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Oct 21, 2017
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Posts Tagged ‘Porano Pasta’

Best New Restaurants: No. 6 – Porano Pasta

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened:St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

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{ ‘nduja pizza }

Porano Pasta is the fast-casual restaurant we have been waiting for. It took Gerard Craft, the chef mind behind Niche Food Group, to combine affordability and speed with such quality ingredients and consistently well-executed food.

Walk in and notice the restaurant’s towering ceilings and wall-sized illustrations of Italian and St. Louis landmarks. Sunshine pours in through floor-to-ceiling windows and upbeat pop music fills the air (Ace of Base, anyone?).

Queue up to build your bowl from a variety of starches, sauces, proteins and toppings. The possibilities are endless, but we’re loyal to a combination we call the Suzie Bowl (That’s Suzie Craft, marketing director of Niche Food Group.): a half-kale, half-farro base, anchovy dressing, spicy tofu, green olives, crispy garlic, herbs and a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey. Spicy and sweet with briny bites, fresh crunch and pops of intense garlic and herbs – it’s been hard to order anything else since she suggested it on opening day.

While such healthy options are available, comfort combinations should also be indulged in, like a strozzapreti pasta bowl with Alfredo sauce, grilled chicken, herbs and toasted almonds. It’s a version of fettuccine Alfredo also known as our Achilles’ heel. Or go for executive chef Michael Petres’ new Detroit-style pizza: square focaccia-like dough with edge-to-edge cheese that bubbles at the brink into a salty, crackling border. Pair that with a Negroni slushie, and you’re in for a good night.

Niche Food Group took a national, fast-casual business model and made it work. Will it ever be a franchise? The possibilities, like their bowls, seem endless.

 

Related Content

Lunch Rush: Porano Pasta

• Hit List: 4 new must-try restaurants in February

• Sneak Peek: Porano Pasta on Washington Avenue

The Scoop: Gerard Craft to open fifth restaurant downtown 

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Readers’ Choice 2016: Favorite Restaurateurs

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

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{Clockwise from bottom, Gerard Craft, Dave Bailey, Kevin Nashan, Nick Luedde}

The menus have been printed, revised, reprinted, revised … and reprinted again. The staff has been trained forward and backward. The silverware has been polished until it’s too shiny to behold. Friends and family have flown in for the soft opening with compliments fit for the pope/Shakespeare/Beyoncé of restaurant owners. But when the restaurant finally opens to the public, what’s going through a restaurateur’s mind?

 

Winner: Gerard Craft
Owner, Niche Food Group (Brasserie by Niche, Pastaria, Porano Pasta, Sardella, Taste)

“I think my opening of Niche was way different from any opening you will see today. In 2005, social media wasn’t really a thing. People finding out about new things were not overnight happenings. Now you open a restaurant and a million people line up out your door — definitely not with Niche. No one knew who we were. It was me, one other cook and my pastry chef who I basically kidnapped. We opened to 12 customers, and I think six of those were from the bar across the street, who I think I convinced to come over if I would feed them for free. …

“I was 25. My wife was pregnant. I was doing something a little bit different, which certainly didn’t make it easier. I would work from 8 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. every day. It was intense – a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress. … It was this dream, but also so much reality. And I physically remember when we finally got reviewed — (former St. Louis Post-Dispatch critic) Joe Bonwich just gave us this love letter. After, I looked up and … there were so many people, we didn’t know what to do. I almost threw up. I was like, ‘Oh shit, I have to cook for all these people!’”

 

2nd: Nick Luedde
Co-owner, The Libertine

“We had been in the press and had such a highly anticipated opening. … Ten minutes prior to opening — the staff looks great, and we had 200 people on the books — but I’m looking at my wife (Audra Luedde), afraid no one was going to show up. We had so much money invested. This was everything. … It all comes down to whom you’ve hired. If those people are people you actually want to have a drink with, the rest takes care of itself.”

 

3rd: Kevin Nashan
Chef-owner, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab and Sidney Street Cafe

“Obviously you want to throw up in your mouth. It’s such a big rollercoaster. You just hope people come and are so grateful when they do. It takes a village — everyone contributes to your success. … There are so many variables on opening day. The system you have sometimes completely changes during service, after service.”

 

Honorable mention: Dave Bailey
Owner, Baileys’ Restaurants (Baileys’ Chocolate Bar; Baileys’ Range; Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar; Rooster; Shift, Test Kitchen & Takeout; Small Batch; The Fifth Wheel)

“My seven stages of opening a restaurant for the first time:

Electric shock: Woke up early that sunny morning with no alarm clock with a surge through my body and the immediate thought, ‘I am opening a restaurant today! You’ve been working on this day and night, sleeping two hours at a time on top of the bar. It’s actually real now. Go go go!’

