There's a new pairing involving a couple of restaurant classics in St. Paul.
The owners of The Commodore announced Thursday that Lenny Russo will be their new executive chef.
Russo has been a free agent since closing Heartland Restaurant and Wine Bar in St. Paul's Lowertown last New Year's Eve.
The 14 years he spent running Heartland with his wife/business partner Mega Hoehn solidified Russo's reputation as a leader of the farm-to-table movement. His commitment to buying from local farms inspired other Twin Cities restaurateurs.
Russo is also a five-time finalist for the James Beard Award (sometimes called the Oscars of the food world).
An emailed statement about his move to The Commodore says Russo will continue working with local suppliers as much as possible "although he anticipates reaching out beyond the Midwest when necessary."
Russo plans some changes to The Commodore's menu but says it will be an evolution. “We’ll take advantage of the seasons as much as we can to add interest to the menu," he said in the statement. "People here eat much differently in the winter, say, than in the summer, and we want to honor that seasonality factor."
Just off of St. Paul's Summit Avenue, The Commodore opened in 1921 and became a Jazz Age hangout for the high society set. During Prohibition the basement speakeasy was reportedly frequented by writer F. Scott Fitzgerald and mobster Al Capone, among others.
Over the years the restaurant and bar were closed, though the Commodore Hotel carried on, eventually turning into condos.
Then in 2015 its art deco bar and dining room were brought back to life by St. Paul developer John Rupp. Rupp's company has restored several historic buildings in St. Paul including the one that's home to W.A. Frost, the restaurant where Russo was chef before he opened Heartland.
Here's a gallery of photos from The Commodore's reopening.
Russo starts his duties as executive chef on Tuesday.