Monday, April 19, 2021
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Stanza just opened, Fresco was sold to Scott Evans, today Luna Blanca Taqueria is closed. What’s going on?? A few weeks ago I spoke with Joel Lasalle and Mikel Trapp (the partners in the new company, Main Course Management, that is behind all these changes) to get a glimpse of their vision:

The question was, why start completely over? Why not just remodel with tony shades of paint? Faustina was hardly a fail—the restaurant and its staff had won numerous awards. But when the principals of newly-named Main Course Management restaurant group turned their attention to this little downtown bistro, they opted to tear it down (all except, mysteriously, the bar) and start over. Before the restaurant was open, I sat down to find out the reason for such a radical approach.

Joel LaSalle and Mikel Trapp

“We learned a lot from opening Current and we want to build on that success,” says co-owner Joel LaSalle. He and his partner Mikel Trapp joined their separate restaurant companies to open Current Seafood & Oyster two years ago and the place has exceeded expectations and projections.

LaSalle and Trapp think they know why and are using that knowledge to approach their future projects in their new company, Main Course Management. There will be many projects to come, but the first thing they tackled was a remake of Faustina, their little cafe that almost could.

Faustina was a mild mainstay on the downtown dining scene for years. A modern bistro with a regular clientele who loved the patio, the people and the mid-priced modern American food, it was rarely disappointing. But it seldom made news. Applying the lessons they’d learned from Current, LaSalle and Trapp started over at Faustina, beginning by renaming it Stanza.

Wow Factor

“Current is a whole experience,” says LaSalle. “The minute people step in the door, they look up at that vaulted ceiling and the whole room and they say, ‘Wow.’” For most guests, a dinner at Current is the evening’s entertainment—they come in, have a drink and some oysters, chat and leisurely eat their way through dinner and dessert.

Extra attractions like the shooters paired to the oysters and the dramatic presentations make each course its own floor show. “We’re trying to change the landscape of the Salt Lake City dining scene,” says LaSalle.


Key to Stanza’s concept is flexibility—the space holds 140 seats downstairs and 100 seats upstairs, meaning two separate dining rooms with two different atmospheres. There’s a patio, upstairs and down, and a bar area. The

goal is to balance a large area with intimate spaces, a dining room with plenty of buzz but amenable to conversation as well. “Diners today don’t like to be locked into a format,” says Chef Logen Crew. They might want drinks and some small plates, or they might want a whole dinner, soup to nuts. They might be looking for a tete a tete or they might be celebrating with the whole family. A restaurant needs to be usable in several ways at once.


Authenticity is the most powerful buzzword in today’s restaurants. But it is applied on a sliding scale. “First we looked at the culinary landscape in Salt Lake and saw a void where the most popular cuisine in U.S. should be—Italian food,” says La Salle.

So how do you square the public’s taste for Italian cuisine with its current zeal for authenticity? “It’s all in the sourcing,” says Executive Chef Crew, who is working with Stanza chef Phelix Gardner (formerly with Pago.) All dry and fresh pasta is made in-house;  A Priori and Nicholas & Co. help to procure imported goods and to source best possible local ingredients. Authenticity, in this case, doesn’t extend to regionality. “We cherry-picked the menu items from regions all over Italy,” Crew says.

Likewise, the beverage menu, designed by Jimmy Santangelo, focuses on the feel of Italian food, which he calls “the world’s comfort food.” Basically, he says, the wine list at Stanza is designed to be approachable, affordable, and easy to explore with little to no risk. There are approximately 48 wines on the list, most are served by the glass, and most are Italian.

The Stakeholders

In the restaurant business, there’s a never-ending tension between the quality of a chef-run restaurant and the economic feasibility of a chain. Chef-run restaurants generally rank higher in terms of inventiveness and quality because they’re fueled by passion. But margins can be razor-thin, making the business precarious. Chains, or even restaurant groups, lose some soul because they are usually run more like assembly lines and have less personal attention invested in them.

Main Course, LaSalle and Trapp’s restaurant group, is trying to find the balance via an unusual business model: “We hire on chefs with the intent for them to own a piece,” says LaSalle. “We want our restaurants to be totally chef-driven, so we’re looking for chef-partners, putting our money where your mouth is.”

Stanza, 454 E. 300 South, SLC, 801-746-4441

You know it's spring in Utah when cherry blossoms are in full bloom at the @utstatecapitol ⁠🌸😍⁠

Photo by @gravesstuart

Inspired by @oldsaltlake, we're celebrating #throwbackthursday with a favorite snapshot of early 20th century Salt Lake City. 🏖️⁠

Photos shared by @oldsaltlake are inspiring millennials and zoomers decades later with visions of a different city: one with easily accessible public transportation, walkable streets, local businesses (open late) and distinctive architecture.⁠

See more photos at the link in our bio. ⁠

Pictured: Women relax at what is believed to be Saltair Beach, date unknown

Why did Utah's only Titanic passenger not survive her journey?⁠

The descendants of Irene Corbett believe that the 30-year-old teacher sacrificed her life to save others. It's one of the many ways this remarkable figure bucked tradition and forged her own trail.⁠

Read more about Irene at the link in our bio!

