BY KRISTINA ROSEN
The secret is finally out. The dynamic duo of Chef Jonathan Lundy and Certified Sommelier TJ Cox, co-owners of Corto Lima, are combining their talents yet again to bring an avant-garde Italian restaurant to the new City Center development in downtown Lexington.
You might be thinking, why Italian?, but it turns out that bringing an Italian concept to Lexington has been a passion of Lundy and Cox for several years now; to the point that Corto Lima was supposed to be an Italian restaurant.
Lundy and Cox have been business partners since 2014, but their collaboration dates back to 2007. When Jonathan at Gratz Park closed, the two of them knew there would be a next step, but they didn’t know what. In the meantime, they developed a partnership with Coba Cocina. When Coba closed, they realized they knew a lot about Latin food and cuisine. Yet they never lost their desire to give Lexington what it needed and deserved: a really cool, good Italian restaurant.
When Shorty’s Market closed and the space became available in 2016, the two developed a plan to transform it into an Italian restaurant. At the same time and for the better part of a decade, Lundy had his eye on the corner of Short and Limestone, particularly to put a Latin concept there. Coincidentally, that exact corner spot on Short and Lime became available days before they signed their lease at Shorty’s Market.
“We literally turned the corner (no pun intended) within days of signing the lease and three months later Corto Lima happened,” says TJ Cox, co-owner of Corto Lima and ItalX.
Corto Lima opened in 2016. While their Latin inspired eatery became a quick success, their passion to introduce an avant-garde Italian restaurant to the community never faded and their opportunity to do so finally arrived.
Lee Greer, president of the City Center project, says he and his team sought the best culinary legacy in Lexington and grabbed the duo of Lundy and Cox.
“Together, we have the opportunity to create something special and different on the block we are the proudest of,” says Lee. “This collaboration brings innovative ideas to the cornerstone of the City Center project.”
When you think about it, ItalX is filling a void. There really isn’t a true Italian restaurant in Lexington, especially in the heart of downtown, doing what ItalX is striving to do.
Think of this new concept as the Italian version of Corto Lima. It’s Italian cuisine reinvented into a nouveau small plate concept, but staying true to the quality flavors and feel good nature of authentic Italian food. The menu is still in development, but expect to see multiple scratch-made pastas, reimagined small plates, vegetarian and gluten-free offerings, and classic favorite desserts. Basically, the menu will include popular Italian dishes reinvented elegantly.
“Food and wine in Italy are synonymous with the culture, and both have always excited me. Wines are made in a style that is most appropriate for the region, the cuisine and the people,” says Cox.
“My goal is to bring that philosophy to ItalX; we feel that Lexington is ready for something like that. And here it comes.”
Cox recently became a Certified Sommelier in August. He is developing ItalX’s bar program which will offer extensive Italian wines and an inventive cocktail list using house-made ingredients and Italian liqueurs. He is most excited to do something ambitious and bring a predominantly Italian wine list to Lexington.
“I’m looking forward to really exposing the best of Italy to Lexington. Food and dining here is elevated, and while there are expectations, we plan to meet them and bring something people have never seen before that becomes their favorite.”
So where does the name ItalX come from?
“Lundy is known for doing things in a whimsical way, taking a twist on something original. ItalX kind of sounds like Lexington, and we’re trying to marry the two concepts of Italy and Lexington right in the heart of downtown.” says publicist, Brie Lowry Cox.
According to a press release from ItalX, “the logo explores the creative shapes of Italian cuisine such as hand-made pasta while the X emphasizes the balance between masculine and feminine: delicate presentation and the regal, strong nature of the Roman numeral. The name twists its letters to capitalize on the whim of Italy’s spelling using an X instead of a Y.”
As for what you can expect for the interior of the restaurant?
With its modern feel, the space can be described as a “Mediterranean bistro” that feels like a piece of art as soon as you walk in. Everything is very selective with a specific purpose and place; from the sculptural lighting to the green and burgundy color scheme inspired the wine colors of Italy. You can expect to feel like you’re eating in an open air Italian market.
The interior will be cozy like Corto Lima, but somewhat bigger with the goal to seat up to 90 guests at a time. The bar will have brick archways behind it inspired by the laid-back luxury of Italy and its viticulture, and include 15 bar seats. The entrance way features large wine displays that accent the restaurant as soon as you enter. Dubbed the fishbowl, the space will have large open windows like those of Corto Lima. Cara Drion, who designed the interior of Corto Lima, has been tasked to handle the new restaurant.
ItalX will be located on the northwest corner of Main and Upper Streets diagonally overlooking the historic Courthouse and across from 21C Hotel at 160 West Main Street.
Stay tuned for more announcements within the upcoming months. Opening date to come soon.
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