Solera, a Spanish tapas-style restaurant from the owners of Bin 77 Bistro & Sidebar, is helping Baton Rouge get in touch with its Spanish roots.
The concept behind Solera has been in the works for a while, says general manager Mitch Rodgers. Bin 77 originally purchased its sidebar space in Perkins Rowe with hopes of making it a tapas bar, but it was hard to manage the two concepts in a shared space.
So when the former Marcello’s space in the Southdowns Shopping Center became available, Rodgers and owner Brian Dykes knew it was perfect for their Spanish restaurant concept.
They hired executive chef Nick Puletti, whose grandmother moved to the U.S. from Castilla-La Mancha when she was 16, to craft the menu.
Puletti, who was executive sous chef at Soji: Modern Asian, grew up traveling to Spain every other year, visiting family in Madrid and exploring the coast by train. And even though he stopped visiting regularly at 18, he says his culinary experiences in Spain have stuck with him through his five years in Baton Rouge.
“I don’t think anybody else knows Spanish food like me in the city,” Puletti says, “and I really want to bring that to Baton Rouge.”
Puletti and Rodgers’ main goal is to teach Baton Rouge about Spanish food. Diners can order several dishes from the tapas menu to share, essentially making a meal from an array of appetizers. But for those who aren’t ready to embrace this kind of dining, they can also order full entrees for a more traditional dining experience.
Much like the South, the Spanish love to “make the meal an event,” Puletti says.
Solera’s space provides a great atmosphere for an introduction to Spanish dining. The team made some changes to the interior of the former Marcello’s, with arched doorways, red and cream-colored accents and enclosed patio space.
The bar area serves drinks and tapas. As part of the cocktail menu, guests can choose between three Spanish gins and match the gin’s flavor profile with their choice of tonic. There’s also a selection of signature cocktails, sangrias and Spanish wines and beers.
The formal dining room has a long list of Spanish wines carefully selected by Rodgers, who is a certified sommelier. Solera also features event space, including a private dining area that seats 12. The restaurant’s paella can only be ordered on weekdays in the private dining room, since it is traditionally made in large batches. But for those small-group paella-lovers, the Sunday brunch features paella and sangria.