Alfonso Contrisciani knows his way around fine dining.
But these days, the certified master chef has narrowed his attention to simple, natural fare.
Last week, Contrisciani opened the Plate in New Albany, a restaurant that serves "modern, healthy American comfort food," he said.
The Plate, 29 S. High St., takes over the former Landings Corner storefront, and before that, Gibby's.
Dean of Hocking College's McClenaghan Center for Hospitality Training, Contrisciani said he's been a virtual mad scientist in the kitchen over the past year, focused on a populist culinary pursuit: the perfect pizza.
He even created his own whole-wheat dough starter he's named "pony," now 7 months old.
The Plate has seven signature choices, including "Peppe's white clam," a New England favorite. There's also "Mamma Mary's Meatball," using San Marzano tomatoes, herbs, premium cheeses and meatballs created with Contrisciani's grandmother's recipe. Build-your-own pies also are an option.
"If you like pizza, there is nowhere better" in town, said Contrisciani, the former executive chef of the New Albany Country Club.
But the menu doesn't stop there. The Plate's mission is chef-driven, locally sourced, handmade dishes, said Phillip Gulis, executive chef.
For example, the kitchen frequently will employ the sous vide method, in which ingredients are vacuum-packed, submerged in water and slow-cooked at a constant temperature to ensure even cooking.
That includes the brisket, which is served on a platter with a toasted orzo, heirloom tomato and basil salad.
There's plenty for the casual diner, including the "Big Al" burger, using 8 ounces of local Angus beef; roasted local organic quarter chicken; and Ohio cider- and maple-cured pork chop.
The kitchen also offers more than a few upscale touches on many dishes, such as the olive oil-poached tuna garnished with an arugula salad with tomato vinaigrette, fennel and leek confit, and a drizzle or two of basil-orange aioli.
Most entrees are $10 to $15, with a few, such as the bistro steak with frites, costing more.
Gulis said the Plate is seeking the diner who's somewhere between casserole and caviar.
"We're definitely trying to be a place where people can dine more frequently," said Gulis, the former chef of Luce in Powell, which will reopen as Luce Nuovo in a few weeks. "We're hitting on a price New Albany doesn't have."
The Plate takes over a 9,000-square-foot space that's split into three rooms, including a 100-seat rustic dining room, with wood and brick highlights, a high ceiling and exposed ventilation.
The plan is to refurbish a banquet hall, which should be in use in a few weeks, and another storefront, to be used as a gourmet market.
The Plate is now open dinner only six days a week. It is closed Monday. The plan is to add lunch hours over the next two or three weeks and be open lunch and dinner hours daily by the end of June.
For more information, call 614-855-2929.
Local Cantina, a laid-back joint with a vaguely Mexican menu, will replace Buck Mulligan's in Gahanna's Creekside development. A mid-June opening is planned.
George Tanchevski, who launched the original Local Cantina last year on Grandview Avenue, said he made a slight alteration to the 5,000-square-foot space: He removed a floor, so the entire space is one level.
In related news, Graffiti Burger has a new investor and will begin offering franchise opportunities.
Sean Brauser, founder of the Medina-based Romeo's Pizza and Inferno Burger, each having locations in the Columbus market, has joined Tanchevski and Jim Torski, the founders of Graffiti Burger.
Last year, Brauser opened an Inferno Burger in a former Graffiti Burger storefront in Pickerington.