When Ryan Sherring stands in the middle of Botanical (2490 Taylor Road, Wildwood; 636 821-1233) dining room, he can’t help but marvel at the transformation. Gone are the mustard yellow walls, red ceiling and dark pub tables that characterized the old Llywellyn’s pub; in their place, the white tin ceiling, exposed brickwork, green plants, Pop Art, and sleek gray concrete bar give off a sleek, modern vibe with light filling the space from the building’s many windows. It’s a classy, yet still welcoming atmosphere — which he knows will quickly become the neighborhood’s gathering place and dining destination for residents of Wildwood and beyond.
After announcing his plans for Botanica less than two months ago, Sherring is preparing to open the highly anticipated restaurant this Saturday, bringing to life his vision for a venue that will appeal to a wide variety of diners. Part of the draw is the space itself, including a lush outdoor patio and bar (dog-friendly), as well as an upscale beverage program curated by Beverage Director Chris Figeroa who includes reinvented interpretations of classic cocktails.
However, much of the Botanica buzz has surrounded the exciting menu of highly regarded chef Ben Welch, who joined Sherring’s growing Six Mile Bridge team in August (Sherring and his wife, Lindsay, also own the brewery and of the Maryland Heights Restaurant). For Botanica, Welch has created a menu that represents his longtime prowess with Italian cuisine, inflected with nods to the American South, which is a style of cooking that has personal and professional ties to him.
“It’s your Italian grandma and your black grandma cooking for you,” Welch says. “And what are they cooking with? Love. That’s the connection. They’re big pots and Sugo and cookies and gravy and just cooking with love. I like to create outside of what is expected, and I don’t like to be put in a box.”
Botanica’s menu is avant-garde, with Roman pies that include a classic margherita, potato, with rosemary, pork cheek, bechamel and mozzarella, plus a potato version sweet with speck, gorgonzola, saba, candied pecans and ricotta. The menu is not limited to pizza, however. The restaurant also offers three different pasta dishes, including an artichoke, lemon and roasted cauliflower gnocchi, as well as starters such as roast chicken with peperonata, olives, capers, bacon and thyme, and ribs leavened with salt and pepper and roasted vegetables.
Botanica also offers several entrees, ranging from whipped lard to crab zeppoles (similar to an Italian donut). Desserts, including tiramisu and peach cobbler, round out the menu.
Sherring and Welch plan to roll out weekend lunch and brunch service over the next few weeks, but, in the meantime, they’re pleased with the direction the food has taken. They can’t wait to show it off to guests and bring a little something different to the area – and from what they can tell, the restaurant public is just as excited.
“We had a wave of people who were really excited to come here,” Sherring said. “We feel like we’re bringing something unique to St. Louis with Italian and South American fusion. The one thing we don’t make here is wine; we make the food, the cocktails, the beer, and everything is tailor-made for our guests, so it’s unique. We look forward to bringing people together, because that’s what it’s all about.
Scroll down for more photos of the soon-to-open Botanica.
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