Bruce Ucan and Anne Shadle Talk Ten Years at Mayan; Chef Eric Abraham Steps Up at Varanese

We’re continuing to dive deep into the news as the only local podcast devoted exclusively to Louisville’s restaurant and bar scene. We start with some bad luck as SuperChefs on Bardstown Road closed over the weekend due to frozen pipes. This misfortune comes a year after a fire burned the former location in St. Matthews. Let’s hope they get up and running again soon. One of our favorites, Butchertown Grocery, didn’t just make USA Today’s list of best new restaurants nationally — it came in No. 2. And we learned that a new wine bar will open soon in Springhurst under the direction of Master Sommelier Scott Harper of the Bristol in Jeffersonville. And we learned that Winston’s, on the Sullivan University campus, will reopen as a gluten-free restaurant.

We’re also glad to welcome Norton Commons as a show sponsor. The East End residential development will hold a Restaurant Week promotion starting Jan. 23, featuring specials from six participating restaurants, plus tasting specials at Commonwealth Tap. Norton Commons joins Harvest Restaurant and the Eye Care Institute as show sponsors.

Steve’s guests are Bruce Ucan and Anne Shadle, who are celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Mayan Cafe’s opening with some amazing specials recalling the restaurant’s history. Rick dropped in to Varanese for a chat with executive chef Erik Abraham, whose responsibilities at the long-time Frankfort Ave. staple increased when owner John Varanese opened River House last year.

In our popular favorites segment, Steve chose the tasty House Cocktail at the Fat Lamb, a twist on the Old Fashioned and Manhattan, served up in a rocks glass. A nibble he enjoyed were lamb meatballs with tzatziki, gremolata and feta. To get warmed up for Norton Commons’ Restaurant Week, Rick stopped in at Citizen 7 for a fantastic Highlands margarita, along with a special Chimi topped with guac, plus a sampling of plantains.

Listen in and download our 35th episode of EatDrinkTalk on the Louisville.am podcast network.

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Chef Erik Abraham. Photo by Bill Brymer

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Anne Shadle and Bruce Ucan

Peripatetic chef Rosenberg leaves Citizen 7, lands at Anoosh Bistro

Here’s one of the toughest parts of a journalist’s job: Knowing information that sources won’t confirm or deny, and rolling the dice on whether to publish that info anyway or wait.

I waited just shy of two weeks to report that Allan Rosenberg had left Citizen 7, where he was a consulting chef, to become culinary director at Anoosh Bistro. Both moves followed his June departure from Fontleroy’s, where he was partner and executive chef since last September.

Neither Rosenberg nor Shariat responded to requests for interviews, so I held tight.

And lost the scoop. Business First jumped before I did, convincing Rosenberg to chat and getting a brief interview for the publication’s online edition.

Win some, lose some. Sometimes patience is rewarded, other times not. Though technically not a dollar short, I’m clearly a day late on reporting Rosenberg’s move to rejoin Shariat, the affable and popular chef who mentored Rosenberg at Park Place restaurant. That spot, if you recall, was located on Main Street in the space now used as warehousing for barrel-aged beers at Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse. That was an early step in what’s become a lengthy odyssey of Rosenberg starts and brief stays at multiple restaurant companies in Louisville.

Following Rosenberg’s time at Park Place, he opened and closed Danielle’s, a solo venture in Clifton, and Papalino’s, a two-unit pizzeria company he started in the Highlands on Baxter Ave. Rosenberg’s partners in Papalino’s opened a second unit in Springhurst. Rosenberg closed the first pizzeria two years ago and sold his interest in the company to his partners, who operated the Springhurst pizzeria until closing it just weeks ago.

Anoosh Shariat, co-owner of Noosh Nosh and Anoosh Bistro. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Anoosh Shariat, co-owner of Noosh Nosh and Anoosh Bistro. | Photo by Steve Coomes

In 2014, at about the same time he was leaving Papalino’s, Rosenberg became chef de cuisine at The Place Downstairs, the subterranean and short-lived upscale concept operated in the basement of the J-Town Mussel & Burger Bar. A few months later he helped change the concept to Cena, a modestly upscale Italian concept that never caught on and closed 13 months later.

