Before heading for Vicia, I did some poking around on line to learn more about the name and menu of the trendy, new restaurant that opened this week in the Cortex Innovation Community. For one thing, I wasn’t sure how to pronounce the name. With a few clicks, I learned it’s VI-see-uh, meaning vetch, a cover crop planted to replace nutrients into the soil and a symbol of the connection between what grows above and below ground.
A Rose by Any Other Name
It occurred to me that before the day of the Internet, we had to settle for such boring, but memorable restaurant name as Howard Johnson’s. But you don’t see restaurant names like that anymore. Quirky botanical names can be troublesome to the linguistically challenged. So on my way to the restaurant, I kept repeating it to myself so as not to forget the correct pronunciation.
This being Vicia’s first week of operation I was ready to cut them some slack in the kitchen and allow for a few serving glitches. But there was no need. It was mid-day when we arrived and things were purring along like a fine-tuned engine. All was smooth, calm and flawless. The floor-to-ceiling windows gave the place an airy, contemporary feel and an openness onto the world.
Tara and Michael Gallina: A Culinary Couple
Before opening in St. Louis, co-owners Tara and Michael Gallina worked in tony California and New York restaurants, honing their skills for such a time as this. With courage and resolve the couple departed the James Beard award-winning Blue Hill at Stone Barns to take up a new challenge in the Midwest. They spent a year doing pop-up dinners and getting to know local sources, chefs, and customers before opening the doors this spring.
Back in his hometown, Michael wants to cook locally sourced, seasonal foods with a “vegetable forward” emphasis. Look for him to be incorporating fresh and innovative ideas into the frequently changing menu. That doesn’t mean Vicia is a vegetarian restaurant; it’s just that protein will have less of a starring role.
Tara, who works as General Manager, and Michael move easily and confidently about their new kitchen and dining room, seeing to the care and comfort of patrons. The open kitchen allows diners a full view of Vicia’s well choreographed chefs at work.
Michael and two other chefs delivered our food to the table—a nice touch that enhances the connection between kitchen and dining room. The food was both art and nourishment. My soup was a bowl of creamy, squashy goodness and the tartin, a layered mélange of textures and flavors.
Room for Dessert?
When it came to dessert, we split an Almond Frangipan Turnover—though our server spoke glowingly of the chocolate chip cookies with the sea-salted tops. The Turnover was perfectly delectable, but I deferred to the judgment of my French-born friend at the other end of the pastry we were sharing.
“How does this compare to those you’ve had in France?” I asked.
Savoring the final crumbs, she raised her brow approvingly and gave the pastry a hearty thumbs up.
This place uniquely appeals to all the sense: It feels good. . . looks good. . . tastes good.
Vicia. VI-see-uh. Look there! I’ve even learned how to pronounce the name!
Vicia, 4260 Forest Park Avenue on the corner of Duncan and Boyle. Open: Mon-Fri 11a-1:30p. Dinner served Tue-Thu 5:30p-9:30p; Fri-Sat 5:30-10. Reservations are encouraged for dinner, but unnecessary for lunch.