Madison's restaurant scene thrives and thrives. Just ask the James Beard Foundation, which recently acknowledged the excellence of two fine-dining restaurants on the Capitol Square. In the coming months, staffers from L'Etoile, 25 N. Pinckney St., and Harvest, 21 N. Pinckney St., will travel to New York City to prepare and serve meals at the prestigious James Beard House. L'Etoile's turn is on Thanksgiving, Harvest's on Jan. 18.
James Beard ' chef, cookbook author and eminent champion of American cooking ' died in 1985 at age 81. The foundation bearing his name is housed in Beard's Greenwich Village townhouse, and it carries on his legacy with awards, scholarships and dinners hosted by prominent chefs and restaurateurs. 'It's sort of a pinnacle in someone's culinary reputation,' says Harvest boss Tami Lax of the honor.
The six-course Thanksgiving feast L'Etoile chef Tory Miller is planning will feature Wisconsin products, including turkeys from Blue Valley Gardens, bacon from Willow Creek Farm and artisanal cheeses from Bleu Mont, Hook's, Carr Valley and Roth KÃse. L'Etoile is on something of a roll these days, having been named one of the nation's top 50 restaurants in the October issue of Gourmet magazine. In 2001, the James Beard Foundation named L'Etoile founder Odessa Piper the best chef in the Midwest.
The brain trust at Harvest, meanwhile, will focus on a meat not traditionally associated with the Badger State. 'It's a lobster degustation,' says Lax. 'A five-course meal, and each course will have lobster in it.'
Lax and an entourage of about 20 will travel to New York at their own expense, and Harvest will pick up the evening's tab. To help defray costs, the restaurant will hold a series of fund-raising events, including a six-course meal this Sunday that will have a truffle theme.
West-side fans of Roman Candle, the east-side pizzeria that began packing in customers from the moment it opened last year, will no longer have to make the drive to Willy Street. 'We're swinging hammers again,' says Brewer Stouffer, who with co-proprietor Thomas Cranley is opening a new outlet of their restaurant at 1920 Parmenter St. in Middleton, until lately the site of the beauty salon Steel Magnolias.
'We are gutting it and turning it into a slightly different Roman Candle,' says Cranley. 'We've learned a lot of lessons.' Among those lessons: More seats equals more business, so the new spot will have three times the capacity of the merry but cramped digs at 1054 Williamson St. There also will be a full-service bar, a banquet area for groups and a game room for children. The restaurateurs will decorate the second Roman Candle with the same appealingly retro theme of the original.
The immediate success of the east-side Roman Candle was noteworthy, even surprising, since Stouffer and Cranley opened their eatery in a neighborhood already crowded with pizza joints. The pizza competition is thinner on the west side, Stouffer says, especially among locally owned shops.
Stouffer notes that at the Willy Street Roman Candle, he and Cranley emphasize local products ' local beer, local produce, even local recycled building materials ' and they will do the same in Middleton. 'Our friends who own restaurants and coffee shops on the west side say that west-side Madisonians are as interested as east-siders in supporting local culture,' he says.
The new Roman Candle is slated to open in February.
Roman Candle is not the only Madison dining enterprise to set up a satellite facility in Middleton. Wednesday saw the opening, at 1900 Cayuga Ct., of Tutto Pasta Trattoria, the third outpost in a local empire of contemporary Italian restaurants helmed by Enzo Amodeo. The others are Tutto Pasta Trattoria, 305 State St., and Tutto Pasta Cucina Italiana, 107 King St.
Construction began last July. Says Amodeo, 'In the past couple of years, a lot of people would come to my location on State Street and keep asking, could I open a location on the west side? And the time came.' The new restaurant is on the site vacated last winter by Griglia Tuscany.
More frozen dairy, anyone? Paciugo, the Dallas-based gelato chain, is opening an outlet at 341 State St.... Ancora Coffee is planning a branch at 2690 Research Park Drive in the Fitchburg Technology Campus. Look for a spring opening.... Readers of the trade magazine Restaurants & Institutions recently chose Sauk County-based Culver's as their third-favorite burger chain, behind In-N-Out Burger and Red Robin but ahead of such upstarts as McDonald's and Wendy's.