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Dec 15, 2017
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Posts Tagged ‘Tara Gallina’

Best New Restaurants: No. 1 – Vicia

Friday, December 1st, 2017

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here are St. Louis’ 12 best new restaurants of 2017.

 

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When something is as expected as naming Vicia the best new restaurant of 2017, you almost want to fight it. You want to know something big publications like Eater, Bon Appétit and Esquire don’t. (All have listed Vicia on national best new restaurant lists.) But you know what? Some things are expected for a reason.

It’s hard to compare a food truck (Balkan Treat Box, No. 4) to a weekends-only tasting menu experience (Privado, No. 2) to a bare-bones fast-casual spot serving one thing (St. Louis Soup Dumplings, No. 11). You have to assess each place on its own terms, and not just the qualifications of your personal preference. Vicia, objectively, attempts to do more than any other restaurant that opened in St. Louis this year. And from concept to menu, design, service and even a counter-service lunch option, it brings something fresh, stylish and clever to the local dining landscape.

Vicia is both familiarly hip and extreme in its farm-to-table, vegetable-forward sensibilities. Owners Michael and Tara Gallina captured our attention when they moved from the culinary Ivy League of Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York to open their own place, intending to work closely with farmers to support methods so sustainable they improve soil health (vicia is the name of a cover crop planted for that purpose) and to waste almost nothing – not even vegetable tops – in the kitchen.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished with all of that,” said Michael, executive chef to Tara’s general manager. Vicia tries to support individual farmers by asking for the produce they need to sell, not just making regular orders. “We get a farm delivery every single day, and we try to make the menu a celebration of what comes in. It drives [Tara] nuts, because we print the menu three to four times a week sometimes.”

That kind of improvisation isn’t some hipster buzzword claptrap. Think about how hard it is to dial in one dish at home – a constantly shifting menu means a moving target. Vicia has three: lunch, a la carte snack plates and family-style dinner mains, and a tasting menu with wine pairings.

“We try not to waste anything,” Michael said. “The dynamic of lunch, a la carte and tasting menu really has to be very cohesive and synced with each other. If we’re running a pear salad on the a la carte menu, then the scrap has to be going into a puree for the tasting menu, or some of the other pieces that we’re cutting are going into Summer [Wright, Vicia’s executive pastry chef’s], apple butter.”

 

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Logistics nerds are already sold. But to be the best, Vicia’s food had to be as good as the mission statement, and eye-rollers at the concept would still be enchanted by its dishes that are at once familiar and unlike anything you’ve ever tasted.

A quick pick-two soup/salad/sandwich lunch, for example, turns into something else when your cauliflower soup comes topped with popcorn powder. The fact that the lunch menu is not just fancy entrees priced down for midday makes it that much more impressive.

The tasting menu starts with a flurry of small bites arriving at once. Simple, familiar luxuries like raw oysters – flown in from Maine for a late-summer menu – are suddenly surprising when topped with a watermelon granita. The same course featured two pieces of compressed watermelon rind that somehow tasted just like a puckering bite of pith and yet refreshingly clean, crisp and mild at the same time. How do they do that?

Other composed bites – like a rectangle of yellow watermelon topped with translucent slices of pickled green tomato, herbs and blooms beside a creamy dollop of whipped goat cheese – displayed perfect pitch in both texture and flavor combinations. All the plates worked together in a larger symphony of individual movements. And that was just the first course.

Even with so many plates and pairings, service doesn’t falter. It’s no surprise the staff can answer any question you have about a dish – they go on field trips to farms and other producers about once a month. What is surprising is how relaxed such knowledgeable and orchestrated service feels.

“I’m trying to bring the touches of fine dining but in a setting that makes people feel like they can be themselves and not have to be nervous at the table that they’re putting their wine glass in the wrong place, you know?” Tara said. “None of that.”

It’s typically impossible to hold a conversation during a tasting-menu dinner – the constant ceremony of plate transmission and wine pouring dominates the night. But the friendly, rationed visits from Vicia servers don’t feel like an interruption.

