What do you do when you’re the creative mind behind two of Charlotte’s most celebrated restaurants and the winner of multiple awards? Thats right… you open another one. Bruce Moffett (the man behind Barrington’s and Good Food on Montford) is a James Beard nominated chef, was named “Restaurateur of the Year” by Charlotte Magazine, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America with Honors, and has worked at L’Espalier and Metropolis Café( Two of Boston’s Premier Restaurants). Before becoming one of Charlotte’s most well known chefs, Bruce Moffett graduated from the University of Rhode Island for Political Science, moved to Washington, DC and spent six years working for US Senator John Chafee. Now he’s opening up Stagioni and the anticipation has been steadily growing since it was announced.
We hit them up this week and our initial impression is positive but that doesn’t mean it was perfect. Stagioni is set in the Historic Reynolds-Gourmajenko in Charlotte’s prestigious Myers Park neighborhood. The building… wait… let me correct… the Mansion was Charlotte’s first Tuscan Villa, it featured a Mediterranean inspired walled courtyard and its roof is made of antique cuban tiles. The setting gets a huge A+ from us and its easily one of the most beautiful restaurants we’ve ever seen… until you get inside.
The inside is suppose to be a take on Italian elegance that pays homage to the homes history. Most of the interior decor was on point (especially the open kitchen design) but we’ve got to call them out on all of the “red touches” placed throughout. The red doesn’t look elegant… it looks like something better suited in a $20 brothel. There are red glass votive candle holders on the table, red sconces on the wall, red lamps in the kitchen, etc… and they need to go. Its not so much the design as it is the color. If they were perhaps a little more Mediterranean and a lot less Ferrari I think they would be perfect. Maybe one of these colors from Design Seeds?
With that rant out of the way we can get back to business.
Once seated we were attentively waited on by the staff and after a quick look at the menu we were ready to get our grub on. I’m (Curtis) not usually very adventurous when it comes to trying foods from the weird category, especially weird seafood. But on this night I was feeling pretty damn frisky so I kicked off the night by trying the Grilled Octopus with Pickled Onion, Olive Oil, and Lemon. Ella played it safe and ordered the Arancini aka Stuffed Risotto Balls (theres nothing we like more than cheese stuffed fried balls). The octopus was plated beautifully and all of the accompaniments were seriously on point. As far as the octopus goes, well it was my first tangle with the eight legged sea creature and I didn’t hate it at all. It reminded me a lot of shrimp, a little chewy like a bouncy ball, a little weird, and not anything I think I will be craving late at night. Ella’s stuffed balls were easily the favorite antipasto and we could have made a meal of just balls if we had order more.
For our entrees we both stuck to our favorites and I got the Steak Florentine with Spinach, Garlic, Lemon, and a side of Polenta. Ella got the Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Peas, Prosciutto, and cream. To be completely honest I was pretty disappointed in my steak. It didn’t come out medium-rare, it tasted as plain as a piece of meat could taste, and when compared to e2 Emeril’s Eatery 16oz Painted Hills Rib Eye served with a salad of arugula, fennel, oven dried tomato and housemade worcestershire sauce… it just seems like a waste of money and steak. The spinach (according to Ella) was amazing but I’m wondering if any of that was amplified by her pregnancy tastebuds. Instead of going for the spinach I spent my time savoring Stagioni’s creamy polenta, it needed some cheese but it was still one of my favorite dishes of the night. Ella ultimately decided to go with the gnocchi because she has had it several time s at Good Food on Montford and thoroughly enjoyed it. She was pleased to see that the recipe had not changed. The gnocchi was light and fluffy and paired perfectly with the sweet peas and salty prosciutto.
No night is complete without dessert so we flagged down our server and after a couple seconds we placed our dessert order. I decided I might have better luck trying something weird than sticking with something safe so I went for the pear skillet cake served with caramel sauce, whipped cream and avocado ice cream. I was really exited to try the avocado ice cream, but found myself disappointed. I missed the avocado flavor completely and in the end it was really just green vanilla ice cream. The cake had a really nice texture and good flavor, I just wish it had more pears. Ella got the apricot panna cotta served with dried cherries and a pistachio cookie (I ended up with dessert envy). The panna cotta was perfectly smooth, rich and flavorful. The accompaniments worked perfectly with the dessert adding crunch from the cookie and a sweet sourness from the cherries.
Thanks to the red sconces all of our photos turned out awful with the exception of our dessert photos.
Stagioni was mostly a great restaurant and perhaps with more time it will match the level of Bruce’s other creations. As for now its still worth checking out and make sure you leave us comment below if you agree or disagree with our experience.