One year ago today: a Salt Lake earthquake that even shook Moroni 👼⁠

Photo by @gravesstuart

"We must have done something right, cause you guys kept coming back."⁠

@bluepelatedinerslc, one of Salt Lake's signature spots for everyone from hungover college kids to vegan food lovers, will be closing its doors this May after more than two decades of service. It's the latest casualty in a brutal year for the restaurant industry. ⁠

Head to the link in our bio for a tribute to Blue Plate Diner. (And keep supporting your favorite local restaurants. ❤️)

Tony Caputo, a food evangelist and founding father of today’s SLC food community, passed away last night.⁠

Tony started @caputosmarket in 1997, bringing his passion for the cuisine of his heritage to Utah tables. Most days during the lunch rush you’d find Tony behind the counter slicing meat and cheeses and then, after it wound down, holding court out front. He’d often rush back behind the counter and holler over his shoulder, “you have to try this!" only to return with a sample bite of veiny cheese, a paper-thin leaf of prosciutto or a perfectly crisp amaretti cookie that he’d recently added to his menagerie of taste. For his many contributions to Salt Lake City, we awarded Tony with a Lifetime Achievement Dining Award in 2007.⁠

Today, we're sending love to @caputosmarket and the many people whose lives were touched by Tony. A full tribute is on our website now. ❤️

Why is the Pleasant Grove theme park Evermore suing one of the most powerful women in music? Long story short: a playground for those who would choose lore over folklore is taking on Taylor Swift over the name of her most recent album. Both parties have their reputation on the line in a battle of undercover Swifties and novelty mug disputes. Will Evermore hit the gold rush? Or did they cross the wrong mad woman? The full story is at the link in our bio. ...

Even in the exploration boom of the 1800s, nobody dared to explore the terrain flowing through the Green and the Colorado Rivers.⁠

That is, nobody until Major John W. Powell said the 19th Century equivalent of “Hey man, hold my beer while I try this.”⁠

Read more about his dangerous expedition at the link in our bio!⁠

Photo of Powell’s expedition courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division⁠

A brand new issue of Salt Lake magazine is coming your way! ⁠

We can't wait to share these stories with you. This issue includes our annual Blue Plate Awards celebrating those surviving and thriving in the restaurant biz. Plus, we take a road trip to Wyoming and ask why the only Utah passenger on the Titanic didn’t survive her journey.⁠

A note from our editor Jeremy Pugh, including beautiful tributes to Mary Brown Malouf from our friends in the community, is online now. Read more at the link in our bio ❤️⁠

Subscribers: Look for this issue in your mailbox soon. The magazine will be on newsstands March 1! 📬

Today, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2021 Blue Plate Awards! ⁠🎉⁠

These prizes honor the growers, food evangelists, grocers, servers, bakers, chefs, bartenders and restaurateurs who do more than put good food on the table—they make our community a better place to live. This year, just surviving as a local business deserves an award, but each of our Blue Plate winners did more than that. They made us grateful for every person involved in the essential act of feeding us.⁠ 🍽⁠

At the link in our bio, we have the full list of winners, a celebration of feats of COVID creativity and a tribute to restaurants we lost this year. If you’re hungry for more, pick up a copy on newsstands March 1! Plus, check out our Instagram for spotlights on some of the Blue Plate winners. ⁠

This year’s Blue Plate Awards are the first without our beloved Executive Editor Mary Brown Malouf. We dedicate them to her, our town’s biggest food fan, critic and champion. xoxomm⁠ 💙

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @ricobrandut for Staying in Beansness⁠

Last summer, it seemed that Rico would be another victim of rapid gentrification in Salt Lake. Luckily, Rico was able to find a new home in Poplar Grove and now plans to add even more employees. It’s a last-minute happy ending for a community leader who literally wears his mission on his sleeve, courtesy a tattoo in bright red block letters: “pay it forward.” 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award Winner: @spicekitchenincubator for Keeping the Spice Flowing⁠

This year Spice Kitchen Incubator, already an essential resource for refugees, became, well, even more essential. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @thestore_utah for Special Deliveries ⁠

As grocery delivery becomes the new norm, The Store offers a personal touch that only an independent grocer can provide. Last March, high-risk and elderly customers began calling in their grocery lists over the phone, and The Store’s general managers personally delivered food to their homes. 💙⁠

2021 Blue Plate Award winner: @cucinaslc for Preserving Neighborhood Connection⁠

Cucina’s outdoor spaces became a place where the neighborhood could gather safely. Owner Dean Pierose offered free coffee in the mornings and encouraged his regulars to linger and commiserate together, preserving a semblance of society during a socially distanced time. 💙⁠