A new restaurant will open April 12 in Dudley Square in the space that Dudley's called home for 28 years. But don't expect a nostalgia trip when you enter Sabio's.
"The identity is so different that when you come in, there will be nothing to remind people of what used to be there," said Bobby Freisberg, owner of the building at West Maxwell and South Mill streets.
The rooms and furnishings are contemporary. One space is a dining room, while another is a meeting area with a pair of beautiful crystal chandeliers hanging over a long, narrow table. Light pours through the large windows.
Freisberg, who owns Balatro art gallery on the second floor, has installed several large paintings by Australian artist and former chef Gordon Richards.
There will be patio dining, and Freisberg is working with the city's historic preservation office to enclose the patio during the winter and turn it into a glass conservatory with a fireplace.
The bar at Sabio's will be in a separate room across the hall from the dining room.
The restaurant's executive chef is Javier Lanza, who came to Kentucky from New York City to be chef at Amelia's Field Country Inn in Paris in 1996.
"I loved Kentucky so much I never went back to New York, not even to get my things. I had them shipped," he said.
After leaving Amelia's Field Country Inn in 2000, Lanza was a chef at restaurants in Nashville and San Jose, Calif. Most recently, he opened the popular Migdalia's on Main Street in Paris and ran that until the restaurant was sold to Phillip and Trudy Tibbs, owners of Varden's cafe and gift shop across the street.
Lanza has planned an international menu.
"We're going all over — some European, Asian, Latin America," he said. Everything will be made on site, even the coffee ice cream that will be served with chocolate cake.
"We will be Kentucky Proud as much as possible," he said.
The dinner menu will feature chicken, lamb, duck, pork and filet mignon, plus one of Lanza's specialities — pan-seared sea scallops with potatoes, wilted spinach and cherry tomatoes, finished with a garlic and tarragon beurre blanc.
Bar customers will have a separate menu featuring items such as a cheese board and bruschetta; wok-charred green beans with ginger root and Korean chilies; quail stuffed with goat cheese served with capellini frittata; and mussels with tomato confit, smoked chilies and lobster veloute topped with saffron aioli.
General manager Tom Zombek said hospitality would be stressed.
"We have a great chef," he said. "We want to provide a great dining experience."
Freisberg bought Dudley Square about eight years ago and has worked on the building continuously. When Dudley's restaurant left in fall 2009, Freisberg remodeled the dining room and bar.
Also remodeled was the basement, where the cooking is done.
"We tore out everything and started from scratch," Freisberg said. "We tried to make the basement as comfortable as possible for the people who are down here every day."
The floor is tiled with handsome large pieces that resemble stone. Appliances are stainless steel. Two dumbwaiters were installed, one to take food up to the first floor and the other to return the dirty dishes. In the past, servers dashed up and down the narrow staircase.
Once Sabio's is open, Lanza plans to have a chef's table in the bakery portion of the kitchen where diners may see the food being prepared. Sabio's also will do catering.
Dudley Square originally was Dudley School, so Freisberg has used the school theme throughout the building. The restaurant's name means clever or intelligent in Portuguese. Mounted on the door into the bar is the original brass plaque from Dudley School that says "Detention." Freisberg found a 1907 article that listed the names of all the teachers that year, so he had small brass plaques made for each one. Each room throughout the building that used to be a classroom now has a teacher's name on the door.