Madrina, which opens next week in Webster, has been years in the making | Saint Louis
Story of the godmother (101 West Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves; 1976-963-14; madrinastl.com) It goes again 30 years. At the least, that is what co-owner Frank Romano says.
On the time, Romano was in highschool and wanted a job. Naturally, he turned to his godmother, Sister Helen Negri, a Catholic nun who was additionally Marygrove’s CEO. She introduced Romano to fulfill Kemoll proprietor Mark Cusumano and requested him to provide her godson a job.
It was identified, it appeared, that he could not refuse.
Romano started working at Kemoll’s, the place certainly one of his duties was sprucing wine glasses. Someday, one of many wine reps, Stanley Brown, was holding a tasting.
“Stanley checked out me and stated, ‘The place’s your glass?’” Romano says. “And I checked out my supervisor, Doug, and he stated, ‘Go get a glass.’ So I used to be allowed to swirl and sniff.”
Romano was only a highschool scholar on the time, and entered the world of wine. It was additionally the start of his friendship with Brown, and arguably step one on the trail that may lead the duo to invent an Italian restaurant within the coronary heart of historic Webster Groves.
Madrina, which is Italian for “godmother” as a nod to Sister Negri, will open on Friday, November 24, at what was once CJ Muggs. The credit score for that has come to Brown, who together with his spouse, Arlene Mamienta Brown, owns Strong Bistro and Wine Bar, together with Laura Burns, who co-owns the Parkmoor Drive-in with Romano.
Brown and Romano describe their new idea as Italian and a “timeless mid-century basic” kind. This vibe is clear within the design of the house – from each Helen Lee of Tao + Lee Associates and Burns, who owns designlab, Inc. and Ladies Will Be – a darkish and moody venue with elegant grey wood-paneled partitions and touches of purple all through, together with plush cubicles lining the partitions of the eating space. Home windows line the outside partitions, giving the rooms pops of sunshine.
There’s additionally a big horseshoe-shaped bar that Brown says will naturally be the best space of the restaurant. Each adjoining eating house turns into quieter – a rule that applies all the way in which all the way down to the restaurant’s non-public occasion house, which, at 1,200 sq. toes (and with its personal bar), will have the ability to maintain events for 50 friends in addition to seat 180. In the primary house.
However regardless of Madrina’s elegant look, Brown and Romano say it isn’t meant to be advantageous eating however fairly “upscale informal.” Which means that clients can solely enter for a glass of wine and an appetizer throughout the bar’s weekday hours.
“You’ll be able to brag, too,” Brown says. “It is nonetheless a neighborhood restaurant, however the thought is that it’ll have a broader scope.”
The duo says a splurge (or perhaps a fast cease after work) will look totally different than it does at most different Italian eating places in St. Louis. It’s because they incorporate the farm-to-table ethos and make use of basic recipes.
That may appear like the restaurant’s frito misto, which sautes shrimp, contemporary artichokes and fennel and serves them with a yogurt sauce, or carbonara, ready the normal approach with egg yolks as an alternative of cream, Parmigiano-Reggiano and guanciale, all mixed with a splash of starchy pasta water.
The menu additionally consists of linguine con vongole with cherry oysters and a beautiful plate of huge, garlic-scented scallops. Romano explains that they are going to be reducing their very own steaks, noting that they have been excited to get to dry-aged porters this week.
“Getting the invoice wasn’t thrilling,” he says with amusing. “The dimensions was like… once you get a type of, it is a good factor.”
Madrina will serve bistecca alla fiorentina, a four-pound steak that is giant sufficient for 2 folks — and maybe a complete celebration. Romano and Brown describe it as the proper dish to pair with quite a lot of the restaurant’s contorini akin to fingerling confit potatoes or parmesan-roasted Brussels sprouts and a Mayfair salad.
There will even be a big bar programme, with Italian-inspired cocktails akin to a twist of Aperol and a limoncello that mixes the Tuscan aperitif with prosecco, soda water and rosemary. Madrina could have a wine checklist of Italians and domestics organized in two columns so clients accustomed to American varietals can take a look at Italian varietals that supply one thing comparable however could also be much less well-known. Brown cites the instance of Pinot Noir and Mount Etna Rosa from Sicily.
“We’re simply making an attempt to encourage that, ‘Hey, should you like this, attempt the Italian model,'” Brown says. “Some folks know the large names of Italian issues, however there are 1,000 totally different, fantastic varieties in Italy alone.”
Madrina’s imaginative and prescient is so meticulously outlined that one may suppose that Brown and Romano have been planning the restaurant since they first met 30 years in the past. However issues got here collectively a lot sooner than that.
Out of respect for Kemoll’s, Romano at all times stated he would by no means open an Italian restaurant. “I did not wish to outgrow the household,” he says.
However then, in December 2022, Cusamano closed the enduring institution, and the next Could, Brown and Stanley realized that new proprietor CJ Muggs wished out. Inside minutes, the 2 have been brainstorming concepts, after which, inside quarter-hour, they knew what they wished to realize. Building started in August.
“Just below 90 days to transform and rebuild the restaurant,” Romano says. “That is inside 10 days of our authentic timeline.”
It is a formidable turnaround, helped by what Brown calls his “18 rock star administration group,” which incorporates acquainted names like govt chef Max Craske, proprietor of Ices Plain and Fancy; Superior Sommelier Alisha Blackwell Calvert, identified for Cinder Home, Elaia and Olio; Basic Supervisor Charlie Bongener of Naples Manufacturers, Assistant Basic Supervisor Rhiannon Beckley of Anthonino’s Taverna, the Pitch and 4 Seasons; and bar supervisor Brian Clark of Tin Roof.
With all that in place, all that is left to do is open. Madrina plans to start welcoming friends on Friday, November twenty fourth.
“We’re excited, simply open the doorways and begin taking good care of folks and displaying them the house and our hospitality,” Brown says.
“Constructing a restaurant and making it look fairly is a number of enjoyable,” Romano provides. “However the true enjoyable for us, and the satisfying half, is having the friends within the seats and speaking to them and seeing their response to what we’ve constructed.”
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(tags for translation) Webster Groves Eating places