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Gerard Craft plans new pasta restaurant


Since 2005, Gerard Craft has been delighting St. Louis with his fine-dining restaurant Niche, which, like many fine dining restaurants these days, is known for its use of local, seasonal ingredients. Since then he opened the more casual Brasserie by Niche as well as Taste, which focuses on small plates and cocktails.

Craft also has won such accolades as being named a Food & Wine Best New Chef in 2008 and being nominated four times by the James Beard Foundation for the Best Chef in the Midwest award.

Now he has turned his attention to noodles, and in August plans to open Pastaria, where he will combine what he has learned from multiple trips to Italy — most recently with the specific mission of learning more about pasta — with the Midwestern bounty that he highlights at his other restaurant.

Heading up the kitchen will be Adam Altnether, who has worked with Craft since 2007 and who bought Taste from him in 2010, although Craft is still a partner in that restaurant.

The new venue will be a retail shop — offering pasta, local cheese, sauces, take-home meals and imported olive oils and vinegars — as well as a 112-seat restaurant with a 12-seat bar and 40-seat private dining room.

Pasta will be extruded and rolled in a front display window, showing how items such as ravioli, wide pappardelle noodles, and spaghetti alla chitara (“guitar spaghetti”) — so-named because the pasta is cut by pressing it through a row of wires that resembles a guitar — are made.

Craft said he expects the pasta display window to attract people’s attention. “The idea is to showcase great pasta dishes in a really friendly, unpretentious and affordable setting that tells about the traditions of Italy with the ingredients of the Midwest,” he noted.

“The first time I went to Umbria [a region in central Italy] it stood out how much like the Midwest it is — the landscape, the weather and a lot of the ingredients,” he said. Both Umbria and the Midwest specialize in beef and wheat, for example.

For an Umbrian dish called carne cruda (“raw meat”), Craft will be getting his beef from with Bethlehem Valley Winery in Missouri, which raises cattle on the side of the valley where it doesn’t grow grapes. The dish is made by dressing raw chopped beef with a little olive oil and salt, and served with preserved lemon and arugula for $10.95.

Rather than using 00 semolina flour from Italy Craft will be sourcing his flour from Kansas and Missouri. He will import the olive oil, however, from Tuscany and Abruzzo, and the balsamic vinegar from Emilia Romagna.

Craft said one thing he learned during his latest pasta-investigation trip was to keep it simple. “As chefs, when we come up with recipes we want to overcomplicate certain things, maybe because we have a huge toolbox," he explained. "But we don’t always have to use it."

Instead, Craft plans to make dishes like the tortelloni he had in Orvietto, which was made simply with seasoned ricotta, artichokes, olive oil and lemon juice. Craft is serving his rendition with parsley and Parmesan cheese for $15.95.

Other menu highlights include oven roasted beef meatballs with dates, tomato, polenta and Parmesan for $13.95, and wood oven–roasted chicken with seasonal bread salad for $17.95.

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @foodwriterdiary


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


St. Louis Chef's Pasta Fast Casual, Porano, Now Open

Porano Pasta, the new Italian fast casual from James Beard–winning chef Gerard Craft (“Best Chef: Midwest” in 2015), opened today in St. Louis, Missouri.

The new concept, Craft’s fifth restaurant under Niche Food Group and first with counter service, lets customers build their own bowls using a variety of authentic Italian ingredients. Porano is named after a town north of Rome that inspired the new restaurant.

“It’s really a place where I fell in love with Italian culture more than just the food. I’ve been to Italy, but never before had I really met families that lived there and chefs that lived there,” he says. “We met all these people and sat down at the table with all these people we barely knew, and it was like we were family instantly. … We wanted to bring that level of hospitality and warmth into a fast-food concept.”

Located in downtown St. Louis, Porano is a two-story space that features bright, modern finishes with art from local artists, as well as hand-cut oak communal tables.

Guests walk down the line at Porano to customize their own bowls, selecting a base, sauce, protein, and toppings. Bases include hand-made pasta—both organic semolina and gluten-free—as well as Italian rice, organic farro, and a romaine and kale blend. There are 11 sauces, ranging from Pomodoro and Alfredo to a Pumpkin Seed and Lime Pesto and Garlic and Chili Oil. There are also 11 toppings (including cheeses, nuts, and vegetables) and a half dozen proteins.

Craft says his team intentionally created a personal interaction between staff and guests so his team could educate customers on which flavors pair best together.

“When guests come down the line, they’re put at ease by our staff,” he says. “You’re greeted with a smile, and you’re greeted with knowledgeable staff members who understand the menu, who eat the food every single day, and who know it inside out, because they also make the food every day.”

The fast casual is intent on delivering new and authentic flavors that go beyond what’s common at Italian restaurants in the U.S. For example, there is the Smoky Sunday Sugo sauce, which Craft says is based on a sauce with roots in Naples, Italy. The traditional offering features meat and tomato sauce that simmer together all day, he says the sauce is usually served over pasta, while the meat is traditionally served as a second course.

“We’ve done a little twist on it, where we smoke the meat before we simmer it, and it gives it a little bit more of a Midwestern flavor,” Craft says. “But it’s kind of smoky, unctuous from the pork, and bright from the tomatoes.”

As a chef-driven concept, Porano is also committed to using the best ingredients possible, which includes seasonal and local sourcing. Craft says the fast casual sources the same kind of ingredients as a full-service restaurant might, which includes using a whole hog for various menu items.

“We look at the food system and how messed up it is, and the pipeline used for ingredients within fast food, and I think that’s become something that’s really important for us: where we’re getting our ingredients,” Craft says. “We need to make it the same as if we were getting ingredients for any one of our other restaurants.”

The Porano opening comes just one week after California chefs Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened the doors to LocoL, their buzzed-about quick-service concept that aims to bring healthy, affordable meals to food deserts (areas with limited access to wholesome foods) across the country.

While Choi and Patterson envision thousands of LocoL units across the U.S., Craft says his team is taking their time on Porano, with plans to grow organically instead of through venture capital. He adds that the goal for now is to open a second unit in the suburbs of St. Louis to see how the restaurant performs with more of a family clientele.

“As a father of two, I think I’d be pretty excited to have it where I live,” he says. “That’s as far as we’re thinking: Let’s see where it does best and why.”


Watch the video: Feast on St. Louis: Behind the Apron with Gerard Craft (December 2021).