“I don’t want people to think of it as, ‘Oh, that’s the tasting-menu spot – that’s the special-occasion spot,’” Michael said. “It’s the place where you can have any kind of experience you want.”

Vicia’s space is designed with that in mind. Light-drenched during the day and fashionably dim and energetic at night, the restaurant’s natural wood elements and massive white-paned windows make it feel both casually cool and sophisticated at the same time. It’s not easy to look so relaxed.

So while Vicia has its share of surprises, its No. 1 spot on this list isn’t one of them.

Photos by Greg Rannells

Heather Hughes is managing editor at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
• Review: Vicia

• Sneak Peek: Vicia in Central West End

Sauce Magazine: Best New Restaurants 2017

Nixta, Vicia make Bon Appetit’s top 50 new restaurants list

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

 

 

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{ Vicia chef-owner Michael Gallina }

 

Bon Appétit has announced its list of 50 Best New Restaurants in America, and two of St. Louis’ hottest eateries, Vicia and Nixta, made the cut.

The Mole Negro de Abuelita Concepción, an homage to a recipe from chef Tello Carreon’s grandmother, was singled out as a must-try dish at Nixta, while the Goose Egg, scrambled eggs served in a “bird’s nest,” was one of the specialties highlighted on Vicia’s menu, along with the restaurant’s focus on vegetables.

“It’s been quite a week,” said Tara Gallina, Vicia co-owner and general manager. Vicia also landed on Eater’s 12 Best New Restaurants in America list, which came out last week. “It’s a lot – it’s exciting!”

 

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{ from left, Nixta chef Tello Carreón and owner Ben Poremba } 

 

Nixta owner Ben Poremba, whose other eateries Elaia and Olio made the same list in 2013, said the news came as a complete surprise. “It’s nice to see the recognition on a national scale like that, especially coming back from the bittersweet moment of closing Old Standard and redoing the space,” he said.

Nixta landed on Sauce’s Best New Restaurants of 2016 shortly after opening in November last year.

Bon Appétit’s list of 50 will be whittled down to the Hot 10 on Aug. 15, which are featured in the September issue.

“That list has some pretty heavy hitters on it,” said Poremba. “But you never know.”

Gallina agreed that landing a top 10 spot would be remarkable. “There’s a lot of incredible competition this year,” she said. “A lot of amazing places have opened, so just to be on the list, as cheesy as that sounds, is quite an honor.”

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
Eater names Vicia one of the country’s Best New Restaurants

• Review: Vicia

Review: Nixta

Best New Restaurants: No. 5 – Nixta

Eater names Vicia one of the country’s Best New Restaurants

Thursday, July 27th, 2017

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Vicia has made a splash on the local and national dining scenes even before its highly anticipated opening in March, and now, the Central West End restaurant has just been named one of Eater’s 12 Best New Restaurants In America.

Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison wrote that each year, he has two goals when identifying the top new eateries: “Identifying the essential modern classics for our Best Restaurants in America list, and seeking out the new paragons — the restaurants that energize their communities and will come to define national excellence.”

Addison lauded owners Tara and Michael Gallina for their use of seasonal procduce and no-waste philosophy, as well as Vicia’s price-conscious lunch service and tasting menu. “Tara and Michael Gallina’s remarkable debut restaurant … aims for out-and-out usefulness to its community,” he wrote.

General mangaer Tara Gallina said they were excited to receive the news.

“We’re very proud and honored to represent the city of St. Louis on a national scale,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard since before we opened and pushing everyone to do their absolute best, so it’s awesome for the entire team to be recognized,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Vicia

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

Related Content
Review: Vicia

Waste Not: The case for eating ugly carrots, beef neck and beetle-bitten cros

Sneak Peek: Vicia in the Central West End

Ones to Watch 2017: Jen Epley of Vicia

Sneak Peek: Vicia in Midtown

Monday, March 20th, 2017

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More than a year after announcing their move to St. Louis, Michael and Tara Gallina’s highly anticipated Vicia opens for lunch this Wednesday, March 22 in the Cortex Innovation District at 4260 Forest Park Ave. Dinner service will debut on Tuesday, March 28.

