On Wednesday, we met a few friends at Red & Moe for a farewell lunch, given the news that they’d be closing soon. This quickly turned into a celebration, though, as I got to talking with Trey about his future plans. Turns out he’s deep into preparations for taking over full management of the place, with plans to reinvent it as a full-service upscale Italian restaurant, similar to the old Trattoria that still holds good memories for many Columbians despite closing years ago.
As he explained it (the following is my memory of the conversation, with permission to share the news), he’s intending to keep the same commitment to fresh seasonal ingredients but diversify the menu into full-scale authentic Italian dishes, a mix of small plates and complex dishes, along with a complete bar and more. Columbia has plenty of American-Italian restaurants, but nothing remotely resembling fresh, authentic, upscale Italian; there’s been no end of complaints in the online food community for years about all the pretenders and lack of the real thing.
Joanna and I have spent time in Italy, and the cuisine is deeply suited to Trey’s devotion to fresh, locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. Such concepts aren’t trendy in Italy, they’re a fundamental part of the culture. There are so many simple yet amazing dishes that rely on the right ingredients but aren’t overly complicated or expensive to make. So it will be quite exciting to see what he can do with the idea, especially if he can balance meat and vegetarian options to provide the widest possible dining experience. Upscale vegetarian dining is limited in Columbia, yet Italian is perfectly suited to such an approach, without the usual crutches of processed meat substitutes.
It’s fair to caution that he’s still in planning mode, looking to arrange financing and developing a business plan. But it seems he’d like people to know he’s not going anywhere, and hopes to have the place open late this year in the same location. Certainly it seems to me that a full Italian place has a better shot at justifying its existence and price structure than just a pizza place; done right it could become a serious destination that would stand out from all the others. We’re excited, and have hope that we’ll only lose one summer of a good customer. By this fall, our garlic production could have a home once more in a new and highly worthwhile addition to the Columbia dining scene. Good luck, Trey, and thanks for sticking around.