Italx to open in Lexington’s City Center
BY KRISTINA ROSEN
It only took about five years and a global pandemic, but Jonathan Lundy and TJ Cox of Corto Lima will finally introduce their long awaited Italian concept to downtown Lexington.
It’s been a long journey for Cox and Lundy who have been business partners since 2014, and collaborating since 2007. In 2016, they opened Corto Lima and four years later they will open their second concept.
“Journeys are supposed to be difficult,” says concept developer TJ Cox, who’s also a Certified Sommelier. “You don’t set out to do something remarkable like this and expect it to be easy. What comes easy never stays and we want Italx to be a staple of Lexington dining for decades to come.”
In the midst of a restaurant landscape decimated by COVID-19, it’s a testament to The Greer Companies and the Webb Companies, that Italx is opening only a few months after its originally scheduled spring launch.
Italix is the cornerstone of the City Center development, the final missing piece to the puzzle.
“We sought the best culinary legacy in Lexington and grabbed the Corto Lima duo, Chef Jonathan Lundy & TJ Cox. Together, we have the opportunity to create something special and different on the block we are the proudest of,” says Lee Greer, president of the City Center project. “This collaboration brings innovative ideas to the cornerstone of the City Center project.”
“Even before it was called City Center, it was a project that didn’t have a local feel to it,” says Cox. “What better way to fortify the nature of this big project than bringing in a local chef and local restaurant team to bring the cornerstone of the project together.”
The community has had a front row seat to the controversial evolution of City Center, from demolition, to pit, to pasture, to groundbreaking.
“It’s like it had a negative feel to it across the board. I don’t feel that anymore, says Cox. “Lexington has embraced City Center, and the overall idea of this being a community center has really come together. That’s what I always believed the Greer Companies vision was for this property. We’re very fortunate to be involved with them, to bring Italx as the cornerstone of the project together. It’s been a fun ride.”
As for what to expect with Itlax, it can be described as Italian cuisine that buoys between modern and classic. “I like to think of it as nouveau. Marrying Kentucky classic food concepts with quality fresh ingredients that are Italian food,” says Brie Lowry Cox, who does Marketing, Media & Brand Design for Italx.
Italian dining has always excited Lundy and Cox, but their goal was to create a concept that pushes the idea of Italian cuisine that fits their personalities and familiar style of small plates while still understanding what the market here wants.
“Taking how Italians have prepared their food over generation after generation and trying to replicate that in a style that we believe central Kentucky will embrace,” is the approach explained by Cox.
Ingredients are intricate, yet there is an emphasis on simplicity. The menu is small, but features a twist on classic items that excite Lundy. A unique spin on a caesar salad, a personal touch on a Cacio e Pepe, and a 24-layer lasagna because any less than three layers is not enough.
The pasta is made by hand with traditional semolina flour. Some pasta dishes only have four or five ingredients, but each dish requires special attention to detail to perfect it. Cox adds, “We found that it was all about the execution, the ingredients are very simple.”
Asked about the focus on wine at Italx, Cox replies, “Wine is a big deal here.” He became a Certified Sommelier in August 2019, one month before the news of Italx officially broke.
Enamored with Italian wine, Cox set out to put together an entire profile of wines from one country, which took him over three years. The wine list focuses 90 percent on Italian wines. He adds, “I think people are going to find some of their new favorite wines and dishes at Italx.”
Guests can expect to feel as if they are dining in an open air Italian market with one of the best views of downtown Lexington. The vision of an open air Mediterranean bistro feel for Italx was developed by interior designer Cara Lundy Drion (Jonathan’s and Corto Lima).
“To be able to come to Italx, as a guest or an employee, and check out for a little while. Since we can’t really travel or go anywhere right now, people need to feel like they can go downtown somewhere for a couple hours and enjoy something remarkable,” says Cox.
“I’m really excited because as we move into autumn I’m noticing an increase in guest traffic at all the downtown restaurants and I think Italx has something a little different to offer. I’m really proud to be part of the diverse Lexington dining scene with this new concept. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to work with the owners,” says Lundy, Executive Chef and Concept Developer.
Italx will open in October on the corner of West Main and Upper Street, inside the City Center development. Reservation only.
This article also appears on page 16 of the October 2020 print edition of Ace Weekly.
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