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Feb 23, 2018
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The Scoop: Duff’s in the CWE to become Italian gastropub by “crazy kitchen” guys Baldanza and Haifley

June 10th 10:06am, 2013

{Expect to find twists on classic pasta dishes at Cucina Pazzo.}

Karen Duffy took a chance when she opened Duff’s in the Central West End back in 1972. The risk paid off and the restaurant, located at 392 N. Euclid Ave., has been a vital part of the neighborhood for more than 40 years. Last December, regulars sighed heavily when Duffy announced that she was selling the business, and it will be a bittersweet moment when doors close at Duff’s on June 23. But the pending closure isn’t met entirely with tears, because another restaurant is already slated to fill the space.

As St. Louis Magazine’s George Mahe reported, restaurateur Brant Baldanza, along with his partners behind The Tavern Kitchen & Bar, The Corner Pub & Grill and The Shack, will be taking over the space with plans to open an Italian gastropub called Cucina Pazzo.

Cucina Pazzo translates to “crazy kitchen.” At the helm will be Justin Haifley, executive chef at The Tavern and the mind behind the menu at The Shack. “He’ll have traditional pastas and paninis but with a huge Justin Haifley twist,” said Baldanza. “Not to be cliché, but Justin is always about ‘expect the unexpected,’” he added, noting that dishes at Cucina Pazzo will be spins on classics found throughout various regions in Italy and that the menu will change in accordance with the seasons. Baldanza also expressed his enthusiasm that Haifley is “locked in for the next five years with this restaurant.” “A lot of people knocked on Justin’s door” after his nomination this year for Food & Wine’s magazine’s People’s Best Chef: Midwest, explained Baldanza. “He decided to stay and do another restaurant in St. Louis.”

As for the space, Baldanza wants “to keep the place as nostalgic as possible,” although it will see numerous changes. A portion of the current dining area at Duff’s will be transformed into an open kitchen similar to that at The Tavern with hopes of achieving the same “central focus and energy.” The wood floor and oak wainscot in the current bar area at Duff’s will remain, while a side room will be transformed into a dining section bedecked in “New York flair,” complete with dark wood and leather booths. Floor-to-ceiling windows will replace the building’s current façade walls, bringing in bright, natural light. “We’ll open the front of the building as much as possible – while keeping up code with the Central West End – to what the original was,” said Baldanza. Construction is expected to begin in mid-July, with an opening targeted for late October or early November.



By Ligaya Figueras

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