Award-winning St. Louis restaurateur Chris LaRocca and longtime partner Jason Tilford are planning a new restaurant, Crushed Red Urban Bake and Chop Shop.
LaRocca has had his hand in many pots. He has directed many multi-million dollar restaurant operations, incuding Catering St. Louis and Romacorp, Inc. Now, he is focusing on his company, Culinary Architects.The Riverfront Times recently named Tilford best local chef.
Two foodies, many successes
The two began working together when LaRocca put him in charge of back-of-the-house operations for two of his Crazy Fish Fresh Grill locations. The original Crazy Fish was located in Clayton and received numerous awards, including best plate presentation and best eclectic dining by The St. Louis People’s Choice Committee; and most creative menu award by the Missouri Restaurant Association.
After LaRocca divested the Crazy Fish restaurants, Tilford took over the Clayton location. As owner, Tilford coverted the facility to , which continues to offer chef-driven pub fare. Tilford is also a co-owner of Milagro Modern Mexican in Webster Groves and Tortilliaria in the Central West End.
LaRocca's company, Culinary Architects, is a full-service restaurant development and management company. Some of his successful ventures have included Triumph Grill in Grand Center, Kota Wood Fire Grill on North Grand Boulevard and Sage Urban American Grill in Soulard, among others.
He is also a minute shareholder, along with Andy and Dee Dee Kohn, in Defiance, MO-based Chandler Hill Vineyards.
But LaRocca is modest. He gives much credit to his colleagues and partners.
Tilford was instrumental in the menu development of Triumph Grill and Kota Wood Fire Grill among others.
Inside Crushed Red
LaRocca's newest venture, Crushed Red Urban Bake and Chop Shop in Clayton, will be located at 8007 Maryland Ave.
"Five to six years ago, I had the bones of the idea," LaRocca said. "Two years ago, I began nailing down the concepts with Jason Tilford."
This is the eighth or ninth project the pair have worked on together, and LaRocca counts on Tilford for his culinary expertise. The restaurant will feature chopped salads and pizzas.
But make no mistake: This will not be an average pizza joint.
"The culinary concept is edgy and chef-driven," LaRocca said. The pizzas and salads will be made from high-quality, natural ingredients along with organic salad dressings.
Diners will choose from four types of greens, a dozen organic dressings and four or more toppings.
They will all be chopped and cost approximately $5.75. Organic dressings will include classics such as Caesar, ranch and honey-mustard, as well as more exotic options such as roasted pepper vin, Japanese miso ginger and vidalia onion honey dijon.
More than 40 toppings will be available. Premium choices will include house-roasted chicken breast, angus steak, roasted shrimp, salmon, edamame, Kalamata olives, roasted Mediterranean vegetables, goat cheese, feta and queso fresco.
If all of the ingredient choices make you woozy, pre-crafted urban salads are available. For lovers of spicy Southwestern cuisine, there is the San Antonio. It's a salad with avocado, tomato, roasted corn, queso fresco and tortilla strips chopped with romaine lettuce and tossed with organic chipotle ranch.
If meat is what you crave, the Steak & Egg offers certified angus steak, chopped egg, tomato, red onion, blue cheese and housemade croutons chopped with iceberg lettuce tossed with organic goddess dressing. Some other choices include the Miami Shrimp, Clayton Cobb and Shanghai.
The Neapolitan pizzas will have the same theme: Choice.
Visitors will choose their sauce and toppings or pick an urban-crafted pie. Adventure seekers will be able to try sauces such as Thai red curry, chipotle barbecue or Louisiana hot. Organic tomato sauce also is also offered. Classic and premium toppings available for salads also will be available for the pizzas.
For the indecisive, there will be urban-crafted pies. They will include the Country Ham & Fig, topped with honey, figs, ham, walnuts, ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. The Mushroom Medley is flavored with Parmesan cream, shiitake, cremini, oyster mushrooms, fresh thyme and brie. Another interesting menu choice is the Yukon Gold Rush, served with Parmesan cream, hickory bacon, sliced Yukon Gold potatoes, ripe olives, fresh rosemary and gruyere cheese and is topped with an over-medium egg.
Crushed Red will offer Urban Eye Openers (chopped salads and pizzas for lunch and dinner), Urban After-4 Sharables (for the after work crowd), as well as a wine bar showcasing some great California wines and a nice selection of Missouri wines. Guests will have the option to order by the glass or to purchase a tasting of four or more wines, as well as six craft beers on draft.
The Clayton Plan Commission voted in September to recommend that the city's Board of Aldermen approve a conditional use permit for the restaurant. The aldermen are expected to vote Oct. 25 on the permit, said Susan Istenes, the city's planning director.
The architects for the project are Zwick and Gandt.
"We plan to start construction the first week in November 2011 on Crushed Red Urban Bake and Chop Shop and have it completed in approximately two months' time, hopefully before Jan. 1, 2012," said Edin Coralic, one of the project's architects.