James Beard award winner Gerard Craft of Niche Food Group (Brasserie by Niche, Pastaria, Taste by Niche, and Porano Pasta) announced the opening of Sardella (7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton, Missouri) in St. Louis’s Clayton neighborhood. The seasonal restaurant with “a nod to Italy” opens in the space of Craft’s former restaurant, Niche, with a completely new design, menu and overall concept. Sardella is open for breakfast and dinner and will add lunch in the coming weeks.
Sardella is an old ancient fish sauce, and guests will see the exploration to make the old, new again throughout the menu. As a departure from Niche, the team will no longer be bound by the confines of a strictly Missouri ingredient menu. Local farmers and purveyors still play a prominent role on the menu, but now the chefs welcome the return of ingredients such as lemons, coastal fish, chocolate and more. Husband-wife team Nick Blue and Sarah Osborn lead the kitchen as executive chef and executive pastry chef, respectively, while The Restaurant at Meadowood alum Chris Kelling serves as general manager and beverage director.
Sardella’s design echoes the same notion as the menu—inviting, bright, and fun. Antiqued, oak wood floors and white painted plank ceiling with large wood joists set this tone for the space. While marigold banquette seating, Mediterranean blue and white tile on the walls, antique brass mirrors, and a colorful mosaic-like installation of sardine cans (Sardella means sardine in Italian) above the open kitchen add drama and excitement, a marble and wood bar along the entire length of the restaurant creates a warm and welcoming environment.
Sardella will be the first of Craft’s restaurants to serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. During the day, Sardella will evoke the bustling vibe of European cafés. “In Europe, mornings start at the café. It’s a super lively environment and wakes you up for the day. We want to be that gathering place—part of the community. We are located in the heart of a business district so we hope to see guests grabbing one of Sump Coffee’s drinks at the bar while reading the paper or networking with neighbors,” Chef Craft says.
With an extensive coffee program from St. Louis roaster, Sump Coffee, Sardella will offer creative breakfast sandwiches and toasts, grain and yogurt bowls, pastries, fresh juices and smoothies, and more. With both sit-down and grab-and-go dining options, guests can order from the bar’s pastry counter or sit down to enjoy a leisurely breakfast. Highlights include: Coconut “Yogurt,” a non-dairy offering made from the pulp and milk of young coconuts with granola, berries and dates, a Smoked Salmon English Muffin, Avocado Toast with Aleppo pepper, and Sardella’s Grain Bowl with farro, kimchi, kale, swiss chard and fried egg, and more. Lunch items will include a selection of sandwiches, salads, and more.
For dinner, menu offerings will change seasonally, and guests define their dining experience in Sardella’s relaxed environment. “This is how my wife, Suzie, and I like to eat when we go out—a place where we can sit down and just breathe. We want to enjoy a nice bottle of wine or a great cocktail while trying a few different dishes. You can come to Sardella and eat a little or a lot, you get to decide, but hopefully you are laughing and having fun along the way,” Chef Craft says.
With a large section of the menu consisting of shareable small plates, guests can try dishes comforting dishes like Housemade Warm Dinner Rolls, served with a black garlic butter or creative, yet approachable seasonal vegetables like the Charred Green Beans with roasted garlic custard, Calabrian chili vinaigrette and basil or Marinated Artichoke with prosciutto, jalapeño, cashew and fig.
Seafood can now be prominent on the menu with dishes such as the Sardine Toast with cucumber, dill, pickles, Old Bay aioli and Hamachi Crudo with strawberry sambal, lemon and celery. Craft’s shares Sardella’s “nod to Italy” with select pasta selections like the Potato Gnocchi with sungold tomatoes, mint and white wine and the Miso-Ricotta Ravioli with orange, pepitas, brown butter and tarragon.
For large offerings, comfort is key with dishes like the Spice Roasted Chicken with charred broccoli and preserved lemon; Abraxas-Braised Lamb Neck served with fresh Italian tortillas, or piadinas; and a Bavette Steak with miso butter and herb salad.
Executive Pastry Chef Sarah Osborn elevates simple ingredients and approachable flavors to elegant interpretations of familiar desserts such as this Pistachio White Chocolate Panna Cotta with candied pistachio, cookie crumble and blueberries. Other offerings will include an Olive Oil Cake with sweet ricotta and cantaloupe jam, Chocolate Cremeaux with peanut butter and grape, and more.