Well, that was quick.
The former Ristorante Luci space (470 Cleveland Av. S., St. Paul), dark since the Smith family closed their nearly 30-year-old restaurant on Dec. 31, will be coming back to life.
“We don’t have an exact date,” said Fratzke. “But it’s going to be in the next month, or two.”
The two longtime friends collaborated last summer on O’Reilly’s seasonal Red River Kitchen at City House (it's opening again around May 1) and Fratzke is now the company’s culinary director; he’s retaining his involvement with the Strip Club — which is closing this summer — and Saint Dinette.
The fare? “Straightforward French tavern food,” said Fratzke. “It’s a concept that Matty and I have been kicking around for years. Nothing close to Italian. No Italian wines, no pasta, no pizza. We want to honor the heritage of what the Smiths did there, but do it from a different locale than Italy.”
(The Smiths continue to operate their Luci Ancora across the street).
Instead, Fratzke will put the spotlight on roast chicken, baby cucumbers in an anchovy sauce, lentils with barley and spinach, and other uncomplicated dishes, served six nights a week.
“Nothing pretentious,” he said. “It’s going to be a homey, simple place that people can rely upon. I’ve vowed to keep tweezers and squeeze bottles out of there.”
Expect beer and wine, with spirits to follow. “We’re waiting for our full liquor license to come through,” said Fratzke.
For those unfamiliar with the Luci space, it’s a tiny storefront, with seating that tops out somewhere in the 30s. It’ll receive a remake before the doors reopen.
“Think ‘exposed brick’ and ‘hardwood,’” said Fratzke. “We’ll also be hanging a lot of greenery. It’s going to be cozy, and simple.”
Fratzke has very fond memories of Luci.
“When I moved up here from Winona in the early '90s, it was the place where the out-of-town celebrities went,” he said. “I finally ate there in 2002. We were opening Girarrosto Toscano [an ill-fated Italian restaurant in Eden Prairie] and the chef took me there. He told me, ‘These guys make the best pasta,’ and we had this fantastic meal. It was the kind of place that I’d hoped to end up having some day.”