Exclusive: Brian Laird opening Sarto's, a restaurant and pantry, this fall in Jefferson Park
For months, Brian Laird has been plotting under the radar, slowly and methodically working on lease negotiations for a new restaurant in Jefferson Park, and finally, just last week, Laird and his business partners, Taylor Swallow and Kajsa Gotlin, inked a deal on a century-old corner space at 2900 West 25th Avenue.
The deal has been a long-time cooking for Laird, who spent thirteen years behind the burners at Barolo Grill, exiting that kitchen in early 2011, and then cooked at various other restaurants, including the now-closed Russo's Kitchen + Tavern as well as Sketch, where Laird had returned to his Italian roots, turning out superb housemade pastas.
Sarto's, his new 4,000-square-foot restaurant, which also trumpets a market, deli and pantry, is Italian in scope (the name means "tailor" in Italian), and indicative, says Laird, of what he's wanted to do all along: "a Northern Italian restaurant that's welcoming, friendly and affordable with a lightened, contemporary, localized and refined focus."
The 85-seat restaurant, which boast two patios, is slated to open in early fall, and when it does, guests can expect a multitude of surprises and innovative elements: Laird will build a cicchetti -- Italian for "tapas" -- eight-seat bar, where he'll serve a ever-changing roster of hand-sliced meats from a candy-apple red slicer, charcuterie, cheeses, raw oysters on the half-shell, crostinis and whatever else he feels like dispensing. No two days, he says, will be the same in terms of what's available.
Much of what comprises his dinner menu will emerge from a wood-fired oven tucked into a prominent corner of the partially open kitchen. "That's the showpiece," declares Laird, and his plan, he adds, is to grill vegetables, meats, fish, breads, pizzas and even salads in that oven, stroked by oak and various other flavor-imparting woods. Pastas, of course, will be a huge part of the of the lineup, too, and roving, dim sum-style carts, strewn with small plates, antipasti, wheels of cheeses and risottos will maneuver their way through the dining room, and guests will get "tick-off" sheets to mark what they'd like to order. An antiqued after-dinner drink cart will roam through the dining room, as well.