|Wombles sits in front of the herb garden that isn't just decoration, but will supply the Mezzo kitchen.|
By Molly Elifritz
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media
Chef and restaurateur Mark Wombles is set to open his new restaurant, Mezzo Italian Café and Provisions, on Monday, March 21.
The name of the restaurant is inspired by the town of Midway. “Mezzo” is the Italian word for “middle,” “half” or “medium.”
Midway has no Italian restaurant, and Wombles says he hopes Mezzo can fill the void and is ready “to go big on it.”
The Messenger got a sneak peek before the opening, which will start with a limited menu March 21. Wombles said on March 12 that it “should fully open a few weeks after that.”
Mezzo is on Main Street, two doors down from Wombles’ other Midway restaurant, Heirloom, which remains the top choice for the Lexington area on OpenTable, an online reservation and ratings service. His other restaurant, Distilled, in the Gratz Park Inn in Lexington, is rated fifth in the area.
Mezzo is much larger than Heirloom, and differs greatly from it in other ways.
“We’re not going to do the same food as Heirloom,” Wombles said. “It’s going to be more casual. I don’t want to say that we’re not going to use good ingredients and all that but, we still want to elevate the food even though it is casual. We want it to be really good.”
|Wombles at the front door of Mezzo Italian Cafe and Provisions|
The deep wood colors enhance the Italian feel and the sofa seating next to the wine bar gives off an open-hearted vibe. The interior has been altered only slightly from that of the 815 Prime restaurant, the building's previous occuant.
The ambiance of Mezzo is meant to relate to everyone. “Wear a pair of jeans if you just got off work; it’s fine,” Wombles advised. “Come in and have a drink or whatever.”
Mezzo houses a wood-burning pizza oven that will come in handy on “Kids Night” once a week. Every Monday Mezzo will offer special prices ($2.99) for pizza and pasta for children.
Wombles plans to serve what he calls “elevated casual” food, with an important aspect being fresh herbs and spices.
“Fresh is going to be a big thing for us. We try to use the best possible product that we can,” Wombles said as he pointed to a grid along the front wall next to the window. The grid will be an in-house herb garden, allowing the restaurant to be one step closer to supplying the freshest basil, chives, oregano and other herbs.
Outdoor seating is to be enhanced as the weather warms. A lounge area will allow customers to gather and spend time with friends and family.
Mezzo will be fully equipped with a downstairs bar, in the former site of the 815 Tavern, as well as a wine bar upstairs.
This is Wombles’ third restaurant and his second restaurant in Midway, and he expects to open more.
Crediting some of his success to Midway’s reputation as a restaurant town, he said, “Competition is a good thing, you know. It keeps you on your toes and it also sparks more interest.”
Wombles described his urge to open the restaurant as “second nature.”
“I didn’t put a whole lot of thought into it, but I want to succeed at what I do,” he said. “We try to do everything perfect.”
The hours for Mezzo are yet to be set in stone. Wombles said he hopes to be open by 11 and close around 9 or 10 depending on traffic and other details.