In the wake of that setback, Rosenberg set about creating Fontleroy’s, a modern-Southern casual restaurant in the Highlands that he and chain restaurateur Scott Dennison opened last fall. Yet as of this June, Rosenberg left Fontleroy’s after 10 months to work as a consulting chef at Citizen 7, a Latin-inspired taqueria and tequila bar opened in Norton Commons early this year. Since Citizen 7’s multiple partners prefer to stay off the record when talking to reporters, the connection to that concept and Fontleroy’s is a tad murky, but it’s arguably correct to call Rosenberg’s reassignment an intra-company move.

I talked to him about the change back in July, and discussed further work that he’d do as a consulting chef for Parlour, a pizzeria to be opened late this fall by roughly the same group behind Citizen 7. (It will be located near the Jeffersonville end of the Big Four footbridge.) A self-proclaimed “big fan of pizza”—a large slice is tattooed on Rosenberg’s left arm—he told me he was excited about a return to that crusty, saucy niche.

What he knew at that time that I didn’t was that his return to pizza would happen at Noosh Nosh, not at Parlour.

I found out a couple of months later via a tip from a source who said Rosenberg was on the move again, this time to Shariat’s operations. I requested interviews with both men to confirm or deny the rumor, but got no response. That was unusual for both, since each has shared off-the-record information with me before and, on some occasions, asked that I wait until a proper time to break the news.

Rosenberg's eventual play toy: the pizza oven at Noosh Nosh. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Rosenberg’s eventual play toy: the pizza oven at Noosh Nosh. | Photo by Steve Coomes

Believing it’s best to have a relationship with a source than ruin it in a rush to publish first, I don’t recall a time when I’ve declined that request. So despite hearing nothing but crickets, I kept still while double checking the rumor with other sources, who confirmed Rosenberg’s transition.

So yesterday I saw Business First report the story, and in it Rosenberg confirmed he’d returned to Shariat’s fold, where he’ll be culinary director for the company. I can’t say I was happy, but I can’t say I was terribly mad, either. I stuck to my principles about how I handle confidential information, though it cost me a scoop. (Yeah, we journalists are competitive that way. Petty as it may seem to outsiders, it’s one way we rank our wins.)

I can’t imagine his partner at Fontleroy’s and his contract bosses at Citizen 7 were happy either, though I know they got the news many days before.

I shared my disappointment in a text to Rosenberg and Shariat, and Rosenberg responded with a call. A little late, I told him, but to his defense, he said he was protecting his own interests by keeping quiet overall. I told him I understood that, but I said he should have at least acknowledged I knew the story and asked me to wait. But that’s the risk in my business; his risks are different in his. We agreed professionally that our separate needs simply didn’t align, and we politely maneuvered the discussion toward details of his new post.

Rosenberg said his immediate focus is Anoosh Bistro, an impressive restaurant that I’d call Shariat’s best upscale effort ever in Louisville (much as I loved his namesake restaurant operated long ago in Crescent Hill). Rosenberg said Shariat wants him to review the menu, see what staples need to remain, what dishes can be modernized and what dishes can be replaced in a seasonal rotation. According to some of Rosenberg’s chef peers, refining, perfecting and creating dishes are skills he has in spades.

Rosenberg said to expect more wine- and cocktail-paired menus and the possibility of a nightly prix fixe offering. The return of Kyle Higgins as Bistro’s bartender, will help create these new pairings.

Rosenberg also said he’ll eventually move his focus to Noosh Nosh, which is located conveniently across the Brownsboro Center parking lot from Anoosh Bistro. The move will mark Rosenberg’s return to his beloved pizza, for at the heart of Noosh Nosh throbs an Italian, gas-fired pizza oven cloaked in ruby red tiles. The flaming beast produces some of the city’s best pies, hot breakfast items and caramelized hunks of juicy proteins in its searing-hot bowels. Few kitchen toys excite chefs like one of these.

Rosenberg’s peripatetic record posits the question of how long he’ll stay at Shariat’s side. By his own admission, he’s cursed with an extreme culinary curiosity, one that sends him plunging into the piles of cookbooks stacked at home. It also seems to lead him from restaurant to restaurant in search of fresh stimuli.

