Lenny Russo is a busy man. He's wrapping up writing his forthcoming cookbook, plotting an international trip to the World Expo in Milan, manning his award-winning restaurant and overseeing an overhaul of the Heartland Marketplace. When the space next to the restaurant originally closed, it was reported that they would re-open as a deli concept.
Today Russo said, "We've decided to shift that plan. We're going to focus on doing what we do well." Those who remember the wine bar attached to the original Mac Groveland restaurant location will agree that this is something Russo does very, very well. (Although, he credits his wife with being able to track down the wonderful, affordable wine varieties.) A wine preservation system and craft beer taps are being installed.
To help keep prices accessible the wine bar will have counter service and serve charcuterie, artisan cheese and sandwiches. He expects to be able to tuck 40 to 50 seats inside the space that is surrounded by windows that overlook the St. Paul Farmer's Market and fast-approaching Saints Stadium.
Russo has tapped chef Eddie Hayes for the wine bar. Hayes was the opening chef at Northeast Social, worked with Russo during the old Cue days, W. A. Frost and has worked alongside our local charcuterie whisperer, Mike Phillips. Hayes will bring all that fine dining and meat curing experience to the job and join the already talented team, including head butcher Dan Stepaniak.
Mentioning Stepaniak reminds of the jewel of a meat case inside Heartland. The fish case is gone, the hot case is out and the produce case at the center of the room will fade to memory, but the glory of the meat case with the unmatched, house-cured bacon (not to mention rillettes, pate, sausages and other meaty treats) will remain.
In addition to the carnivorous goodness, Heartland is also hard at work developing a line of sausages to be served inside the Saints Stadium.
With a little luck, the wine bar will open before the first pitch is thrown out. The Saints Expo games begin on May 18th. If Russo advances to the finals of the James Beard Awards, he'll be in Chicago on May 4 for the awards ceremony and home in time to throw open the doors and pour the first glass of wine.