Up close and sociable

No friend request required: Eric Booker (left) and Anthony Cerrato hope to create a space that encourages off-line mingling. Max Cooper
No friend request required: Eric Booker (left) and Anthony Cerrato hope to create a space that encourages off-line mingling. Max Cooper

Anthony Cerrato celebrated his restaurant's first birthday in March. With a year behind him, he hopes to expand on Strada's Italian menu with a new tapas concept that pulls from all around the Mediterranean, including Morocco.

With partner Eric Booker, Cerrato will rebrand Sazerac, the cocktail lounge next door to Strada, as The Social Lounge and Tapas. “We want to warm up the concept,” he says. “We're going to be doing food that's not being done around town.”

The new menu will focus on “fresh, light and healthy,” he says, with dishes such as chicken tagine, charred octopus and cardamom crème brulée. The menu is equally inspired by the foods of Morocco, the Greek islands, Sicily and southern Spain, and it will feature a section devoted to each region.

Even as the food and décor change, the bar will continue to focus on cocktails while adding eight draft beers. “The cocktail menu we have right now will not change at all,  but seasonally we do take a look at our cocktails and try to bring in flavors of the season,” Booker says. “We've always done that. We will continue to do that.”

Booker and Cerrato hope the neighboring eateries will support one another. A new door will connect them, and the warm atmosphere of Strada will carry over into The Social with new paint and wood accents.

Cerrato became a partner in Sazerac a year ago. Before that, Booker had owned the bar with other partners, who designed it with a New Orleans theme in mind, although that concept has since fizzled out. Cerrato looks forward to redesigning the menu in his own style.

The restaurant will morph gradually from Sazerac to The Social over the course of the spring. Eventually, The Social will serve weekend brunch on the rooftop, complete with a Bloody Mary bar, cook station and a selection of sparkling wines.

Amid all the changes, the logo featuring an S with a crown atop its curve will remain. It's an important letter to emphasize, Booker explains, because socializing is central to the new bar's identity. “For an old guy like me, social media's not so social,” he says. “This is a place for people to come together, to meet, to be with their friends, to have a good time, to be wined and dined.”

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