Lorella, a downtown Ashland restaurant, has been open for about a year, and the owners are happy with the way the business has taken off.
Petra Jung, 33, and Tony Travanty, 37, partners in life as well as in the business, settled on Ashland after searching the western U.S. for six months for the right place to open a restaurant.
Jung had worked in several kitchens and did some small-scale catering in Wisconsin. Travanty had experience in several kitchens in Minnesota. Both were tired of the cold weather and wanted to relocate to a milder climate.
“We looked at Santa Fe and elsewhere in New Mexico,” Jung said, “as well as in northern California, Colorado, and Bandon.”
They enjoyed exploring the geography and food of the West as they searched for an area where they could source foods locally for a true farm-to-table cuisine. After visiting Ashland twice during their quest, they decided it was the place for them. They liked the nine-month growing season and the many local growers.
“We source directly from farms,” said Jung. “We use no food services. Some growers deliver, some don’t. We like to support local vendors but we also source from all over the state.”
They settled on the location at 145 E. Main Street when they heard that Pita Pit was closing there. They leased the place in October of 2015 and spent the next seven months doing an extensive remodel.
They tore out a green Formica service bar, built out two new bars (one used for counter seating), covered the concrete block walls, added some banquette cushioned seating, and gutted the kitchen, doubling its size.
They opened in June of 2016 under the name Scarpetta.
“We later learned we couldn’t use the name because it was in use back east, so we changed the name to Lorella,” Jung said. “Lorella is a soil type in Jackson County. It’s our nod to the local terroir, the wines.”
Both Jung and Travanty work in the kitchen, as does chef Josh Dorcak, formerly Chef de Cuisine at Ashland’s Amuse Restaurant.
Travanty grew up learning the ins and outs of Italian cuisine from his family, so you’ll find that influence on the menu. Dorcak enjoys creating dishes with an eastern influence. And Jung contributes dishes with a French twist. “But right now, I’m concentrating on desserts,” she said.
Lorella is not your typical meat and potatoes place.
Jung described their approach to food as “New American.”
“We try to focus on the Pacific Northwest and showcase Oregon on our menu,” she said.
“Almost everything we prepare is thoughtfully done. We try to do things in an elevated way, make things more delicious.”
Everything is made from scratch.
The owners also want to emphasize sustainability.
“Now more than ever it’s important to know where your food comes from. That’s why we like to support local growers,” Jung said.
Lorella is open Wednesday through Sunday for dinner from 5:30 to 9:30. Brunch is served on Sundays as well, from 10 to 1:30.
Prior to dinner service, the bar is open from 4 to 5:30 for “Happy Hour and a Half,” during which time bartender Kehl Van Horn offers specials on drinks and unique bar food.
The menu changes often, reflecting the availability and seasonality of the foods they buy. They also make sure that many items are available out of season for their menu.
“For instance,” Jung said, “during citrus season we buy cases and cases of citrus. We use juice fresh in season and freeze some for use later.”
They’re open only five days a week in order to have time to source their foods on their days off. They hope some day to be open seven days a week, and lunch is definitely on the horizon.
They take reservations at 541-708-6360 or online through Open Table.
— Jim Flint is a former newspaper publisher and editor now living in Ashland. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.