Perhaps the return to Team Shariat and giving in once again to the pull of pizza will keep him working in Indian Hills for a good while. Saying that such is my hope is the easy part of my job.

Rosenberg leaves troubled Fontleroy’s to help at Citizen 7

Allan Rosenberg, chef, partner and creator of Fontleroy’s in the Highlands is no longer working at the midscale Southern food restaurant.

According to Rosenberg, he left the restaurant two months ago when his business partner in Fontleroy’s, Scott Dennison, requested he come help at Citizen 7, a Norton Commons taqueria and tequila bar that has struggled with kitchen turnover since opening earlier this year. As consulting chef for Citizen 7, Rosenberg created the menu and helped open the facility.

He insisted his departure from Fontleroy’s “wasn’t a bad thing,” and added that he doesn’t “know what’s been going on there since I left. I’ve just focused my energy on Citizen 7.”Woven-sign-Font

According to sources who declined to comment on the record, Fontleroy’s is battling sagging sales and turnover problems of its own. And while Rosenberg couldn’t comment directly on the restaurant’s challenges, he allowed that the location—set back off the road at the corner of Bardstown Road and Grinstead Drive—might not be ideal for a restaurant.

“Fontleroy’s is the best, worst location there is in the area,” he said. “There’s really only one way to get into and out of the lot there, and that’s a pain in the butt.”

Opened last fall, the restaurant garnered good reviews, and all seemed well as it added breakfast service earlier this year. But Rosenberg said adding breakfast may have dampened dinner traffic, plus he wonders if Fontleroy’s dinner menu is priced too high for the area.

“I’ve been told breakfast is busy there, but I’m not sure if it took away from dinner aspect,” said Rosenberg, who authored all Fontleroy’s menus. “Maybe it became (in people’s minds) a special occasion restaurant because of the (dinner) cost.”

A July 30 Facebook post by Fontleroy’s bartender Ashley Towning painted a picture of a restaurant facing significant problems.

“Many people have asked me what has been up with Fontleroy’s,” began Towning, whose Facebook name is Smashley Marie Towning. “At this point, everything is so messed up with management and the concept in general that I’m not really airing this to bash them or anyone, I’m sure anyone who has visited in the past 6 months or so can figure it out themselves.”

Towning’s post accused management of “not caring enough and lacking true restaurant knowledge to continue running the place properly,” and “we (the staff) have had extensive evidence pointing to the fact that the physical building space is going to be sold/rented to a new owner under our noses.”

In a private Facebook discussion with Towning, she stood by her comments, yet she remains employed at Fontleroy’s.

Asked whether Fontleroy’s closure is imminent, Rosenberg said, “(Dennison) hasn’t mentioned closing it to me, though I know it’s up for a lease renewal in November.”

Four years ago Dennison leased the building and opened an Uncle Maddio’s pizza franchise there. According to Rosenberg, when Dennison closed the fast-casual pizza concept, “he was still in the Maddio’s lease, so he just repurposed the restaurant as Fontleroy’s.” He declined to speculate on whether Dennison would renew the lease.

Dennison was not available for comment on the matter by press time.

Rosenberg also mentioned that the neighborhood around Fontleroy’s is experiencing negative changes. At the Bardstown-Grinstead corner of the Fontleroy’s lot is a TARC bus stop where homeless persons sleep on its bench and the sidewalk below it. Additionally, the Speedway C-store store directly across Grinstead is widely known among Highlands business owners and residents as a hub for drug deals.

“That whole intersection has become really sketchy,” Rosenberg said. “When I had Papalino’s Pizza down Baxter (Ave.) a few years ago, the neighborhood wasn’t like this. The Highlands is changing a lot there.”

In the coming months, Rosenberg will return to the pizza business when he opens Parlour in Jeffersonville near the end of the Big Four Bridge’s footpath. Rosenberg, whose arm bears a tattoo of a pizza slice, said he’s excited to return to the craft of pizza making.

“I’ve always liked it,” he told me recently. At one point, he was involved in two Papalino’s pizzerias, but he sold his interest in the company. Just one remains in business in the Springhurst neighborhood. “I’ve really missed not doing it.”