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Food Chatter: Q&A with Bruce Logue of BoccaLuppo

Last week I caught up with Bruce Logue, who recently left his executive chef position at La Pietra Cucina, to chat about plans for his highly anticipated new restaurant, BoccaLuppo. Logue said that the new resto will feature a casual Italian-American menu that  include some of the pasta dishes he made famous at the four-star La Pietra but at a lower price point. He is still locking down his location but it will be smaller and more centrally located with ample parking. And for all of his fans, BoccaLuppo should be up and running before the end of the year,if not sooner.

Q: What will be the main differences between La Pietra and BoccaLupo in terms of menu and price point?
BL: The only similarity to La Pietra will be the flavors and ingredients found in some of the food. Things like my Calabrese sausage and my Bolognese ragu will surely be at BoccaLupo. BoccaLupo will focus more on some of the Italian-American favorites that people already know and what makes those dishes great. My goal is to add to the vernacular of what is considered Italian-American cooking by using American made artisan products that would normally be imported from "the old country." Things like cured hams and salumi, Parmesan style cheese, and San Marzano tomatoes are now being produced at a very high level in the U.S. There are dairies in Georgia making mozzarella and burrata and other Italian cheeses as well as local farmers growing vibrant produce year round. Our country produces excellent wine and olive oil and our semolina is of the best in the world for making extruded pasta. These are some of the building blocks that we will use to achieve Italian-American flavor. I want people to connect deeply with the food whether it is on an intellectual level or just plain old "this tastes amazing" level. Another big difference will be the price point. We will be very creative in keeping our price point low. We want people to feel like they can drop in any time and enjoy a satisfying meal.

Q: What about the décor?
BL: The décor will be vastly different in that the whole concept will center around the pasta bar which is essentially an open kitchen much like a sushi bar. The remaining tables will be comfortably spaced around the dining room in full view of the pasta bar. The staff will be friendly and knowledgeable without being arrogant. We want to create a happy, hometown feel with a cool vibe. We will have adequate parking convenient to the restaurant and will be open for lunch and dinner.

Q: Where have you been looking in terms of a possible location and what type of space are you looking for?
BL: I have been primarily looking at second generation restaurant space between 1800–2500 square feet. A first generation space would be nice but the time and money it takes to get it in restaurant shape can be excessive for a small start up. As far as what part of town, I am pretty open. There are many neighborhoods that I think would be a great match for this restaurant. When you are shopping second generation I think you have to be flexible on the location because your options are limited.

Q: Where did the name BoccaLupo come from and how did you settle on it as the name of your restaurant?
BL: There is an Italian expression "In bocca al lupo," which means in the mouth of the wolf. It is like saying good luck or break a leg. I first heard it about seven years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. I just shortened it and ran it together to form BoccaLupo. I think it is fitting for a restaurant because in this business you need all the luck you can get.

Q: What is your time line for the project and where are things, in terms of your business plan?
BL: My goal is to be opening up in the next six to nine months. The business plan is complete and most of the legwork is done. I am now working on finalizing financing and finding a space. Timing has a lot to do with this part and many things have to come together at about the same time. Once the space has been identified I can bring in the architect/designer and we can breathe life into the project.

Q: What restaurants have you been visiting to gain some ideas for the new resto?
BL: Momofuku in New York was the original inspiration for BoccaLupo. In the past six to seven years, the idea has been shaping up. Recently I have been hugely influenced by Torrisi Italian Specialties and Parm. I like the direction all of those restaurants are taking.