- 450 S. Fourth St. , Louisville, KY, 40202
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- Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.-midnight; Saturday, 5:30 p.m.-midnight. Closed Sunday.
- Official Web Site:
Long before there was Fourth Street Live, there was just plain old Fourth Street. It was alive with throngs of shoppers, moviegoers and diners. Back then, a pop song could make the case that “when you got worries all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know — downtown.” And nobody would have claimed that the bubbly melody was the least bit ironic.
Could Petula Clark have scored a hit single about going to the mall? I think not.
In recent decades, folks have tried all sorts of things to reinvigorate Fourth Street — from cobblestones to dress codes. And though the sidewalks are still often empty at night, increasing numbers of locals and travelers are finding their way to what’s gradually grown into a very diverse dining district where people can enjoy the opulent splendor of grand hotels, fine bistros, casual ethnic dining, craft beers and craft cocktails.
Quattro (the Italian name invokes the street) is a new and promising addition to that scene; it’s a place with a great look and feel, a carefully considered culinary program, and a very fine chef at the helm. The space once occupied by Red Star Tavern (and the short-lived Mozzaria) sports a burnished, coppery glow that’s warm, elegant — and modern, thanks to a striking collection of art works by Louisville artist Roy Livingston.
My only quibble with the space is that the seating is dominated by banquettes and booths — an inflexible arrangement that doesn’t really seem well matched to the concept (there is also a spacious bar area that calls out for crowds).
The business was founded by Pallas Partners (CEO Matt Saltzman) with chef/partner Josh Hillyard (Equus, Standard Country Club) running the culinary side and a recent addition to the team, Scott Shearer (Lynn’s Paradise Cafe, Toast on Market), leading the front of the house.
The menu focuses on regional Italian flavors and ideas. It’s a relatively concise approach — with the sort of carefully judged scale that enables a kitchen to establish a good initial baseline of quality as it grows in ambition. But already Hillyard’s style shows a technique that brings out robust, rustic flavors, a respect for quality ingredients and a classically straightforward approach to presentation.
Hillyard scatters a chunky eggplant caponata over crisp polenta squares ($8). He coats calamari in a light breading, fries it to a tender golden finish, and serves it with tangy pepperoncini, fried capers and a piquant green sauce ($10).
Straightforward starters are the norm — mussels in a chili-infused broth ($10), baked Capriole goat cheese with a spicy sauce ($9).
The heart of the dinner menu consists of four pastas and a half dozen entrees (and a collection of flatbreads that will serve as fine casual meals, whether dressed with fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil and tomato sauce ($14) or with Italian sausage, wild mushrooms, chili peppers and a bechamel ($14). There’s also a lunch menu that includes soups, panini and a limited number of entrees.
The pasta selection is simple but tempting. Linguine dressed with clams, fennel, stewed tomatoes and pancetta ($17); pappardelle served with a veal-pork ragu ($16); and a platter of tagliatelle with roasted wild mushrooms and plenty of garlic hit all the right, earthy notes.
The half dozen entrees include a hanger steak ($21), braised short ribs ($22) and braised chicken cacciatore ($18).
Those are the ones we didn’t try. But based on the entrees we ordered, Hillyard’s kitchen is doing very fine work. A whole roasted branzino (a plump, white-fleshed fish that was brought to us intact and filleted tableside (at our request — the kitchen would have tended to it before presentation had we asked) was marvelous — as fresh-tasting and moist as if it had just been pulled from the sea. Served with charred broccolini, cute baby turnips and a dollop of tomato jam, it was about as nice a fish dinner as you could hope to find, and the tableside finish made for great conversation ($26).
But a swordfish steak — as thick as a legal tome — was just about as good; it was juicy and flavorful clear through, and paired perfectly with an excellent butternut squash puree ($24). It seems Hillyard has mastered the art of cooking thick slabs of protein — because a pork chop of about the same dimensions (but served with caramelized Brussels sprouts and duck fat fingerling potatoes) was, like the swordfish, perfect through and through.
So were pastry chef Jessica Linville’s desserts — a great pear tart for those at the table with grown-up tastes, and a tiramisu cookie (or what might better be called a tiramisu ice cream sandwich) for those of us who’ve never grown up.