COURTESY OF BOTANICA
Chef Ben Welch has created a menu of dishes fusing Italian and Southern U.S. cuisine.
On the heels of Six Mile Bridge's announcement last week that chef Ben Welch would be joining its team, the brewery has delivered even bigger news: Owners Ryan and Lindsay Sherring are opening a new restaurant in Wildwood called Botanica (2490 Taylor Road, Wildwood)
, and they have tapped Welch as its executive chef.
Described as a lively, inviting space consisting of a 13,000-square-foot dining room, lush patio and outdoor bar, Botanica will occupy the former Llywelyn's Pub location in Wildwood Town Center. Though no firm date has been set, the restaurant is slated to open sometime this fall.
According to Ryan Sherring, he and Lindsay have dreamed of opening a restaurant like Botanica for quite some time, but those plans gradually heated up over the past five years. During that time, the husband-and-wife team had been doing Six Mile Bridge special events at Llywelyn's and realized that the area was in need of the sort of community gathering place they had always wanted to create. Because Lindsay grew up in Wildwood and her parents still live there, the Sherrings spend a good amount of time in the area and felt that they were well positioned to contribute to the community as hospitality professionals. When the Llywelyn's space became available, they knew they had their opportunity to do that.
"As we started building up [Six Mile Bridge], we realized there were parts missing," Ryan says. "We talked about expanding into neighborhoods where we don't have a strong presence, and Wildwood has been on that radar for a few years. We could've done a Six Mile Bridge out there, but we wanted to be creative and create new beers, new food and new spaces."
Botanica takes its aesthetic inspiration from Wildwood's natural beauty; the Sherrings cite the nearby Rockwood Reservation and Babler State Park as jumping off points for the design, fusing natural and modern elements to create the space. Ryan describes Botanica as modern and chic, with white walls and pop art — filled with contrasting colors.
As for the menu, Welch has created dishes that blend Italian cuisine and the American South, drawing upon his love for those two food traditions and adding in a touch of the barbecue prowess that he's become known for.
"My goal for Botanica is to explore the marriage of traditional ingredients and recipes from two of the world’s best food cultures: Italian and the Southern United States," Welch says in a press release. "You’ll find little touches of Southern cooking on the menu with the ingredients featured on pizzas, pastas, and more. The dishes will change seasonally, but my signature gnocchi will always be on the menu."
Though he will not give specifics, Ryan teases that Botanica is just Phase Two in a sequence of plans he, his wife and Welch have in the works, and they are excited to bring them to life together over the next few years.
"For us, this is about bringing people together," Ryan says. "That's been our philosophy since Day One, and this is another way for us to be a part of the community. There's no better way to build that than grabbing a beer together or breaking bread together."
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