Barely five minutes into an interview about the fall opening of Artesano Vino, Tapas Y Mas, Fernando Martinez shifts the discussion to opening a completely new restaurant on the heels of the Spanish-themed spot.
“I know people are going to say it’s out of my comfort zone, but I want to do a Southern restaurant,” says Martinez, partner in four restaurants along with his wife, Christina Martinez and his cousin, Yaniel Martinez. “It’ll be called Red Barn Kitchen, and if you can imagine a pork chop stuffed with Kenny’s cheese and served with tomato marmalade, you get the idea.”
And in case you didn’t — or were busy drooling — season your imagination with other items such as a country ham tasting platter, pit-smoked barbecued pork and beef brisket, and crawfish and shrimp boils. He knows where it’ll be located and has picked his chef, but for now, he’ll keep those details secret.
But that’s getting ahead of the main reason for the interview: Artesano, the near-term tapas restaurant to be opened in late August or September in a corner slot in Westport Village, once occupied by A.P. Crafters.
“I’m sorry, we have lots of ideas,” he apologizes before detouring again. “They’re all part of my 10-year plan to be out of the kitchen and overseeing everything.”
“We’ve got some heavy hitters who really want to be involved with it,” he says of ETL. That concept includes funding from his only outside partner, Todd Willemeyer. “We see big things for that one.”
And if the architectural renderings are any indication, we should expect big things from Artesano Vino, Tapas Y Mas. Thanks to the evolution of computer-generated drawings, Martinez says the images have fooled many (including me) into thinking the restaurant was completed. Perhaps that’s wishful thinking in a city short on true Spanish cuisine options, especially since the closure of De La Torre’s and La Bodega nearly two years ago.
The menu isn’t finalized, but Martinez says to expect traditional dishes such as wood-fire roasted octopus and potatoes, and individual servings of paella. The open kitchen will allow guests to see their prized and pricey Iberico ham sliced to order and served solo, and its lardo baked on flatbread with quail eggs. A wide range of larger sharable plates will be offered to encourage guest interaction common to Spanish restaurants.
“We’ll have high-top community tables where people can sit with others, strangers maybe,” he says. “Not everyone will like that, but if they try it, they’ll see it’s fun.”
Mark Ford, the longtime chef at St. Charles Exchange, will be Artesano’s chef, and Shelley Yoder, a veteran pastry chef at Corbett’s and LouVino, will be his sous chef.
“I think Mark is one of the really up-and-coming chefs in town, plus he’s so very humble and willing to learn,” Martinez says. Ford is training in the family’s other restaurants to learn their systems in the run-up to Artesano’s opening. “He’s a really hard worker, too. We did a few caterings together, and the whole time the guy was next to me working as hard as I was.”
Artesano’s 169 seats is 40 less than at Mussel & Burger Bar, but in terms of investment in high design, he says it “is by far our most significant undertaking.” Willemeyer is a partner in this project as well.
Other than updating the grease trap (a common and often expensive problem for Louisville restaurants due to new regulations), the facility’s redesign is proceeding apace. Another regulation tied to alcohol service restrictions will see the current outdoor patio lose its pass-through gate to the outside sidewalk.
Upon opening, Artesano will serve dinner only, Monday through Saturday. Lunch on those same days will be added eventually, followed by a Sunday brunch. Menu prices should range from $5 to $12 for appetizers and $18 to $25 for entrees. Nearly all its plates will be shareable.
In addition to creating a solid list of Spanish, Chilean and Argentinian wines and beers, Martinez says his wife and Cena manager Rick Moir are creating some clever cocktails for Artesano.
“So far they’ve created one from (Buffalo Trace Bourbon) called Run of the Buffalos, and they’re doing a Spanish margarita finished with Spanish sherry,” he says. “We’re also working on a draft cocktail system, too, which will be really neat.”