The Gallinas, both alums of the internationally acclaimed Blue Hill at Stone Barns, made news in October 2015 when they announced a return to Michael Gallina’s hometown to open a seasonally driven, vegetable-forward restaurant where he would serve as executive chef and Tara Gallina as general manager.

The 2,500-square-foot space features a 14-seat bar, an exposed kitchen and a covered patio, all separated from the main dining room by walls of windows. The patio is bookended by a lounge area with more casual seating on one end and an enormous wood-fired grill on the other.

“I’d love to have that thing covered with meat and vegetables basically all day,” said Michael Gallina. His menu incorporates meat as a condiment more than main attraction and features vegetables as the unexpected stars of Vicia’s dishes. He plans to utilize the grill for everything from slowly cooking large cuts of meat to burying vegetables in the coals for unique charred sauces.

Lunch will consist of soups, salads, sandwiches and tartines with pick-two and pick-three options, supplemented by sweet treats from executive pastry chef Summer Wright. “The menu will not be set at all,” said Gallina, who plans to print offerings daily.

Though some dishes will have the same general structure – like a grain salad made with fruits or vegetables, goat cheese and vegetable-top pesto – the specific ingredients will depend on what the restaurant gets day-to-day from area farmers.

Dinner will have a more varied menu of bite-sized snacks, shareable plates and entrees. “I want it to change as much as we can,” Gallina said. “I’m holding off to see what’s available next week.” The restaurant also plans to eventually offer a tasting menu.

Vicia will be open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. When it begins next week, dinner service will be Tuesday through Saturday from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect from one of this year’s most anticipated new restaurants:

 

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Photos by Michelle Volansky 

Related Content

The Scoop: Gallinas to open Vicia in The Cortex

The Scoop: Chef Michael Gallina to open series of pop-ups, new restaurant in native STL

• Ones to Watch 2017: Jen Epley of Vicia

Ones to Watch 2017: Jen Epley of Vicia

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

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Title: Assistant general manager, Vicia
Age: 31
Why watch her: She knows what you need before you do.

Jen Epley has her eye on you. Where did you sit, what did you order and what was your favorite dish? If you don’t like cilantro, you won’t see it – now or the next time you dine with her.

For Epley, successful service means everything appears effortless. Wine keys, pens, lighters and birthday candles are accounted for before the night begins. Guests are greeted warmly, treated with friendly respect and watched carefully from the moment they’re seated until the last glass of wine is consumed.

“You have to know something about them. They are there for that experience of connecting with the food, the servers, the beverages. They want to feel everything that you put into that restaurant,” Epley said. “You have to be part of it. … If you don’t love it, you shouldn’t be there because that resonates with all the guests that walk in.”

This is something she’s learned from hospitality pros in some of the best restaurants in the city, starting at Five Bistro five years ago.

“She’s really one of the unsung heroes of service in St. Louis,” said advanced sommelier Andrey Ivanov. He trained Epley on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern wine when they worked at Olio and Elaia. “She’s so technically sound that she can do everything better than most people on autopilot, and meanwhile … look around the room and anticipate what’s next.”

“So many people treat serving as ‘Same job, different apron,’” said Sardella general manager Chris Kelling, who worked with Epley at Niche. “She has goals to ascend in the industry and be amongst the best. That is something I’ve only recently seen in St. Louis, that people are taking hospitality as a career.”

It seems only natural that Epley’s next step is to help open Vicia under co-owner and general manager Tara Gallina, who was service captain at Blue Hill at Stone Barns – a restaurant lauded as much for service as culinary talent. Before a recent wine tasting meeting, Epley pulled out a tote bag filled with polished stemware and ever-present spiral-bound notebooks.

