First Look: Kemoll’s Chop House at Westport Plaza
The rebranded Kemoll’s Chop House opened Feb. 19 at 323 Westport Plaza, the former home of Dierdorf & Hart’s with a revamped menu and focus.
The original Kemoll’s, an Italian staple in downtown St. Louis for nearly 100 years, served authentic Sicilian recipes from 1927 until February 2018, when owner Mark Cusumano shuttered the location in the Metropolitan Square Building to focus on opening the new space in Maryland Heights.
“I had 24,000 square feet on upper levels at the old place, which was like four restaurants,” Cusumano said. “At my age – I’m almost 70 – I needed to get some place more manageable. With the banquet space downtown where we did weddings, business was good, but it was overwhelming to have to do that much business every week. The new space is all on the first floor and, with just 8,000 square feet, is closer to a normal restaurant. Plus, Westport is booming. The new owners here are doing tremendous things. They're revitalizing it and pouring a lot of money into it.”
Cusumano, whose grandmother started the original eatery as a one-room confectionery that morphed into a full restaurant, credits a shift in customer preferences in the rebrand.
“We built our reputation as an Italian restaurant but, due to trends in dining, we decided to add Chop House to the name,” he explained. “We retained the entire large appetizer list and the 12 most popular Italian dishes, but the main part of the menu is now from the grill: steaks, veal chops, grilled sea bass.”
The new space has a more updated, contemporary feel with a nod to the olden days; enlarged prints of Kemoll’s bygone years line the walls near the bar and throughout the three dining areas, which house about 130 seats between them. A roughly 40-seat patio will open once the weather warms.
Cusumano said customers will also see familiar faces among the staff at the new location. “We have 12 employees that have been here longer than 30 years and another 10 that have been here longer than 20 years,” he said. “It’s a family restaurant, so we treat everybody like family, including our customers, which is why they keep coming back.”
Kemoll’s Chop House is open from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. The restaurant plans to open for happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. in the next month or so, and will likely eventually expand to offer lunch. Here’s a first look at Westport’s newest restaurant:
Lauren Healey is associate editor at Sauce Magazine.
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