Alex Stratta says he’s finally set to open Tapas by Alex Stratta in Tivoli Village on April 8. If you recall, the chef had been planning to open the restaurant in December in the space that formerly housed the shopping center’s Pizza Lounge. Then came word that he had split with partners Preferred Restaurant Brands and the restaurant’s location had been changed to a site across the promenade that formerly housed Poppy Den.
Then … crickets.
“We were five days away from opening, and changed gears very quickly,” the chef recalls of the hectic period late last year. “And we had to revisit everything except the menu and the concept. A lot of things that we hoped would take two or three days ended up taking two or three weeks.” Stratta says another reason for the delay has been his desire to make his Spanish tapas as authentic as possible. “A lot of our mainstay ingredients are from Spain—whether it’s the meats or the cheeses or the olive oils and those kind of things—which are more difficult to source in the quality level that I expect,” he says.
The Italian-American chef who has run two of this city’s finest French restaurants (the late Renoir and Alex) says he embarked on a series of ingredient tastings to see the differences Spanish products bring to the plate, and determine how to best use them. “I’ve been working a lot with spices and spice mixes that really bring personality to the food,” he says. “I’m trying to find balance between sweet and sour, bitter, salty, crunchy, creamy.”
The result of his experimentation has been recipes that are extremely light. “I don’t think there’s any butter in the kitchen!” the chef exclaims, still surprised by that fact. “The only dairy we have, I think, is the cheeses. And usually dairy is a pretty substantial part of my repertoire.” While the style may be new, Stratta is confident it will be a hit. “My expectations are very high that we’ll knock this thing out of the park.”
In the meantime, the chef is keeping fairly quiet about details on the steakhouse and the casual concept he has planned for the soon-to-open Gramercy.