Six months in at Tony Lemmo's Aposto
Tony Lemmo and his team at Café di Scala are back, now with a different name and a new monthly dining concept. Aposto means “everything is right,” said Lemmo, who closed his decade-old Café di Scala at the end of 2015. Register file video
At the end of 2015, restaurateur Tony Lemmo’s beloved Café di Scala closed to make way for a new concept, Aposto at the Scala House. Instead of opening every Thursday through Saturday for dinner with a once monthly brunch, Lemmo moved forward with a once-a-month ticketed dinner, each with a special theme. He kept the monthly brunch.
By February, the restaurant was up and running, dishing out dinner and brunch twice a month. Lemmo and his chef Phil Shires, who was nominated for Best Chef Midwest by the James Beard Foundation in 2014, churned out themed dinners, available at four seatings accommodating 96 people total.
“The whole premise was to simplify it and not have all this food and all this waste when people didn’t show up. There’s a lot of time planning, researching and prepping. It has taken a little while to stick,” Lemmo said.
“People are still trying to figure out what the hell Aposto is.”
He thought Aposto would sell out every month since Café di Scala had some many fans. Not so. People didn’t want to spend $60 to $70 on dinner once a month. He whittled the prix-fixe menus down to four courses for $50, which seems to be the sweet spot for guests.
“It’s essentially starting an all new business. I took that for granted,” he said. “When you have your name attached to a small, locally owned business, you’re always thinking about it. You’re non-stop. If you care about what you’re doing, you try not to regret something you didn’t do. The pulse is always there.”
Before Aposto even launched, Shires and Lemmo put together a list of 20 potential themes that covered wintry comfort food, Nana’s kitchen or dinners featuring Larry Cleverley’s produce from his farm.
“There was no rhyme or reason since this is our first year doing it. We’re kind of figuring it out as we go.”
Starting in September, they decided to open every Saturday night, serving the same dinner all month long. “You spend all this time planning the dinner. Why not do it every Saturday night?” Lemmo said.
This month, the restaurant features a four-course menu with a theme “End of Summer Picnic.” Guests can still buy tickets in advance online for dinners at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. Look for seasonal dishes such as a pasta salad lasagna with a dill cream sauce, cold cucumber soup, house-made brats from B&B Grocery with a savory bread pudding and Stam’s milk chocolate with a house marshmallow and graham cracker pastry.
October highlights apples with a brie encroute with a golden Delicious puree, Jonathan apples with kale and Swiss chard, sea scallops with caramelized onions and red Delicious apple butter, and Granny Smith apples with caramel and aged rum sauce.
Those who prefer to make dining plans on the fly can still show up on Saturday nights and grab a seat at the wine bar, now featuring California and Washington wines in the cellar in addition to the former all Italian wine collection that Lemmo built up over 10 years. At the bar, Lemmo now has the new Aposto treats menu, serving mussels and pizzas from Shires.
Brunch also moved to the first Sunday of the month, now at 10 and 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Those tickets are still online as well for $25. Guests choose a main course such as Italian toast with Frangelico and mascarpone, biscuits and gravy or a Scala egg casserole, then pick out a sweet course such as a tiramisu with coffee beans, a banana pastry cream or flourless chocolate torte.
All is part of the evolution of what is technically a new business.
“I’ve never turned complacent and sat on my accomplishments. You’ve gotta keep churning and churning and churning stones and looking for the next thing or polishing it,” Lemmo said.
If You Go:
Find It: 644 18th St.
Info: 515-244 1353; apostodm.com