Cafe Society

Spuntino will undergo a remodel, expand its menu and pursue a full liquor license

In early February, Spuntino, the Highland restaurant and dessert palace overseen by betrothed couple John Broening (he's the chef) and Yasmin Lozada-Hissom (she's the pastry chef) will close for a week -- maybe two -- to undergo a major makeover, and when it reopens, guests will not only be treated to a fresh interior, but also to an expanded menu and, if all goes according to plan, a beverage program that include cocktails, wine and beer.

See also: - Our favorite local culinary gifts of 2012: Spuntino's hot chocolate mix and salted caramel marshmallows - Pastry queen Yasmin Lozada-Hissom has plans to make Spuntino even sweeter

Gone will be the gelato case (but not the gelato!), its position replaced by a wrap-around bar, designed by a local metal sculpture master, that will stretch along part of the perimeter of the exhibition kitchen. The smaller side of the dining room, currently bedecked with tables, will morph into a lounge area with banquettes and oversize chairs that invite lingering; planked wooden floors will replace the current ones; and the prominent, long, cream wall that extends the length of the main dining room will become, says Lozada-Hissom, a focal point. "We're still deciding what to do with it -- we'll either have metal work up there, or we'll do a textured-type of wallpaper, but whatever we decide to do will add an element of drama," she teases, noting, too, that the lighting will also change to reflect "a softer, more intimate" setting.

And both she and Broening plan to significantly elevate their respective menus. "We're both going to go nuts in terms of creativity," she says. "We truly want Spuntino to be a place where we have complete freedom with our creations." For her part, Lozada-Hissom says that her passion for tarts will be front and center. "I love, love, love tarts, and they're really taking off in cities like New York, so we'll always have two or three different options on the menu, and they'll be assembled to order," she adds. "We'll also continue to have lots of options for gelato, ice creams and sorbets, especially since we have the Rolls Royce of gelato makers."

And while she'll keep the flavors that their regulars have embraced, she'll also incorporate several additional flavors, in small batches, to her lineup. "We'll keep many of the flavors that regulars love like the sea salt caramel, pistachio and lemone, but we'll add a bunch of other flavors and unexpected options like a guanabana sorbet, maple french toast ice cream, banana and caramel corn gelato, apricot chamomile sorbet and kumquat lychee sorbet," she tells me.

Her desserts, she adds, will also play up the whimsy factor. "I want to create some playful options -- things like passion fruit mousse with honey-lime syrup; pink peppercorn meringue; fennel parfait with grapefruit sorbet and candied anise; and cocoa nib sour cherry bars with pretzel crunch ice cream," she says.

Broening, for his part, intends to grow his small plates, incorporating, he says, "big Mediterranean flavors." He reveals for example, that he's "working on a forroto with chanterelle essence and roasted acorn squash dish, another with braised short ribs with spiced carrot puree, charred radicchio and Fourme d'Ambert," and, he adds, "tons of unique homemade pastas and homemade salumi."

And all of those dishes -- and desserts -- hope the couple, can be paired with beers, wines and cocktails. At the moment, Spuntino has a limited wine liquor license, which only allows them to serve one wine from one producer, a restriction that's in place because Spuntino's location is within 500 feet of a school, otherwise known as the "500 Foot Rule." But in August, the Department of Excise and Licenses eliminated the distance restriction -- with provisions -- allowing restaurants in Highland to apply for a hotel and restaurant liquor license. "We're applying for a restaurant and hotel liquor license, which will allow us to serve wine, beer and some great cocktails," says Lozada-Hissom.

"We mainly want to create and environment and a menu that's welcoming and unpretentious. This will be a full-service restaurant, where people will be able to come in and sit at the bar and comfortably grab lunch, and at night have cocktails and then dinner," she adds.

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Lori Midson
Contact: Lori Midson