It’s taken Tara and Michael Gallina a bit longer than they expected to arrive at today. When the Blue Hill at Stone Barns alums first announced the details of their eagerly awaited debut restaurant Vicia in St. Louis, they were shooting for a 2016 opening. “We’d be open to any book offers to write about the opening process,” Tara, who is also the restaurant’s general manager, joked to Eater a few weeks ago.
Now it’s time to deliver on the big plans — and the big buzz that built over the months of delays. As previously reported, Vicia taps into a few different strains of current restaurant thought. It does double-duty, offering diners in the city’s Cortex “innovation district” a casual counter-service lunch option and then transforming into a more upscale dinner destination at night. The lunch menu will feature staples like grain bowls and tartines, plus an array of pastries, cookies, and breads.
The restaurant also boasts an on-trend wood-fired grill and a focus on vegetables, skills and interests Michael cultivated during his tenure as the chef de cuisine at Stone Barns. “It's definitely going to be elevated, but I don’t want to call it fine dining,” he says of his Vicia dinner menu. Here, proteins are the garnish. For the snacks section of the a la carte menu, Michael has been playing with the idea of a “charcuterie tree,” where slices of various housemade charcuterie would be wrapped around greens, meant to be dragged through a nasturtium puree on the plate. A grilled beef entree might come with strained yogurt, green garlic, grains, and “weeds.” At dinner there will also be a tasting menu option, but Michael says that’s really “more like asking people to let us cook for them.”
Designed by Sasha Mallinich of R/5 and Casco Architects, Vicia is all about glass, wood, and, naturally, plants. There are stone accents, too, and the overall look is very much Nordic minimalism meets Midwest foliage. Along with the 54-seat dining room, the restaurant also has a spacious outdoor space, where an additional 34 guests can soak in the splendor of the grill. “People in St. Louis love sitting outside, so we wanted to make it feel like a garden room,” Michael says. Tara points out that being able to open and immediately use the “outdoor dining room” was an unexpected perk of the delay.
The Gallinas moved back to St. Louis, Michael’s hometown, back in 2015. In that time, they’ve hosted various pop-ups and events, becoming more and more a part of the St. Louis restaurant scene. “Looking back at 2016, and realizing how many people we were able to interact with, it’s just confirmed our belief that there’s a true place for us here,” Tara said. Michael thinks the wait was worth it, giving the couple time to fine-tune the details before throwing open the doors this week. “It’s going to be a true representation of who we are and what we want to do. It hurts a little bit that it’s taken too long, but it will pay off.”
• Vicia [Official site]