Donald Link and James Beard Award-winning Herbsaint chef, Rebecca Wilcomb, have a 6,000-square foot Italian restaurant in the works in the Warehouse District — Gianna (700 Magazine Street).
Wilcomb’s grandmother lives in the Veneto region of Italy and the restaurant, slated to open in the window-filled corner spot on the ground floor of the luxury Kalorama condo develpment in April 2019, is named after her.
Link’s group hasn’t opened a restaurant since April 2013, when Pêche Seafood Grill (just a short walk from Gianna) threw open its doors to national praise and awards, including the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in America.
With Gianna though, the group is starting in a totally different spot in terms of design. The building is new, so — unlike Pêche — its design isn’t informed by wood beams or original architectural elements. “We’re starting from scratch here.”
Construction on Gianna won’t start until October, but the space will likely include a tiled open kitchen, a wood-burning oven, a large horseshoe bar with about 20 seats, and seating for about 160 people both indoors and outside under an spacious overhang.
A lot of the inspiration for the menu comes from the rustic cooking of Southern Italy, which has a similar climate to New Orleans. Overall though, the food is going to be the group’s interpretation of Italian cuisine, which the they’ve been researching during visits to Italy — “Just like Cochon is our interpretation of South Louisiana cooking,” Link says.
It’s not just Wilcomb’s grandmother’s name that’s coming to the restaurant. Wilcomb will cook her grandmother’s tortellini en brodo (“in broth”), meat-filled pasta dumplings in clear chicken broth served with parmesan cheese. “The way they’re made varies from town to town, and even household to household. My nonna makes hers using chicken, beef, and pork, parmesan, and nutmeg.”
The wood-burning oven might be used for rotisserie chicken, and there will be fresh pasta. The bar will pour Italian wines alongside a variety of imported and house-made Italian liqueurs.
Link says that the restaurant should be able to suit whatever mood the diner is in, walking that fine line between upscale and casual. Diners could come in and drink wine at the bar or they could come in with the whole family for a full sit-down meal. The price point will be about the same as Link’s other nearby restaurants, Pêche and Cochon.
Wilcomb has already stepped out of her chef de cuisine role at Herbsaint to focus on the new restaurant. David Rouse, formerly sous chef at Herbsaint, has assumed the role of chef de cuisine in her place.
With partners Donald Link, Stephen Stryjewski, and Rebecca Wilcomb, long time Link Restaurant GM Heather Lolley and Ryan Prewitt of Pêche have joined the ownership group.
And FYI, Wilcomb’s grandmother is pretty thrilled about the restaurant’s name. “She’s telling everybody about it,” Wilcomb says.