A burning sensation in the back of the head and neck: Is there enough time to get everything done? … What did I forget? Will anyone come? Will too many people come? Why am I doing this on a Friday? Why didn’t I do a soft opening?

Accelerated breathing and hypersensitivity to sound and touch: Almost there; we’re looking pretty good; it’s all about to happen; this is going to be amazing!

Calmness and solidarity of purpose: Ready. Everything looks right; everything feels right; everyone is in position.

Panic and self doubt: Why wasn’t there a line at the door? Is anyone going to come? Was this a terrible idea in the first place? I can’t afford for this not to work.

Total absorption in work and an extremely narrowed focus: Wow, it’s really busy. Everyone seems happy. We are almost keeping up; we need to go faster; we need to go much faster. Touch more tables … make them happy no matter what.

Complete relief and a feeling of having learned and grown more in hours than in the past several years: It worked. We built it, and they came. We are going to do an even better job tomorrow.”

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

Trendwatch: What’s on our plate, in our glasses and at the top of our wish lists now (Part 1)

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

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1. Sweet Heat: Golden honey infused with chile peppers makes for a fiery topping around town. Hot spiced honey is drizzled over a mountain of rich butternut squash on toast at Cleveland-Heath, while the crew at Pastaria adds the spicy nectar to balance its ’nduja pie. Likewise, chef Cary McDowell was spotted drizzling this sticky treat atop Pi’s Burning Man pizza. Top your DIY creation with Mike’s Hot Honey at Porano Pasta or pick up a bottle at Larder & Cupboard in Maplewood.

 

2. Carbonara Change Up: Chefs are putting their stamps on this classic Roman dish. Carbonara traveled south of the Mason-Dixon line at Juniper, where country ham stepped in for bacon. Farmhaus has gilded the creamy lily with lobster and a butter-poached farm egg, while Eleven Eleven Mississippi opts for roasted red pepper fettuccine and grilled chicken. The Libertine combines two Italian favorites (cacio e pepe and carbonara) and adds crispy pork belly; Small Batch goes the vegetarian route with bacon-esque smoked mushrooms, roasted cauliflower and snap peas; and Element chef Josh Charles breaks the carbonara mold completely with celery root-black pepper tortellini, sous vide egg yolk and pancetta.

 

3. Hooked on Whole Fish: Forget fillets; St. Louis is looking whole fish square in the eye. Público and Olive & Oak encourage sharing with a rotating whole fish special. Boundary offers whole fried snapper with Vietnamese salad, or you can fuse those Vietnamese flavors with Peruvian notes at Copper Pig when you order the fried red snapper with sofrito rice, maduros and a chile-tamarind sauce. Dig into herb-stuffed and grilled pompano at Lona’s Lil Eats, then dive in at Chaparritos with Mexican mojarra, whole fried tilapia served with rice, beans and tomatoes.

-photo by Greg Rannells

 

Budget Crunch: 10 delicious dishes and sweet deals to try now

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

It’s time for Budget Crunch, wherein intrepid reporter Holly Fann offers 10 tips on delicious menu items and sweet deals happening now. Got $10 and some change? Grab a friend and sample, split and stuff yourselves with these steals.

 

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1. Take your lunch cravings to Salume Beddu for The Beast, a beautiful mess of a sandwich featuring house-made fiama salsiccia, peporanata and grain mustard on crusty bread. Savory, rich and loaded with tender sweet peppers, this sammy will only set you back $8.50, leaving you enough cash to add a San Pellegrino to wash it all down.

2. Don’t let U City Grill’s gruff appearance keep you from ordering a primo bowl of bimbimbap. A Korean dish literally meaning “mixed rice,” it is a bowl filed with bulgogi beef, vegetables, hot sauce and topped with a fried egg. For only $6, you’ll get to enjoy some of the tastiest Korean fare in St. Louis.

 

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3. Cleveland-Heath offers its full menu at lunch and dinner, allowing you to order the Okonomiyake or Japanese Pancake whenever your heart desires. The traditional Japanese street food receives a lavish upgrade, topped with wild Gulf shrimp, bacon, cabbage, Kewpie mayo, barbecue sauce and bonito flakes for $9.

4. The gelato pops at the new fast-casual Italian eatery Porano Pasta are not the dull popsicles of your youth. These velvety pops come in flavors like mango, vanilla bean, Askinosie chocolate and salted caramel. At only $3 a pop(!), these fun treats are a steal.