“When I write things down, it’s easier to remember than typing,” she explained, rifling through pages filled with impeccably written wine tasting notes and potential front-of-house hires. Epley loves the puzzle of it all, carefully sorting each detail into its proper column. “It’s a fun game of Tetris,” she said.

“She’s always two steps ahead, which is what you have to be, and seeing the big picture at all times,” Gallina said. “She really just gets it.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, December 25th, 2016

Here’s a look at what went down in the St. Louis restaurant scene last week, ICYMI…

 

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1. Summer Wright has been named executive pastry chef at upcoming restaurant Vicia, set to open in late January 2017. Wright currently holds that position at Reeds American Table, where she will be replaced by pastry assistant Ashley Rouch.

 

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2. Two new specialty food businesses, Komblu Kombucha and Olivino, aim to bring edible artisan products to St. Louis.

 

 

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3. The fiesta is headed across the river as the Tilford Restaurant Group prepares to open its fourth area Mission Taco Joint at The Streets of St. Charles. he arrival of this latest project heralds the end of their first. After 12 years, the brothers are closing Tortillaria Mexican Kitchen in the Central West End.

 

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4. From massive Thursday burgers to Two Dog Tuesdays, Budget Crunch has 6 delicious deals to try now.

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The Scoop: Summer Wright to helm Vicia’s pastry program, Reeds American Table names new pastry chef

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

 

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{ Summer Wright’s panna cotta at Reeds American Table }

 

Summer Wright has been named executive pastry chef at new restaurant Vicia, set to open in late January 2017. Wright currently holds that position at Reeds American Table, where she will be replaced by pastry assistant Ashley Rouch.

Wright said she took the new position in part because of the opportunity it will provide to work with Vicia co-owners Michael and Tara Gallina, who previously worked at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, a highly regarded restaurant in New York’s Hudson River Valley.

“Supporting local farmers is at the core of their cooking philosophy,” Wright said in an email. “It’s really fulfilling to work with Michael and Tara, who put so much emphasis on using the local farmers’ products.”

Wright, who has 16 years of experience in the kitchen, previously worked at Niche, Five Bistro and Claverach Farm. At Vicia, she’ll be responsible for creating sweet and savory pastries for the midday and evening menus. During the day, diners can expect croissants, quiche, scones, cookies and fruit tarts. “Having the opportunity to do a daily daytime service that includes a bakery menu is a major point of interest,” Wright said.

The pastry program will make use of whole grains milled in-house. That’s a big priority for Tara Gallina, who hopes to show people that there is much more out there than all-purpose flour.

“We are really excited to put an emphasis on how versatile and delicious freshly milled flour can be in baked goods,” she said. “Our hope is to spark a conversation with people that there is just as much seasonality and variety in grains as there is with other produce that we now think more about.”

At Reeds American Table, Rouch will have the opportunity to experiment with the pastry program, chef-owner Matt Daughaday said, but he doesn’t predict drastic changes to the dessert menu. “Summer created a formula that works,” he said.

Photo by Greg Rannells

Related Content

Save Room for Dessert

The Scoop: Gallinas to open Vicia in The Cortex

• The Scoop: Chef Michael Gallina to open series of pop-ups, new restaurant in native STL

Best New Restaurants 2015: No. 5 – Reeds American Table

 

Editor’s note: This post originally misspelled Ashley Rouch’s name. It was updated at 2:45 p.m. on Dec. 23 to correct the error. It was also updated at 4:40 p.m. to include an additional quote from Tara Gallina. 

 

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

From new restaurants on Cherokee Street and Edwardsville to big announcements for Midtown and The Grove, here’s what went down in the St. Louis dining scene last week, ICYMI…

 

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1. Husband-and-wife team Michael and Tara Gallina announced June 14 that they will open Vicia, at 4260 Forest Park Ave., in The Cortex. The Gallinas are looking at a fall opening.

2. The Grove is about to get a little tastier. With a year under its belt in Clayton, owner Vincent Marsden plans to open a second brick-and-mortar Vincent Van Doughnut at 1072 Tower Grove Ave., in mid-October.

