The next restaurant to open in chef Ford Fry’s burgeoning empire, St. Cecilia will focus on light seafood and pastas influenced by Northern Italy. Its home, formerly Buckhead Life Restaurant Group’s Bluepointe, is being completely renovated, and as it enters the final stages of construction, Fry feels comfortable enough to announce a December—or at the latest, January—target launch date. Here, he shares the plans for the restaurant’s menu, atmosphere, and executive chef, as well as some new concepts he’s contemplating.
Who will helm the kitchen?
Brian Horn, who has been with me since we opened JCT. He’s had a corporate chef role and helped in all of the [Rocket Farm] restaurants; this is going to be his baby. He’s awesome. He’s a soft-spoken, under-the-radar kind of guy. He’s super talented with pasta.
It’s still me, Kevin Maxey, and Brian developing the opening menu, but once we solidify it, then it will be Brian’s.
Kevin gave me a sneak peek of it recently. It’s about 80 percent there. I think this could be the new flagship or something. The whole goal is to serve really fresh and light preparations of all the different European and Italian seafood items, and pastas but not overly saturated in different flavors.
The menu starts with a crudo section with five to seven items, ranging from a few raw fish presentations to a couple of oysters served with, say, lemon mignonette. There’s a pasta section with seafood components, like spaghetti with shucked clams and a sauce with sea urchin and pan-fried breadcrumbs for texture. The fish section will have everything from whole fish to fish filets to fish stew—real broth-y. There will be elements of octopus for sure.
We’ll have a charcuterie box with meats both made in house and outsourced, aged ourselves, served with something similar to a Roman flatbread—a thin tortilla that's soft yet toasty on the outside and served warm, as opposed to crostini.
For meats, we’ll have a large steak, maybe for two; rabbit is really big in that region so we’ll probably do some of that, and some sort of poultry. The bread service will be flat rounds of semolina, heavy olive oil, and sea salt, served with whipped ricotta in a pool of olive oil with a little chili in there.
Chrysta Poulos is moving over from King + Duke to do the desserts. I’m sure she’ll have some sort of affogato and some sort of a chocolate tort with good olive oil and sea salt.
What do you have planned for the beverage program?
We’ll have a nice wine program, lighter cocktails, not as thematic as at King + Duke—a little simpler. Lara Creasy is developing the menus. I’m not sure who will be onsite [yet].
How has the Bluepointe space been changed to accommodate your vision for St. Cecilia?
The feel and design is not real trendy-modern. It’s more on the classic side. It has a vintage side to it, which counteracts the big glass box that it is. Now there are lighter colored reclaimed wood floors where there used to be carpet. There are big concrete pillars tiled all the way up. There’s a curving wall covered in sheets of thin wood for a warmer feel to it. The open kitchen is the same as before but with a wood-burning hearth—a miniature version of what we have at King + Duke, to be for roasting meats and fish.
We took out the curving levels, but there is a second level for private dining rooms. There’s a long communal chef’s table, and the backroom has five or six half-moon shaped booths and tufted leather banquettes. Industrial lights hanging from the ceiling bring it down because the ceilings there are so high.
The bar is massive. It’s lined in leather, has a stone bar top with light fixtures mounted into it. The bar is bigger than at the Optimist.
Why did you name the restaurant after the patron saint of musicians?
The saint thing alludes to the Italian thing—the concept is based on Genoa, Northern Italy. The logo is based on the sirens who would sing and lure in the sailors. Plus there’s the tie-in with my love of music, but it’s more about the siren.
How is Superica coming along?
The design is done. I want to get through St. Cecilia and then work on the Superica menu. I’m thinking it will open in May. The Krog Street people say they will be done with their construction in three weeks and then be able to hand it over to the tenants to get started on their buildout.
Do you have any other projects in the works?
We’re talking about Elizabeth Street and North Highland Avenue for a sister restaurant to the Optimist. It would be more of a small plate version of the Optimist and oyster bar but more extensive than the current oyster bar. You know: simple fish, a bunch of raw stuff, a couple of wood-burning items, Po’ boys and lobster rolls—a more casual version [of the Optimist].
We’re looking at some things in Houston, in my old neighborhood where I grew up. Maybe we’d do something similar to JCT without the strong Southernness to it—more neighborhood-y; not a special occasion place. There would be an oyster bar component to it. It could be a big cross between all of our restaurants.