 

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5. Vegetarians can feast on the Mediterranean Grain Salad at Winslow’s Home completely guilt free. The satisfying salad is chock-full of bulghur, farro, cucumber, peppers, olives, capers, feta, parsley, lemon, hummus and topped with a crispy falafel. The half size is generous and runs $7, but you can order an even heartier full order for $10.

6. At Bar Les Freres you can dine on four warm potato blinis dressed with creme fraiche and a handsome portion of caviar, all served on fine bone china for a mere $10. Surrounded by the dim glow of candles, attentive staff and overstuffed settees, you’ll feel like royalty.

 

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7. The first thing you see when you enter Royal Chinese BBQ is the open kitchen window displaying golden, crisp-skinned ducks and hunks of glistening cherry-red pork. Order the Honey Roasted Pork and a cook will go to the window, retrieve the slow-cooked and lacquered pork from the hook and slice up a portion for you. The caramelized, sticky goodness is served with steamed white rice for just $9.50 an order.

8. Sometimes over-the-top flavor and a little indulgence is exactly what you need. Fulfill both with the Pat Say Jack Burger from The Kitchen Sink. Grilled andouille, roasted pork loin, jalapeno bacon, Swiss and pepper jack cheese, fried pickles and fried banana peppers struggle to stay atop the toasty bun. Served with house chips, this mega meal will set you back an even ten spot.

 

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9. Cocktails at Water Street Cafe are intriguing combinations of liquors, spirits, fruits and sometimes, vegetables. The $10 Sweet Pea Cocktail uses green tea-infused vodka, local Lion’s Tooth dandelion liquor, lemon and muddled snap peas and mint for a refreshing, vegetal sipper.

10. For a great happy hour snack for two, try the Imam Baylidi at Olio. A Middle Eastern dish of charred eggplant, yogurt and pomegranate molasses, the creamy dip is served with slices of crusty bread. At $10, its bright, vibrant flavor will satiate and satisfy early evening munchies.

 

-photos by Holly Fann 

 

Hit List: 4 new must-try restaurants in February

Monday, February 1st, 2016

 

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1. Porano Pasta: 634 Washington Ave., St. Louis, 314.833.6414, poranopasta.com

After nearly a year of anticipation, James Beard Award-winning chef Gerard Craft opened doors at Porano Pasta, his first fast-casual venture and fifth restaurant. Step up to the counter in the bright, two-story space and mix and match from a plethora of bases like organic farro or house-made semolina pasta, 11 sauces from sugo to pumpkin seed and lime pesto, proteins including tender beef meatballs and slow-roasted pork or vegetables and toppings like crispy garlic and Pecorino Romano cheese. In additional to bowls, pick up an order of custom Companion foccacia bread with rotating toppings or a deep-fried Panzo – dough stuffed with anything from marinara and gooey mozzarella to meatballs and harissa, depending on the day’s special. And be sure to save room for a salted caramel gelato pop or a boozy frozen Negroni for dessert.

 

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2. Nami Ramen: 46 N. Central Ave., Clayton, 314.833.6264, namiramen.com

Ramen has made its way to Clayton with stylish, fast-casual Nami Ramen. Co-owner Jason Jan was a passionate ramen home cook before spending two months researching in Yokohama, Japan. Now Nami offers 10 styles of ramen in a cool, 50-seat space. Grab a seat at the bar overlooking the kitchen and snack on pan-fried gyoza filled with ground pork and vegetables or a tender pork belly steamed bun with house-made sweet soy glaze. Nami’s savory, satisfying signature tonkotsu ramen features tender char sui pork, wood-ear mushrooms and a marinated egg with a creamy yolk. Don’t fear the spice warning on the jigoku ramen either. Miso broth topped with ground pork and corn is amped up with a paste of tomatoes, chiles and shallots. This bowl is more flavorful than fiery, and it makes a tasty introduction to the classic Japanese comfort food.

 

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3. Moya Grill: 567A Melville Ave., University City, 314.833.6621, moyastl.com

The owners of South Grand’s Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant are adding to the fast-casual trend with their new concept, Moya Grill in University City. The small, contemporary space in The Loop offers a variety of wot (stew) and tibs (grilled) dishes with chicken, beef and a good number of vegetarian options. Start with the crispy sambusas – both the lentil and beef versions are worth a try. Meat lovers should order the beef tibs and appreciate the deep heat of the house berbere spice blend. For a veg-friendly option, the mixed vegetable wot features a satisfying, boldly spiced mix of cabbage, potato and carrot. Opt for the traditional, tangy injera instead of rice and enjoy the chance to eat with your hands, tearing off pieces of the spongy flatbread and wrapping each bite of tibs and wot.

