This spring, a storied Central West End property will celebrate its next stage
— this time as a destination for fresh and modern Italian fare.
Edera Italian Eatery
will open at 48 Maryland Plaza in the Central West End this spring, as first reported by St. Louis Magazine
. The building most recently housed Scape American Bistro and is owned by the Koplar family, who have a long history in real estate, development and communications in St. Louis and
specifically in the Central West End.
After Scape closed in April 2019, Sam Koplar of Koplar Properties Inc. says that in the months that followed he was discouraged to hear people concerned about other closures in the Central West End. He sees the current moment in time as a period of transition for the neighborhood — a new chapter in a series of new chapters over its long history.
"A change can be scary; I think we tend toward the negative view of things, but the reality is if you look at things in a black-and-white way and remove emotion, there's more stuff happening around here than there's ever been," Koplar says. "We've got the biggest apartment tower in the region going up by a Time 100 architect. There's stuff around here that I wouldn't have believed my eyes [to see] fifteen years ago. It's that old adage, 'the only constant is change.' It's healthy to have change and revival every now and then."
Resolved to open a new concept in the space, Koplar and his family considered what type of cuisine would complement what was already offered in the neighborhood. Koplar says he and his family, like so many St. Louis diners, loved Randolfi's in the Delmar Loop and have missed it since the restaurant shuttered in September 2017. The family did some research and saw a need for fresh Italian fare in the Central West End, and so approaching Randolfi's chef-owner Mike Randolph seemed like a natural fit.
"St. Louis punches so far above its weight as far as food goes —
I'm very proud of being from here just for the great food that we have," Koplar says. "Mike is, I think, one of the best chefs in town. There's so many people doing great things.
I don't think we celebrate our food around here enough."
Randolph has indeed been heralded as one of the very best chefs in the St. Louis area by local and national publications — and he's also been shortlisted as a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation Best Chef: Midwest award multiple times.
In addition to Randolfi's, the lauded chef has operated other critically acclaimed restaurants in town including Half & Half and Original J's, which opened in Clayton last fall (as well as the now-shuttered Publico and Privado).
As the consulting chef at Edera, Randolph says he's excited to debut a new kind of Italian concept in St. Louis with the Koplars. Randolph is careful to note that Edera won't be Randolfi's 2.0 — he says they wanted to start with "a clean slate."
"We talked a lot about our ethos early on, and one of the things we came up with was we're not a place where guests come in and need to be educated on the menu," Randolph says. "We're not trying to sell food that's authentic to a sub-region in Italy. We're just trying to serve really good, well-executed, approachable Italian food that folks in the St. Louis market will hopefully understand the second they sit down and look at the menu."
Randolph says as much as possible will be made in-house at Edera, including pizza dough, pasta, bread and gelato. Pizza preparation will be visible from the dining room via a centerpiece pizza station on a raised platform. Pies will then be baked for six or seven minutes in a gas-fired deck oven. Randolph says Edera will serve "individual circle pizzas" cut into squares and describes pies as having a thinner crust with a little bit of crispiness.
"The pizza dough is a similar dough to what I've always worked with; we're switching up some of the flours, some of the fermentation cycles, and then we're certainly switching up the temperature by as much as a couple hundred degrees," Randolph says.
In addition to fresh pasta and pizza, Randolph says Edera will also serve salads, antipasto and entrees such as steak and seafood. He and the Koplars hope that Edera will be a place where a couple can grab a pizza and a couple glasses of wine before catching a movie at the Chase or where larger groups can settle in for an evening of wine, steak, pasta and seafood.
Although Randolph is developing the menu for Edera as a consultant, it will be executive chef Mick Fumo who executes it on-site. Like Randolph, Fumo is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute; unlike Randolph, Fumo has extensive experience cooking in much larger restaurants, including those at the Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis and Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis, as well as Scape.
"I always take a lot of stock anytime I come across another NECI grad; I think it's the best culinary school experience afforded to anybody in America," Randolph says. "He'd worked at a totally different lineage than me but he had come most recently from larger, fancy corporate settings.
Although he's opened some of the most lauded spots in town over the years, Randolph says that the scope of Edera is unlike anything he's done before. With a 3,600-square-foot dining room inside am 8,000-square-foot facility, Edera could quite literally house some of Randolph's former concepts.
"I've never had a restaurant over 3,000 square feet, so it was important to me to find someone who was good at some of the things that I struggled with, which is truly running all facets of a food operation —
private dining, wedding coordination, patio, basement, dining room," Randolph says. "Mick is pretty old-school in his technique and he's a good, solid cook. It's been a true collaboration with him."
As for Edera's bar program, Koplar says it will be mostly focused on wine, although it's too early to zero on what specific growing regions or varietals will make the cut. In addition to the primary dining room and bar area, Edera will feature a glass-walled wine room available for dinner guests as well as a chef’s table on the lower level and an expandable event space on the second floor.
Fans of the Central West End bar and restaurant will remember its expansive outdoor patio, a happy-hour favorite, which Koplar says will mostly remain as it was. (The name Edera translates to "ivy" in Italian, a nod to the climbing plants covering the patio walls.)
To complement the new concept, Koplar says the space at 48 Maryland Plaza will be refreshed, updating the already "very good bones" still in place from Scape. Sasha Malinich of R|5 Design Agency will oversee renovations while local design firm TOKY will develop Edera's branding.
"Scape was a beautiful dining room, but from the guest perspective we didn't want them to say, 'I want to try Edera tonight,' and they walk in and they think they're back in Scape," Koplar says. "We're trying to hit the reset button and create a whole new experience."
For the Koplar family, who have been opening businesses in St. Louis for more than 100 years, Edera is the latest addition to their legacy. In 1929, patriarch Sam Koplar built the Park Plaza Hotel in the Central West End (now known as the The Chase Park Plaza Royal Sonesta St. Louis). Sam's son Harold launched television station KPLR-TV in 1959; after Harold's passing in 1985, his own son, Ted, took over the station and built it into one of the most successful independent TV stations in the U.S.
"My grandfather, part of his legacy was great hospitality [at the Chase Park Plaza] and great food and beverage," Koplar says. "That was what the Chase stood for and what I believe it still does. That was one of his hallmarks, and that's a benchmark we want to live up to."
Today, through the Koplar family's real-estate firm Koplar Properties Inc., Ted's son Sam Koplar is ushering in another era of investment in St. Louis and specifically in the Central West End. Sam spearheaded Koplar Properties' $20 million restoration of several neighboring buildings in Maryland Plaza completed in 2007 and now Koplar Properties has the AC Hotel under construction in the Central West End.
"We're doubling down on the area," Koplar says. "We feel that its best days are ahead of it."
Follow Liz Miller on Twitter at @lizzaymillah. We are always hungry for tips and feedback. Email the author at email@example.com.
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