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Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Osborne’

Best New Restaurants: No. 1 – Sardella

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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{ from left, executive chef Nick Blue, chef-owner Gerard Craft and general manager Chris Kelling } 

 

You don’t close the restaurant that just won you a James Beard Award – unless you’re Gerard Craft. He closed Niche one year after winning Best Chef: Midwest. St. Louis expects new concepts from Craft, but it was another thing entirely to eliminate his first restaurant and the namesake of Niche Food Group to try something new. Sardella had a lot to live up to.

So what kind of place is Sardella? “That’s the toughest question,” Craft said. “I think it’s our restaurant … [We’re] getting to have fun, getting to cook the food we want to cook.” It’s a place of freedom – even improvisation – for a team nationally famous for precision and adherence to Niche’s restrictive Missouri-only sourcing.

Sardella’s concept is more suggestion than mandate: food shaped by Italy, rather than Italian food. That may seem like semantics, but the freedom is in the phrasing. “It’s a slight direction,” Craft said. “Sardella is influenced by Italy, but it’s not straight Italian. Honestly, it would confuse many Italians. My greatest example is the green bean dish. It’s green beans on garam and roasted garlic custard with crispy garlic and Calabrian chile vinaigrette. It’s a dish that’s so Italian ingredient-wise, and so un-Italian any other way. When you eat it, it feels Southeast Asian.”

Italian, Southeast Asian, Missourian – one bite of this shockingly rich and savory vegetable small plate and you won’t care how it got here. Green beans (or the charred squash version now on the menu) never tasted so good. Same goes for the thinly sliced bavette steak: We don’t care why it’s topped with miso butter, we’re just glad that it is. Or the marinated sunchoke with a tender, acidic base joined by rich prosciutto and a kick of jalapeno – don’t ask questions, just eat. In this dance of Italian plates moving to various Asian, African or Mexican beats, diners have as much fun as the kitchen.

 

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{ miso-ricotta ravioli with orange, pepitas, brown butter and tarragon }

 

“At Niche, we were the special occasion restaurant, the nicest restaurant in town,” said general manager Chris Kelling. “But here, we just want to be the most fun.”

Even on a Monday night, the energy is high. The music is louder, the drinks better, the clientele hipper. It’s too lively to feel formal. It feels cool.

Talk to any Niche veteran on Sardella’s team, and you can see that relief, like loosening one’s tie at the end of a long day (literally – servers now wear black jeans and chambray shirts). The whole space has undergone a parallel stylish, casual makeover. The long wood bar is flanked by bookshelves. Servers weave between closer, smaller tables. The once cavernous ceiling was lowered over a wall-length butter-soft leather banquette. There are hanging plants, sardine tins and a general sense of lightness: blond wood, white walls, smiling faces.

With Craft, executive chef Nick Blue and executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn in the kitchen we expected the food to impress, but it’s the atmosphere, the posture of Sardella that’s most striking. This is a restaurant full of people doing what they love in the way they want to do it.

“It sounds cliche, but I get to throw a party seven nights a week,” Kelling said. “I enjoy doing it. I feel that energy transfers to the team, to the guest, and it’s all reciprocal.”

We feel it, too. The intimidation of fine-dining service (that sense of attempting a dance to which many don’t know the steps) is gone from Sardella, with no great loss. But anyone who’s ever hosted knows how hard it is to make a party look this effortless.

“We don’t have rules for rules’ sake, because then it stops being a service,” Kelling said. “Everything is about the flow for the guest. It’s got to be smooth and have precision. … If we just create a platform for the guest to enjoy themselves, then we do a good job.”

This is what Sardella is about: a good time. Craft has been around long enough to know that when the kitchen isn’t having fun, no one is. “That’s Gerard’s strength: He cares. He listens to feedback,” Kelling said. “If you don’t care – if you’re not listening – then the emperor has no clothes.”

We’re happy to report Craft is resplendently dressed at Sardella. We went to Niche when we wanted to feel fancy. We go to Sardella when we want to have fun – as often as we can.

 

More about Sardella

• Sneak Peek: Sardella in Clayton

• What I Do: Nick Blue of Sardella

• The Scoop: Gerard Craft to close Niche, Sardella to open

Readers Choice 2015: Chef of the Year – Gerard Craft

The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award

Photo by Greg Rannells

Sneak Peek: Sardella in Clayton

Tuesday, November 1st, 2016

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Get ready, St. Louis. After five months of anticipation, Sardella will open doors for its first dinner service tomorrow, Nov. 2, pending final inspections today. Niche Food Group chef-owner Gerard Craft said Sardella will start with dinner tomorrow and then breakfast service, which will debut Thursday, Nov. 3.

