St. Louis chef, sommeliers team up for new Libertine restaurant

2013-01-04T10:00:00Z 2013-01-04T14:10:04Z St. Louis chef, sommeliers team up for new Libertine restaurantBy Evan S. Benn 314-340-8348

St. Louis chef Josh Galliano and husband-and-wife restaurateurs Nick and Audra Luedde are working on a new restaurant, the Libertine, that they plan to open this spring.

They're calling the concept a "re-imagined neighborhood eatery," with small and large plates ranging from $6 to $22, backed by a wine, cocktail and craft beer program. 

Lease details are being finalized, but St. Louis Magazine's George Mahe reports the Libertine will be located at 7927 Forsyth Boulevard in Clayton, a space vacated last year by Chez Leon. Once open, Libertine will serve dinner daily, with lunch service coming later.

The project marks Galliano's first full-time return to a professional kitchen since the March closing of Monarch restaurant in Maplewood, where he was executive chef. 

And it's a homecoming of sorts for Nick Luedde, 36, who graduated from Kirkwood High in 1995.

After years of working as a sommelier, mixologist and restaurant general manager in Chicago and New York as well as traveling abroad, Luedde says, he continually found himself thinking about how certain restaurant concepts might work in St. Louis.

Recent visits home swayed Luedde and his wife that this was the right place for them to plant roots.

"One weekend I took Audra out restaurant-hopping," he says. "The evening ended with (her saying), 'We really need to open a restaurant here.' She really wound up falling in love with it."

Galliano, 35, is a Louisiana native with a Grand Diplôme from Le Cordon Bleu in London whose culinary career has taken him to New Orleans, New York and, since 2005, St. Louis, where he's led the kitchens at An American Place and Monarch.

After Monarch closed, Galliano created several pop-up restaurants, cooked at private and charity events, and staged in other kitchens. Most recently, he signed on to be the opening "chef de cinema" for MX Movies, which opens this month in the Mercantile Exchange development downtown.

As the Libertine's executive chef, Galliano says his menu of about 30 dishes will fall under "vegetable," "meat" and "seafood" headers, and all bread, charcuterie and desserts will be made in-house.

"I love the way that the three of us are working to bring together a relaxed atmosphere, lacking in pretension, in order to serve people as if they were dining in our houses," Galliano says.

Luedde notes that Libertine's bar will be "extensive and meticulously stocked," allowing him to "craft modernized parlor cocktails from scratch."

As both Nick and Audra Luedde are sommeliers, it's a safe bet that the wine list will be smartly curated. And they say they will tap into the local craft beer market for the restaurant's suds.

Nick Luedde says his vision for the Libertine is to give people the type of dining experience he enjoys: "One that focuses on creative, local, farm-focused cuisine; boutique, small-production wines; and from-scratch cocktails, all offered at everyman prices."

Evan S. Benn (@EvanBenn) is the food critic and beer columnist for the Post-Dispatch. 

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