for the restaurant business,” she says.
Following her stint at Houston’s Rothberg moved on to Atlanta, and another large company. It was there she connected with Rauci, the corporate chef, and the two became friends. As the company expanded, Rothberg and Rauci were assigned to travel the country, opening new restaurants, and training staff. Eventually, the two landed in Nashville and hatched the plan to strike out on their own.
The pair encountered many challenges and bumps as they set about building on the dream. There was push back from neighbors who worried about late night noise, traffic, and lack of parking. “It was the craziest of challenges,” says Rothberg, “I like to say, ‘ignorance is bliss,’ because we had no idea what we would encounter.” Rothberg says she and Rauci went door-to-door to meet the neighbors, they attended city council meetings, and spoke to anyone who would listen. “By the time we opened, we had met tons of people.”
The concept for the new eatery was based on Rothberg and Rauci’s shared childhood experiences. The name even sprung up out of their memories of family meals. “We really want our restaurant to provide a comfortable environment for guests to enjoy each other’s company and connect with one another – like a dinner table in your house. I think about growing up and having parents ask you question after question. The name came from the idea that hopefully our restaurant provides a place for people to connect and find some answers.”
Over the past six years, Rothberg and Rauci tested the waters with a second, short-lived, restaurant in the midtown neighborhood. “We were convinced to open a second place, and then Covid hit, so the timing was bad,” says Rothberg. But the two learned a valuable lesson. “It taught me what I want my life to be like. What the two of us are really good at, and that we should focus on that.”
What they’re good at is creating community. “If I had to pick the most Jewish influence I have, it’s bringing people together,” she says, “Nothing warms my heart more.” In fact, answer. is often the gathering spot for members of the Jewish community and most years the take home dinner offerings include their twist on Hanukkah and Passover. (Note: answer. is not kosher.) Rabbi Laurie Rice of Congregation Micah and her family are regulars, as are many of their congregants. “Victoria is a super hard worker. She is on the line, at the kitchen, serving dinners,” says Rice, “She creates community and makes you feel like family, which is most certainly a Jewish value.”
Rothberg’s work ethic led her to add another title to her name: realtor. “I was thinking about other ways to grow my income and became friendly with someone who comes into the restaurant who is a realtor,” she says. That friend is Christie Wilson, owner/broker of The Wilson Group. “I met Victoria when she was going door to door in Sylvan Park to gain support for the restaurant. Then I got to know her more as a patron of answer.,” says Wilson. “She is very smart, and we talked real estate. But I really knew she was interested when she emailed me one day asking about the process of getting into the business.”
Wilson describes Rothberg as, “Impressive. Driven. Determined. Fearless. And she is also very nice.” Rothberg says in addition to the additional income, she wants to be someone a homeowner will trust. And according to Wilson, that is exactly how clients feel. “She makes newcomers feel welcome and included in our community. She helps current residents find their next chapter in their home and community.”
There is that word again: community. According to Wilson, Rothberg’s contribution to Nashville cannot be overstated. “Being involved in her successful restaurant business and her successful real estate business is about as community minded an entrepreneur could be.”
And whether she is showing property to prospective homeowners, or greeting guests at the door of the restaurant, Rothberg’s entrepreneurial spirit shines through. Wilson says, “She has a way with people, and she is very organized, together, and gets things done by listening to the customer’s needs, being efficient and organized. She also is always asking questions and has a desire to grow, like all good entrepreneurs.”
As for the future, Rothberg says she plans to stay the course in a volatile industry. “It’s never ending. Chris and I are here every day. We are always hiring and training new people,” she says, “And I genuinely like being here. I love when the place is buzzing, and people are having a good time.”
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