Aposto’s New Chef Off to an Impressive Start

Mussels in a garlic and shallot white wine cream sauce are so impressive, you’ll be glad to have the extra crostini for dunking after the shellfish are devoured. Photo: courtesy of Aposto.

Writer: Karla Walsh

“Chef Cole: the man, the myth, the new executive chef of Aposto! You don’t get to see him much on the floor because he’s always back in the kitchen making your dinner dreams come true,” Aposto accurately shared on Instagram to announce Cole Gruis’ new role.

Stepping in as the executive chef of Aposto (644 18th St.), Gruis took over for Shawn Bennigsdorf (whom you might remember from our March 2020 feature, “Culinary Young Guns”) after Bennigsdorf left to pursue his dreams in the dental field. Gruis’ culinary skills began at Little Caesars in Indianola, and he confirms that he still loves their pizza. But I can confirm it doesn’t hold a candle to his own, which is one of the two dishes Gruis is most proud of on the newly refreshed summer menu.

“The pizza fritta and the gnocchi are my current favorites,” Gruis tells dsm. “We always have variations on those two items on every menu, but this time around they are a little more unique.”

On a late-June visit, my dinner club and I were lucky enough to share those two flavor-balanced recipes, as well as a mix of Aposto’s all-time greatest hits:

 Pizza fritta: With rich taleggio cream sauce and mozzarella, salty-savory prosciutto and tangy pickled apricots, we agreed that this is nothing like anything you’d find on a delivery menu.  ($14)

 

 Nanee’s polenta cakes: No visit to the Scala House, the 1880s Sherman Hill Victorian that is home to Aposto, is complete without an order of these tender polenta wedges and garden-fresh tomato and zucchini ragu. ($10)

 

 Mussels: The garlic-spiked, shallot-scented white wine cream sauce that bathes the shellfish is so layered with flavor, we found ourselves dunking slice upon slice of crostini into the bowl long after the mussels themselves were gone. ($16)

 

 Charcuterie: Featuring homemade paté, pickled vegetables, Calabrian olives, cured meat and fromage from the Cheese Shop, this appetizer is ideal to share among two to six people, depending on what else you order. And if you ask me, the ideal setting to enjoy this is at a table on the patio on any Thursday night (when they waive the corkage fee). (Price varies)

 

 Gnocchi: Inspired by classic Italian pasta carbonara, Gruis’ chive dumplings come topped with an unexpected—and unexpectedly tasty—savory zabaglione (a whipped custard), Parmesan shavings and crispy cured pork. ($29)


In addition to the current menu, Gruis and his team dream up a new while-supplies-last special every weekend. Just be sure to book a table early; the dining room was bustling during our Thursday visit. A recent check for weekend availability also confirmed that it’s best to plan more than a week ahead (or walk in and hope for open seats at the bar).

“For upcoming features, expect some brighter and more vegetable-centric dishes,” Gruis says.

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