Monday, September 19, 2016

Five Things Michael and Tara Gallina Want You To Know about Vicia

Posted By on Mon, Sep 19, 2016 at 6:06 AM

Michael and Tara Gallina will open Vicia late this year. - JONATHAN GAYMAN
  • Jonathan Gayman
  • Michael and Tara Gallina will open Vicia late this year.
Michael and Tara Gallina have been in town for almost a year now, getting to know the food scene, establishing relationships with farmers and introducing themselves to the community through their pop-up concept, Rooster and the Hen. Finally, their research and development efforts are about to pay off. 

The Gallinas' hotly anticipated Vicia (4260 Forest Park Avenue) is slated to open at the end of the fall on the corner of Duncan and Boyle in the Cortex Innovation Community. The restaurant, which was recently named by Eater as one of the "23 Most Anticipated Restaurant Openings of Fall 2016," will feature vegetable-forward cuisine with an emphasis on wood-fired cooking and will be open for both lunch and dinner service. 

Michael was previously the chef de cuisine at the acclaimed Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York; Tara was captain there. They'll be bringing that experience to bear in their new project.

So what else do we know about Vicia? The Gallinas agreed to share a few tidbits to whet our appetites. Here are five amuse bouches to tide you over until the restaurant is ready to open and dinner is served.
 
1. Another St. Louis native helped inspire their vision.
"For us it’s more than just one restaurant, but really a restaurateur. Danny Meyer is hugely influential to the both of us. Michael moved to New York City with Chef Daniel Humm from Campton Place to work at Eleven Madison Park when Danny was taking it to the next level. He saw how hands-on he was and dedicated to running a restaurant that was as gracious to its staff as it was its guests. He always made a point to connect with us (we always talked about our Cardinals) and really taught me how I wanted to run my own restaurant one day. 

"And for Tara, while she never worked for him directly, she was a frequent guest at Gramercy Tavern and was always inspired by their commitment to service, creating an experience that was friendly and warm but executed with grace and perfection. That same philosophy and commitment to training and teamwork drives us both as we create our team and service style for Vicia." 

2. Cortex is the best possible fit for Vicia.
"The purpose of the Cortex Innovation District is to celebrate creativity, entrepreneurship, and innovation by building community. In a way, it’s also really representative of what we are all about too. From the moment we were first introduced to the area we knew something really special was going on there; we could feel the energy. It felt like the perfect place to create the forward-thinking dining experience that we have planned for Vicia. What better community to be at the center of here in St. Louis?"

3. St. Louis is ready to put vegetables at the center of the plate.
"We don’t want to make assumptions and loop everyone in the Midwest into one category based on where they live. Rather we think the Midwest, and especially St. Louis, is filled with a pretty diverse population that is excited to see the same attention and care paid to vegetables as meat. We have been so encouraged by the feedback from the guests who’ve attended our pop-up events, and many have shared how happy they are that we’re serving really fresh and vegetable forward food that doesn’t weigh them down. Our philosophy is centered around working with the best ingredients that are grown with care and harvested at their peak, whether meat or vegetables, and we want that to be the driving force behind everything we serve."

4. Lunch will be fast and casual; dinner, elevated but approachable. 
"Starting our own business and building a restaurant for the first time is definitely the biggest unknown we’ve ever encountered! Besides that, creating a dual concept restaurant that shifts from a quick-service lunch menu to a more elevated, full-service experience for dinner is a first for us. Dinner is our comfort zone, so we’re excited to challenge ourselves and create a really delicious and frequently changing lunch experience that is well suited to the fast-paced lifestyle that so many of us have."

5. "Vicia" is a word that has meaning — only it's in Latin.
"We really wanted to select a name that invoked what goes on not just above, but within the soil and how important soil health is to the overall quality and experience of everything we work with. 'Vicia' is Latin for vetch, a cover crop that is widely planted by farmers who are looking to restore lost nutrients. By selecting a word that is unfamiliar to most, we are able to start a bigger conversation about why thoughtful farming is so important to us."

We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at cheryl.baehr@riverfronttimes.com.


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