Michael and Tara Gallina have big plans for their new outdoor space, Vicia Gardenside.
Over the past year, as the pandemic has forced them to get creative about how they serve their guests, Vicia's (4260 Forest Park Avenue, 314-553-9239)
Michael and Tara Gallina found themselves taking advantage more and more of their outdoor space. Now, they are getting ready to make those innovations permanent with the launch of their new outdoor venue, Vicia Gardenside.
"Last year, we used the lawn space at Vicia because we had to survive, and it ended up being this really cool surprise," Tara Gallina says. "It's really versatile, and people loved being out there. We figured we would be crazy not to transform this into something permanent that has more formalness to it and is a real, living, breathing space, not just tables on the lawn."
According to Gallina, Vicia Gardenside will consist of two tiers of seating that take advantage to the stadium-style nature of the space. The top tier will be completely covered by a steel roof and will have room for approximately thirty seats. The lower tier, which is divided from the upper level by a cement retaining wall, will have an additional twenty seats. She envisions the different seating areas as being separated by fruit trees, bushes or grapevines, and there will be a small orchard at the bottom of the space. To add to the garden feel, the ground will be covered with small pebbles. Both tiers will have ample outdoor heaters so that the Gallinas can offer the Gardenside experiences even as the temperatures dip over the winter.
"We have these really cool rope-mesh chairs and beautiful lanterns that will be on each table. The space is lit from the ground up and projecting onto the canopy, so it will feel really cozy at night, but really bright and beautiful during the day."
The Gallinas hope that Vicia Gardenside will provide a lovely outdoor setting for those who aren't yet comfortable dining inside and to accommodate the ever-shifting situation of dining during a pandemic. However, the new venue will also allow them to provide a more casual experience to diners who want to experience Vicia's food, drink and hospitality in a more low-key manner.
"Part of this is driven by the desire for us to have something more casual, which was a muscle we got to flex last year," Gallina says. "It was fun, but in reopening, we had to focus on one thing, which is our Farmer's Feast. It's amazing, we love it, and we are in the place we always wanted to be, but it doesn't allow us to reach an audience that wants to come in for something other than a three-course meal."
To that end, Vicia Gardenside will focus on snacks, small bites and drinks — an experience Gallina describes as "a relaxing time with friends." She and Michael are still working out what those offerings will be, as well as service logistics. They also see the new venue as being an ideal spot for special events, pop-ups and private dinners.
"We're just taking it as it comes, and have an 'if you build it they will come' sort of approach to this," Gallina says. "We really want to get into the space and see what it is before we really make a mark on it. However we use it, it's going to give us a lot more flexibility; it's going to become what it becomes, and I'm OK with that."
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