As the old saying goes, perhaps the third time is the charm for the so-far luckless restaurant spot at 450 S. Fourth Street.
Red Star Tavern, its first tenant, operated there for a few years before closing in late 2011.
Then came Mozzaria, an Italian concept that nearly self-imploded under the major misguidance of founding chef, Matthew Antonovich. Pallas Partners, the largest stakeholders in Mozzaria, parted ways with Antonovich last August and set about rescuing the troubled business.
Last fall, the decision was made to cut all ties to Mozzaria by closing the restaurant in December, hiring new staff and reopening as a new brand.
That brand is Quattro (Italian for 4) and it comes with a fairly significant makeover of the facility’s décor.
“You can tell a lot has been done to change the place,” said Pallas Partners CEO, Matthew Saltzman, smiling and sighing simultaneously.
Indeed a lot has. The new color scheme, which an amateur like me would call copper, sees the space’s exposed heating ducts and ceilings painted in a sort of matte finish of a new penny shade. The look (accented by multiple modern art paintings and halogen lighting) is handsome, though the reflected color was the bane of Business First photographer Ron Bath as he photographed the restaurant.
“I do think it’s cool, but it really changes the light” coming back to the camera “and bleaches the color out of everyone’s skin tone,” Bath said. Pointing to his hefty Nikon D700 and motor drive, “It makes it hard to compensate for that with this.”
Luckily, human eyes compensate for such spectral additions, leaving the room’s soft glow appealing—to me anyway.
Including bar stools, the room seats about 140, an arguably small number of seats for a 6,000 square-foot space. That minimal seating is by design, said Bim Dietrich, former owner of Dietrich’s (aye, we still mourn its loss) and Allo Spiedo, who now manages Quattro’s front-of-the house.
“We took out all the tables they had right there … can you believe they put tables right there?” Dietrich said, pointing to a spacious and lengthy tile walkway dividing several tables and booths. For those who remember Dietrich’s, he said Quattro seats about the same number. “People need room to breathe and move around without being on top of each other. I knew those had to go.”
The bar is also spacious, a wide multi-angular box with plenty of elbow and plate room for those choosing to eat there. During a recent preview visit, hosts gave those dining alone an option of sitting at the bar or a table. Several, like me, chose the bar, which is well lit and comfortable. CNN played on the TVs overhead, but quietly. Doubtless this will become a favorite post-work place to perch.
From my seat, the liquor selection appeared broad and covered all the standards. Taps include a decent selection of 10 draughts, but sadly included only one local in BBC’s Bourbon Barrel Stout. The next nearest beer was a West 6th IPA from Lexington. (To be fair, I didn’t get a look at the bottle selection.)
Executive chef Josh Hillyard oversees Quattro’s kitchen and has introduced a rustic Italian menu. A veteran of Equus and, most recently, Standard Country Club, Hillyard has an equity stake in Quattro, making this his first venture as a restaurant partner.
“It’s exciting, but there’s a lot of pressure, too,” Hillyard said. He told me in a recent phone conversation, “I really like clean flavors. I like to keep food simple,” and by glancing at the lunch and dinner menus, you can see what he means. (Unfortunately, the website doesn’t provide direct links to its menus. Make sure to click the “Navigation” arrow to negotiate the site.)
Or, on Friday, Feb. 1, when it opens to the public, you can see for yourself.
Saltzman is excited to open and “finally get it all going. It’s been a long time in the works,” he said. Were it not for Mozzaria’s summertime fiscal meltdown, Saltzman would still be an investor rather than working so closely with Quattro. “Sometimes you have to make the best of a bad situation. And we think we have.”