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 4. Midtown Sushi & Ramen: 3647 Forest Park Ave., St. Louis, 314.328.2452, midtown-sushi.com 

Sushi rises again in Midtown. After the short-lived Flying Rolls shuttered last year, Midtown Sushi & Ramen took its place, offering everything from sushi rolls to ramen bowls. Start your meal with an appetizer of spicy kare-age, bite-sized pieces of fried chicken doused in a sweet-spicy house sauce and sprinkled with sesame. Share a sushi roll or two, like the well-composed Dragon Roll, featuring crab salad, cucumber and avocado topped with eel, eel sauce and threads of fried sweet potato, a light departure from the usual tempura crumbs. Complete your meal with a bowl of hakata ramen, featuring a custardy egg and smoked pork belly (thanks to neighbor Dixon’s Smokehouse) all swimming in a rich pork broth with all the ramen fixings.

-Porano photo by Greg Rannells, all others by Michelle Volansky 

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…..

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

From sneak peeks of one of the year’s most anticipated restaurants to the shuttering of downtown institutions, here’s everything that went down this week in the STL food scene, in case you missed it.

 

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1. After nearly a year of anticipation, chef-owner Gerard Craft will open Porano Pasta, his new fast-casual concept, Tuesday, Jan. 26, and Sauce got the Sneak Peek of this new downtown restaurant.

2. The dining and restaurant community will bid farewell to a downtown institution when Mike Shannon’s Steaks & Seafood turns off the lights Jan. 30 after 30 years in business.

 

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3. After nine years operating Meskerem Ethiopian Restaurant, co-owners Henok Gerbi and Alsede Wondem launched their second eatery, Moya, a fast-casual Ethiopian concept.

4. The latest restaurant to close up shop in downtown St. Louis is Harry’s Restaurant and Bar. After 23 years, Harry’s will switch off the burners for good on Saturday, Jan. 30.

 

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5. It’s shaping up to be a busy year for 4 Hands Brewing Co., as the brewery announced plans Jan. 21 to increase production and dip its toe into the spirits market.

6. Hacienda Mexican Restaurant, the 45-year-old Rock Hill institution, is stepping into the world of fast-casual this spring with Wet Burrito in Clayton at 7810 Forsyth Blvd.

 

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7. On Wednesday, Jan. 20, a car carrying three passengers crashed through a window of Sister Cities Cajun & BBQ at 4144 S. Grand Blvd. Find out what their plans are next.

8. Mark Twain Brewing traveled down the Mississippi River to make its debut in St. Louis this week. Find out where to find this Hannibal-based brewery in The Lou.

 

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9. Warm up this weekend with St. Louis classic braised in a smoky Mexican mole. It’s time for a Weekend Project.

 

 

Sneak Peek: Porano Pasta on Washington Avenue

Thursday, January 21st, 2016

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After nearly a year of anticipation, chef-owner Gerard Craft will open Porano Pasta, his new fast-casual concept, Tuesday, Jan. 26. As The Scoop reported last February, this is the James Beard Award winner’s fifth restaurant, and it is located in a massive two-story space at 634 Washington Ave., downtown in the Mercantile Exchange. Executive chef Michael Petres, former executive chef at Pastaria, will oversee day-to-day operations.

Customers will step up to the counter and build their own bowls from a selection of bases, sauces, proteins or vegetables and toppings. They can start with house-made organic semolina pasta, organic farro, romaine and kale lettuce or Italian rice, then add one of 11 house-made sauces including everything from a classic pomodoro to pumpkin seed and lime pesto.

Porano features hormone- and antibiotic-free meat such as slow-roasted pork, beef meatballs and grilled chicken. Veg-friendly offerings like spicy tofu or seasonable vegetables (currently butternut squash or Brussels sprouts) are also available. In additional to bowls, Craft and Petres have created a daily focaccia dish using Companion bread and Panzos, fried dough pockets stuffed with rotating fillings.

The large beverage menu includes a frozen Negroni and a nonalcoholic strawberry-lime slush inspired by Italian granitas. White and red house Scarpetta wines on tap are available, as well as bottled and canned brews, a house draft beer brewed by The Civil Life and several Excel sodas.

In addition to quick, custom meals, Craft said he wants to focus on how he can source locally and responsibly as a fast-casual concept. “We want to rework the way the fast-food industry thinks about the supply chain,” Craft said. To that end, Porano recently purchased whole hogs to break down in-house and use for its porchetta, Sunday sugo sauce and specials. Craft aims to source from many of his current vendors that supply other Niche Food Group restaurants, including Todd Geisert Farms, Newman Farms, Double Star Farm and Berger Bluff farms.

Porano will be open Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., though it will operate on limited hours to start. Here’s a sneak peek at what to expect when doors open Tuesday at Porano Pasta:

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky 

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