 

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3. Korean barbecue goes south of the border when Kalbi Taco Shack opened at 2301 Cherokee St., on Saturday. Mother-daughter duo Sue and Olivia Shackelford helm the kitchen and serve flavorful, Korean-inspired proteins with a Latin flare.

4. Anyone for a spot of tea? On Friday, Queen’s Cuisine opened its first brick-and-mortar location, Queen’s Cuisine Tea Room, at 120 S. Main St., on the corner of East Park and South Main streets in Edwardsville.

 

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5. Step inside SweetArt during a bustling Saturday afternoon, and you’ll find it hard to believe co-owners Reine and Cbabi Bayoc had never worked in a restaurant when they opened in 2008. Learn more about the “love and magic” at this cafe/bakeshop/art gallery in What I Do.

6. The newest place to get a slice and a pint is coming to downtown St. Louis when The Sliced Pint opens at 1511 Washington Ave., later this summer.

The Scoop: Gallinas to open Vicia in The Cortex

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

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Husband-and-wife team Michael and Tara Gallina announced today, June 14, that they will open Vicia (vee-CEE-yuh), at 4260 Forest Park Ave., in The Cortex. The Gallinas are looking at a fall opening. As The Scoop reported in October 2015, the Gallinas relocated to The Lou in last year after working in top positions at the esteemed Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York. They spent the last six months hosting pop-up events under the name Rooster and The Hen in and around St. Louis.

“We were excited by what was happening there and the creativity in the area,” said Tara. “It felt like a natural fit with the food we want to do and the day-to-day audience we hope to reach.”

Planning to seat 50 diners inside and a to-be-determined number in an outdoor space, Vicia will be open for lunch and dinner service. The menu will focus on vegetable-forward fare directed by the local farmers from whom the Gallinas will source.

“Vegetable-forward means making the vegetable the thing to be excited about,” said Tara. “It’s not always about having a piece of meat be front and center.”

However, this doesn’t mean Vicia will be a vegetarian restaurant. As an example of their philosophy, Michael referenced a cabbage dish served a previous pop-up dinner. “It was a whole-roasted cabbage cooked in coals with charcuterie on top,” he said.

Look for dishes to include cuts of meat that utilize the whole animal, not just choice cuts like tenderloin. Like the food menu, expect the beverage program to offer cocktails utilizing seasonal ingredients, and offer wine and beer from local producers.

“We hope to bring a fresh perspective,” said Tara. “We’ve been able to work at fantastic places and we want to bring that experience to St. Louis. For us, it’s about making delicious food and having genuine hospitality. We want to be the kind of restaurant you can come back to several times, not just for special occasions.”

 

-photo by Carmen Troesser

 

 

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, January 3rd, 2016

From our new issue to new ramen shops, here’s everything that went down in the St. Louis food scene last week, in case you missed it…

 

1. We rang in the new year with our January issue featuring our annual Ones to Watch, six food and drink pros with promise.

2. South American food truck Que Sazon has a new team of chefs behind the window. Aaron Gray and Deana Saunders purchased the business from Fabian and Julie Ocampo Dec. 22.

 

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3. After their much heralded relocation to St. Louis, Michael and Tara Gallina have announced a series of pop-up dinners in January and February 2016.

4. Blood & Sand co-owners TJ Vytlacil and Adam Frager are putting their members-only bar on the market.

 

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5. Clayton, get ready to slurp. Nami Ramen will open doors Wednesday, Jan. 6 at 46 N. Central Ave., in the former home of House of Wong.

6. Resolved to drink better, cheaper or less in 2016? We’ve got you covered.

 

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7. Sauce restaurant critic Michael Renner has tasted his fair share of St. Louis cuisine. All year, he shared his thoughts on New and Notable restaurants, and last week, he shared his top five dishes of 2015.

8. Likewise, Matt Berkley works some odd hours as Sauce’s Nightlife critic, spending many a late night sipping craft cocktails around St. Louis on a hunt for the very best. Here, his top five cocktails of 2015.

 

 

 

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