Sardella moves into the former home of Niche, Craft’s flagship restaurant, which he closed in June after 11 years. The announcement came as a surprise to many; Craft had just won the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef: Midwest in 2015 for his work at the fine dining restaurant.

Niche was lauded for its focus on highly regional, Missouri-sourced cuisine. At Sardella, Craft casts off the hyper-local limitations in favor of Italian-inspired dishes. While local purveyors are still widely used, Sardella’s dishes feature previously prohibited ingredients like seafood, lemons and chocolate. “I just want people to have fun again,” Craft said. “I want a noisy restaurant with people having fun.”

Craft also traded in Niche’s white tablecloths and subdued fine-dining demeanor for warm white walls, light wood, intricate blue-and-white tile work and cheery golden-yellow banquette seating. And the bar now seats eight and runs half the length of the restaurant, allowing for a much larger beverage program than Niche’s. One thing that hasn’t changed is the open kitchen visible through the pass, where customers can watch the busy crew under the direction of executive chef Nick Blue and executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn.

 

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{Sardella executive chef Nick Blue, executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn and Niche Food Group chef-owner Gerard Craft}

Sardella will offer breakfast and dinner service, with lunch to follow a few weeks later. Craft said he wanted to bridge the gap between heavy American breakfast (think pancakes and eggs or biscuits and gravy) and unhealthy fast-food options. Sardella will offer a European-style breakfast service with pastries and a coffee program (Sardella’s baristas trained under Sump Coffee owner Scott Carey.). Customers can snack on a cinnamon roll and espresso at the bar, grab a vegan yogurt parfait to go or snag a seat for a smoked salmon English muffin or avocado toast.

Dinner service will feature more than a dozen shareable small plates, a handful of pastas and four heartier meat entrees. “The way (my wife Suzie Craft and I) like to eat these days is having a few small plates,” he said, citing favorite menu items like arugula salad, gnocco fritto and warm dinner rolls (“like crack”).

Sardella’s bar program will be far more expansive than Niche’s offerings. Under the guidance of general manager and beverage director Chris Kelling, the bar will offer six draft beers and a handful of large-format bottled options. Niche Food Group veterans like David Greteman and Kyle Mathis have designed the house cocktail list, and Kelling himself oversaw the wine selection, which Craft described as fun, approachable and “not so fussy.”

Sardella will be open for breakfast Monday to Friday from 7 to 11 a.m., and coffee and pastries will be available until 3 p.m. Dinner service will be offered daily at 5 p.m. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect when one of the most anticipated restaurants of 2016 opens doors:

 

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More on Gerard Craft and Sardella

• The Scoop: Gerard Craft to close Niche, Sardella to open
• The Scoop: Gerard Craft to open second Pastaria in Nashville
• The Scoop: Nate Hereford to exit Niche, Brasserie’s Nick Blue to take the helm
• The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award
• What I Do: Nick Blue of Sardella

-photos by Michelle Volansky

The Scoop: Anne Croy leaves Pastaria, to focus on Banner Road

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

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After four years at Niche Restaurant Group, Anne Croy has left her position as Pastaria’s executive pastry chef. Her last day was Thursday, Sept. 1, as reported by Feast.

Croy said she intends to focus on her business, Banner Road Baking Co. “Banner road is a wholesales specialty food business,” she said. Currently, she sells four varieties of granola under the Banner Road name. She hopes to expand her distribution throughout the Midwest and add more flavors and products like energy bars, granola bars, cookies and crackers.

“Anne makes some of the best granola in the world, and we’re proud to still serve her recipe at Pastaria,” said Niche Food Group owner Gerard Craft.

 

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Croy worked at Pastaria’s since it opened in 2012. “I’ve been able to work with some of the finest chefs in the city,” she said. “I just had an amazing team, and I’m really excited about what (executive chef Ashley Shelton) is doing with the restaurant.”

Craft said Sardella executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn has taken over pastry operations and will develop desserts for Pastaria and Taste. She will also have a hand in developing gelato pop flavors for Porano.

Pastaria Nashville executive pastry chef Mathew Rice has been named Niche Food Group executive pastry chef and will work with Osborn to develop the gelato programs at Pastaria and Porano, as well as the overall dessert programs at Pastaria and Taste.

Rice said he looks forward to the added responsibilities, as well as more frequent trips back to St. Louis. “This will keep me involved in the St. Louis food scene, so that’s something I’m excited about,” Rice said.

 

Catherine Klene contributed to this report. 

 

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