Fiore's Ristorante Toscana abruptly closed on Tuesday, Feb. 28 after a family dispute over chef and co-owner Anthony Cerrato's announced departure from the restaurant. The building, owned by Cerrato's father, is now up for rent. Cerrato, already at work on his new restaurant, Strada, is looking ahead.
The closure of Fiore's, says Cerrato, allows him to devote more time to his latest venture. "We're right on target, and now I have more time to focus," he says. Strada (Italian for street), will be located at 27 Broadway St., where Tingles, Zoe Rose and, most recently, Never Blue on Broadway used to be.
Some of Fiore's staff, who found themselves unemployed when the restaurant closed, are helping with the cleaning and preparation of the building, while others are taking a break, Cerrato says. By most counts, the picture is a tentatively positive one. "My main focus is moving forward and taking care of my staff [after Fiore's] got shut down sooner than they anticipated," Cerrato says. "They're all really excited, and you could see the smiles on their faces as they were looking at the space that they're going into in a few weeks."
The new location is bright and airy with high ceilings. Cerrato's building crew is busy laying dark bamboo flooring in the dining room and slate in the bathrooms. The walls will be painted warm colors and the bar should be lined with copper soon.
Before Fiore's closed, Ceratto was already looking forward to stretching his wings in the new space. "When I walked in there [the Broadway Street space], I just felt that this was where I needed to be," Cerrato told Xpress. "It was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. It's a necessary part of the evolution."
Striking out on a solo venture marks a big change for the chef, who's been involved with his family's business for eight years. "I'm getting a fresh start, and I think I really need that; I think it's important to my creativity," he says.
When Strada opens, the restaurant’s menu will offer a "street-food" style menu at lunch time, including arancini (fried-risotto balls) and various charcuterie, served from a cold-kitchen area behind the bar. "There's going to be some small plates, some gastro-pub food as well," Cerrato says. Dinner will be similar to what Fiore's offered, "but we're going to freshen it up a bit," he says. There will be small and full plates on the menu, as well as a lot more game, Cerrato says.
In addition to lunch and dinner, the restaurant will offer a Saturday and Sunday brunch with a local duck-egg breakfast pizza, fritattas and fresh-baked breads. Cerrato, who is himself intolerant to gluten, also makes fine gluten-free breads, pizzas and pastas from scratch. Breads will be available by the loaf. Strada already has a long list of restaurants that are interested in wholesale accounts.
Cerrato says that he's looking forward to having a neighborhood spot, where the "smell of the baking bread drifts out to the street."
"Food to me is my art and how I get to express my creativity and passion. It's a labor of love," he says.