Boka Group, Bristol Partners Announce Balena

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jun 20, 2011 7:20PM

The video below has been making the rounds the past couple of days. It announces, with taste bud tempting food and drink, Balena, an upcoming partnership between the the Bristol and the red hot BOKA Restaurant Group in the Landmark Bar & Grill space on Halsted.

Bristol partner John Ross told us the project came about organically. "We're friends with (BOKA partners Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz) and we visit each others restaurants all the time. One of the things Kevin's always asked is when we were doing a second restaurant."

When Ross, chef Chris Pandel and the Bristol's other partners decided to get serious about a second restaurant, they reached out to Boehm and Katz to get their thoughts on locations. "They liked the idea of what we had in mind and said, 'we have a space that might be perfect.' It snowballed from there."

As the video suggests, Balena will be more Italian focused than the general Mediterranean influences Pandel works in at the Bristol. "Chris will be definitely sourcing local ingredients," Ross said. "But the menu will be way more influenced by Italian cuisine."

Ross said that Balena will house a Universo wood-fired oven and grill capable of spit-roasting whole animals. "We'll also be serving pizzas and will eventually have pizza delivery, Ross told us.

Pandel and Bristol Pastry Chef Amanda Rockman will move over to Balena once it opens, with Andrew Gietzen staying at the Bristol as chef de cuisine. Gietzen and Pandel have worked together for years, going back to their days at Tru, so Ross said he sees no problems with the Bristol continuing what it already does. Rockman will be handling pastry duties for both Balena and the Bristol.

We asked Ross if he had any reservations about Boehm and Katz possibly oversaturating their market, given the stable of chefs they have (Stephanie Izard, Giuseppe Tentori and Paul Virant) and the restaurants both open and in the works.. "Their restaurant concepts are diverse enough that there's no overlap," Ross said.

Balena is slated to open at 1633 N. Halsted in November.