Take 25 years combined experience in the restaurant industry for one couple, add 12 years in the wine business and a passion for organic farm-to-table cooking. Sprinkle in some Venezuelan flavor, an appreciation for Southern cuisine and a communal-eating atmosphere, and you get Cocha, a new restaurant coming to downtown Baton Rouge this summer.
Created by Baton Rouge native Saskia Spanhoff and her husband, Enrique Pinerua, Cocha will meld a seasonal vegetable-driven menu with an eclectic wine and craft beer selection to create something Spanhoff hopes Baton Rouge residents will enjoy.
“There is a need for something that is more driven with health in mind. I think there are a lot more people realizing they need to eat healthier on a daily basis,” says Spanhoff, a Certified Specialist of Wine who also has a Master Chef certification.
The 2,500-square-foot restaurant at 445 N. Sixth St. is still in the design phase. The name Cocha is a nickname Pinerua has for his wife. It comes from a popular 1980s Latin American song.
Spanhoff says they hope to submit plans to the city-parish Planning Commission within the next week or two and open sometime in July. The couple is leasing the space from Lawrence Sciacchetano, who says the restaurant will be “pretty unique and upscale.”
Spanhoff, an LSU graduate who still calls Baton Rouge home, returned a few times each year while living in Los Angeles to visit her parents. She has long wanted to move back home and open a restaurant, but was waiting for the perfect location.
After a three year search, Spanhoff says the Sixth Street location is exactly what she was looking for due to the mix of surrounding homes and businesses. It’s also in close proximity to the Red Stick Farmers Market, where she is a frequent customer. Plus, she says, there are not many restaurant options east of Third Street for people working downtown, so she thinks she will fill a need in that respect.
“As you move away from the river, there is really not much in terms of dining options,” Spanhoff says.
Spanhoff is creating the menu and wine list, and will do most of the cooking—though she is looking for a sous chef, or second in command, to help in the kitchen.
Her husband will work the front of house, where he will put his 15 years in the entertainment industry to work. Spanhoff says she wants to serve brunch on the weekends—after a voyage to the Farmers Market—and provide some live music to give the restaurant a relaxing atmosphere.
“We want the place to feel like someone’s home,” she says.