Chef Gerard Craft of Niche and its siblings
The worst-kept secret in local restaurant news is a secret no more: Gerard Craft and Centene Plaza announced this morning that Craft's flagship restaurant, Niche,
will relocate from Benton Park to the Centene Plaza office tower at Hanley Road and Forsyth Boulevard in Clayton. Pastaria by Niche
, Craft's previously announced new venture
, will also open in Centene Plaza.
"[It's] a great opportunity, business-wise, to go into that building," Craft tells Gut Check. "We get to make some of the [desired] changes to our restaurant -- how we designed it, how many we sit."
Currently, Niche seats 42, plus a bar. The new Niche will seat 62, plus a bar.
"That's a really nice number," Craft says.
As to the menu at the "new" Niche, Craft explains that the format will be "familiar," though he cautions, "We're a restaurant in motion. We like to consistently evolve." Still, he says, "All of our regulars will be comfortable."
As Craft detailed when announcing Pastaria last summer, his new restaurant will feature rustic Italian cuisine: pastas, wood-oven pizzas and roasted meats. Pastaria will seat about 130, and it will be more family-focused than his previous ventures, which Craft believes makes Clayton the perfect fit. He notes, for example, the number of families that live in nearby University City, as he does with his wife and two daughters.
Craft acknowledges that some city boosters won't be happy about Niche's move to Clayton: "All I can say is that it's a great opportunity, and we really wanted to jump on it. Life's too short to have what-ifs.
"We still have two restaurants," he adds, referring to Central West End neighbors Brasserie by Niche
. "It's not like I'm abandoning the city."
What's more, Craft owns Niche's current building and plans to retain the space for the immediate future, using it as a production and butchering facility for his other restaurants.
Could it one day be home to the next restaurant in the Craft empire?
"I love the space," he admits, laughing. "We'll kind of see what happens."
Niche will remain open in Benton Park until the new location is ready to go in late spring. Look for Pastaria to open this summer.