Many people know Alex Stratta as a Michelin-starred, James Beard award-winning chef. His storied career includes stints at Mary Elaine’s at The Phoenician, the eponymous Alex restaurant inside the Wynn Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, and most recently as executive chef of Wright’s at Arizona Biltmore.
After enjoying top billing at many fine dining restaurants locally and in Las Vegas, Stratta is pivoting and opening a casual restaurant, Stratta Kitchen in Scottsdale. The restaurant, billed as “contemporary kitchen inspired by the flavors of the Mediterranean,” is slated to open on August 3. We recently sat down with Stratta to talk about his new venture.
Q: Why do you think this concept will be successful?
I’m bringing real Mediterranean soul food to a broader audience, not only in the type of menu, but in pricing and style of service, which is essentially go to the counter, get your ticket, sit down and then you get your food. I’m trying to keep it to the bare essence of great food at a reasonable price in a nice, clean, hospitable environment. Being one for loving details and moving parts, I’ve learned in my experience that a lot of those moving parts are no longer necessary. The whole hand-wringing waiter and the sommelier – I don’t think that’s where we’re going anymore. Other than a special occasion, I don’t think people are very interested in doing that.
Q: What will be on the menu?
There will be appetizers – mostly dips, plus a frittata and vegetable soup. We’ll have a choice of grains, greens, proteins and sauces with vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options. If you want to come in and have beautiful crispy sea bass, it’s the real deal. It’s very fast, healthy and straightforward. We don’t spend a lot of time lining things up on the plate. It’s going to be all about the flavor. And I’m going to be cooking.
Q: What makes Stratta Kitchen unique?
This food has historical and cultural background. For example, I’m presenting fish that are particular to the Mediterranean basin and quality olive oil. It’s food that’s naturally and inherently good for you. I just took good basics from different cultures and put them into a more sensible, contemporary forum. That’s how I’ve always cooked. I can’t lay claim to any of the dishes that I’m known for. They’re all based in tradition and culture.
Q: How did you make the transition from Michelin-starred chef to a casual format?
I’ve been slowly trying to get myself away from that fine dining component, by focusing more on the health and lifestyle component. I’m not going from fancy to casual, I’m going from fancy to healthy. But if you want to have a piece of char-grilled pork belly or a steak on your very natural vegetable salad, who am I to say?
Q: What will the restaurant look like?
It’s very light and airy and Mediterranean. We have beautiful 14-foot ceilings, so it’s going to be very open. It will have a Greece meets Montauk feel if you can put that together, with an open airy feel. Beachy. [Art by local artist Carrie Curran].