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Wildwood’s Botanica Combines Italian Cuisine With Flavors of the American South

Wildwood’s Botanica Combines Italian Cuisine With Flavors of the American South

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Botanica – from Ryan Sherring of the Six Mile Bridge brewery in Maryland Heights and acclaimed chef Ben Welch – recently opened in Wildwood, showcasing a blend of new Italian and Southern American cuisine.

Using ingredients like fermented garlic honey, pecans and sweet potatoes across a menu of small plates, pastas, entrées and Roman-style pizza, Botanica fills the space previously occupied by Sllyce Republic Pizza.

The 13,000-square-foot restaurant, which features two event spaces, seats 130 guests in its main dining area and another 16 at a 40-foot-long concrete bar wrapped in white oak. A dog-friendly patio and outdoor bar can accommodate another 130. The modern interior sports a clean design embellished with plants throughout.

“Wildwood is very nature-oriented, with a lot of beautiful state parks, and with Botanica, I wanted to bring that feeling inside in a modern and chic way,” Sherring says. “The patio also really drew me to this place. We’re all about bringing people together and creating new spaces for them to gather and build good relationships.”

Botanica’s comfort food menu includes such starters as a buttermilk biscuit with speck (smoked or pickled pork belly) and pimento cheese, as well as a six-hour slow-roasted sweet potato dish with pork jowl, candied pecan, ricotta and fermented garlic honey.

“Basically, I’m trying to showcase my experience with Italian cuisine while slowly introducing my Southern food to St. Louis,” Welch says. “Eventually, I want to do ‘Lucy Quinn’ – a soul food concept that’s named after my maternal grandmother that reflects my Black food experiences going to school in Charleston, working in New Orleans and growing up with a family from Mississippi, eating what my grandmothers fed me.”

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Welch’s catfish entrée exemplifies the best of both worlds on one plate and features fried catfish with eggplant Parmesan and a spicy tartar sauce. He and Sherring spent months perfecting the recipe for their Roman-style pizza; it gets its tender yet crisp texture, which they describe as “New York-style pizza meets Neapolitan,” from 48 hours of cold fermentation. Customers can choose from such options as Margherita, pepperoni or mushroom, which features wild mushroom conserva, fontina, béchamel, roasted garlic, lemon, thyme and taleggio.

Pasta options include gnocchi with artichoke, lemon, roasted cauliflower, garlic, cream and frico breadcrumbs, as well as tagliatelle with lamb shoulder ragù, ’nduja, gremolata, béchamel and cured yolk. For dessert, customers can enjoy chocolate-hazelnut budino, peach cobbler and other options.

Beverage manager Chris Figueroa – formerly of the multilocational Salt + Smoke – developed the set of offerings behind the bar. Guests can choose from rotating wine pairings, Six Mile Bridge beers on draft or cocktails like the Negroni Flip, made with Plymouth Gin, Tribuno sweet vermouth, 1220’s Flora botanico aperitivo, simple syrup and a whole egg. 

Botanica, 2490 Taylor Road, Wildwood, 636-821-1233, botanicastl.com

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