A new Italian restaurant, set for a high-profile spot just off West End and Elliston Place, is promising to be an oasis of authentic Mediterranean flavors.
You can’t get much more Mediterranean than Sardinia, an island off Italy’s boot that is surrounded by the Mediterranean’s blue waters. And Sardinia is both the name of the new restaurant and the native land of its chef, Pietro Vardeu.
Vardeu and his business partner Tony Gallo (who hails from Turin, a little further north in Italy) are the veteran restaurateurs who own Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante, a popular Italian restaurant and wine bar in Miami Beach, Fla. They plan to launch a Nashville version with the same name early next year.
Vardeu and Gallo have signed a lease for a 7,000-square-foot space at the Park View Towers, 210 25th Ave. N., just off West End and Elliston Place. The restaurant is going into new space in the ground floor of the Park View Towers, including a patio with a view of Centennial Park.
Gallo said the food will be more authentic than a run-of-the-mill Italian-American joint. “It’s very clean cuisine,” he said of Sardinia’s menu. “We don’t use cream at all. Olive oil, fresh herbs — we don’t even use that much butter. The food is good and healthy at the same time.”
Vardeu runs the kitchen, and Gallo runs the front of the house as general manager. But he’s quick to list features that make Sardinia sound promising from a culinary point of view: The team is building a wood-burning oven to cook meat and fish, and they’ll make soft cheeses like mozzarella and burrata in house. Other cheeses will be imported from Italy.
Cured meats, or salumi, comprise another area of special emphasis. And Gallo said the wine selection will be expansive, with about 300 different bottles. They’ll also serve wine by the glass and the quartino (a small carafe that equals about a third of a bottle).
Gallo and Vardeu opened the original Sardinia Enoteca Ristorante in Miami Beach about six years ago, and it’s made a pretty big splash. The Food Network show After Hours With Daniel Boulud did a segment on Sardinia; it’s been featured in Food & Wine and The New York Times, and it was one of Zagat’s America’s Top Restaurants in 2011.
The menu for the Miami Beach location is pretty eye-popping (you can see it at sardinia-ristorante.com), with dishes like salt-crusted branzino, or Mediterranean sea bass, which is deboned and served up tableside. At the same time, the menu includes multiple price points, and Gallo insists there won’t be any pressure to have a fancy multicourse meal unless that’s your wish.
“If you just want to have a salad, you can,” he says. “It’s elegant but casual.”
For his part, Gallo says he’s looking forward to working with Tennessee’s bounty of fresh vegetables, like what he encountered last week strolling through the Nashville Farmers’ Market. “The flavors you guys have there. … I could smell it just walking through. I can tell our food’s going to be even better.”
Green Hills just got a new local coffeehouse, and it’s a little more ambitious in its mission than your typical java joint.
The operative word is “mission.” The Well is being operated as a nonprofit venture with a Christian mission to address poverty in the world, with an emphasis on bringing clean water to areas like Ethiopia and Uganda.
“The Well exists for the purpose of making a profit to give it away,” Rob Touchstone, who co-founded The Well with Chris Soper, said with a laugh. “We pay our baristas and the rent, of course, but all of our profits will go to multiple different missions. We’re putting our faith into action.”
Touchstone said that even though The Well has high-minded goals, it’s also serious about the quality of its coffee, with beans provided by Just Love Coffee Roasters in Murfreesboro. “The coffee’s not an afterthought,” he said. “Making coffee is a spiritual thing, too.”
In addition to espresso drinks, The Well does pour-over coffee brews by the cup. Scones, muffins and other pastries are from Foxy Baking Co. in East Nashville.
The Well opened Wednesday in the former Burger King site next to the firehouse on Richard Jones Road in Green Hills. The team behind the project includes Matt Yates, Walt Malone, Steve Morrow and Charlie Dillingham. The interior decor, featuring wood reclaimed from an old barn in Rock Island, Tenn., was designed by Laura Copeland.
Located at 2035 Richard Jones, The Well is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 10 p.m. Sunday. Touchstone said hours will extend to midnight when local colleges return to session in the fall. The phone number is 730-5016.