Lucia's Wine Bar
One of the most iconic and important restaurants in Minneapolis is about to get a new chef—Alan Bergo takes over Lucia’s next week. Lucia’s, of course, is the Chez Panisse of Minneapolis, founded by Lucia Watson in 1984, and the restaurant to which we likely owe everything. When Watson sold the restaurant in 2015 it was huge news, though her longtime crew stayed on, so to the casual diner it seemed much of the food remained unchanged. That was then.
Now, Alan Bergo is coming on board. Bergo was most recently at the throwback steakhouse Salt Cellar (which closed this summer), but is probably better known for his many years as sous chef to Lenny Russo at locavore standard-bearer Heartland, and for his blog Forager Chef where he expanded Minnesota appreciation for local mushroom cuisine.
“I’m super excited,” Bergo told me. “Lucia and Judy Rogers wrote some of the first cookbooks I ever got—those are two chefs who were just hugely important to me. I’m excited to work with all the stuff I’m really passionate about, the local stuff. Some of her suppliers I’ve worked with before, like Dragsmith, but I’m excited to see what comes in the door,” he said, referring to Lucia’s longtime association with so many local farmers and foragers.
Still, the question on most Lucia’s fans' minds has to be: Will Bergo try to turn Lucia’s into Salt Cellar 2, with big old steaks for all? No, says Bergo. “It will not be giant hunks of meat on every plate. Part of what’s so awesome is getting back to working with local ingredients, where the vegetables really get to shine. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat, but [after Salt Cellar] I have a much better idea now of what I want to source and what I can get people to grow. What I see [for Lucia’s] is really simple food, not too heavy, and lots of fun vegetables." What about dishes showcasing foraging? “Because the menu changes frequently, and a lot of the most interesting things I get come in small amounts, I think the specials will be a place for those things to shine. I think it’s really important to meet with Lucia, and that’s planned. I’m really excited to talk to her. They have a nice archive of all of her recipes, and once I figure out how the trains run—and there are a lot of trains—I want to dig into those and cook her recipes. Most of all, this feels like a culinary homecoming.”
Will Lucia’s customers—who have had 30-odd years to hone their high expectations—feel it’s a homecoming, too? All of Uptown awaits with pickled-beet-baited breath.