Mike Randolph opened his latest restaurant, Original J’s Tex-Mex Barbecue, only last November, but the acclaimed chef is already assisting on a new project: Edera, an Italian restaurant slated to open in May in the former Scape American Bistro space in the Central West End.
At Edera, Randolph is acting as a culinary consultant for the Koplar family, which closed Scape in April 2019 after an 11-plus-year run — one of several high-profile Central West End restaurant closures in recent years.
Randolph acknowledges the closures, but he tells Off the Menu, "What you have here is a family that has for decades invested in this little area and owned this swath of land on Maryland, and they are saying, 'We are going to double-down on the Central West End because we still believe in it.'"
One issue Scape faced, Randolph believes, was potential customers who "would take one look at the space, and they would say, 'Oh, we’ll come back for an anniversary or something.'"
For Edera, then, Randolph and the Koplars are taking a cue not from Scape’s fine-dining pedigree, but from its more casual outdoor patio. (Edera is Italian for ivy.) Expect Italian fare that Randolph describes as approachable and recognizable — dishes that won’t require much, if any, explanation tableside.
"(The Koplars) want people who appreciate good things to be able to come in and appreciate well-executed simplicity," Randolph says. "They also want people that just may be walking by or may be coming back (from) going down to a Cards game or a Blues game to feel like they can stop in."
The menu, which will be overseen day-to-day by executive chef Mick Fumo, will feature pizzas and pastas priced under $20 as well as, at a higher price, steaks and chops.
Pizza will be prominent at Edera — there will be a pizza station in the dining room — but diners will not find the Neapolitan style that Randolph featured at the Good Pie and its successor, Randolfi’s Italian Kitchen. Randolph believes a strict adherence to Neapolitan tradition and the soupy-centered pies it often produces are a hard sell in St. Louis.
"You put a 12-inch pie down in front of somebody with a knife and a fork, and they look at you like you’re crazy," Randolph says. "But that’s how those pizzas over generations have been engineered to be eaten."
Instead, Edera will bake pizzas at 700 degrees (a lower temperature than the Neapolitan style demands) with an eye toward each slice’s structural integrity.
For Randolph, consulting on a new restaurant has been a different experience from opening his own.
"I’m not there 50, 60 hours a week," he says. "It’s been difficult and refreshing for me on a professional level to be involved in a project…where they’re really just looking for me to come in and say, 'Hey, let’s try this.'"