“I am really proud of the food we’re now offering to customers,” says Stanza Italian Bistro & Wine Bar owner, Joel LaSalle. ‘Twas not always so, however. Since its inception a couple years ago, a revolving contingent of chefs has been the rule at Stanza, and consistency a constant issue. But with the hiring of Executive Chef Jonathan LeBlanc, LaSalle is a very happy man, and his customers seem to be responding favorably, as well. I know I’ve thoroughly enjoyed LeBlanc’s cooking since he took the reins in the Stanza kitchen.
How does a kid from Cajun Country wind up working in a SLC Italian bistro? Well, LeBlanc’s resume and culinary chops are rooted in an eclectic combination of experiences and education, including studying sushi-making—which is evidenced in his exquisite crudo kampachi dish—as well as learning French cuisine and techniques at New York City’s French Culinary Institute (where I also had the pleasure of learning some tips and tricks from former instructor Jacques Pepin).
LeBlanc’s tenure at a 350-seat fine dining steakhouse in Cypress, Texas, might help explain how it is that his Snake River Farms American Waygu ribeye is the tastiest piece of meat I’ve gotten my lips around since sometime around the turn of the millennium. It’s also Joel LaSalle’s favorite Stanza menu item—a perfectly cooked-to-order boneless ribeye served with an exceptional chipotle-garlic compound butter.
Various homemade pastas beckon to carb lovers like myself, and you’d be hard-pressed to dial up a more satisfying entree than Chef LeBlanc’s linguine all’aragosta e gamberetto, which is a divine dish of fresh al dente linguine tossed with rich morsels of Maine lobster, Gulf shrimp, and baby heirloom tomatoes in a silky white wine, butter- and herb-oil sauce, all garnished with a single deep-fried basil leaf.
At a recent partnering with Francis Fecteau’s Libation Inc. for a Southern Italian wine dinner, LeBlanc and his Stanza team knocked it out of the park with selections such as langoustine risotto with Manila clams, candied lemon, smoked heirloom tomatoes and zucchini cream, or my favorite: succulent red snapper with blood orange-lemon butter paired with Cusumano Alta Mora wine. The dinner itself may just be a fading memory, but you can find this wonderful wine currently at Utah wine stores.
LeBlanc believes in a certain simplicity in cooking, a “less is more” approach, if you will. The basic idea is to begin by sourcing the highest quality (preferably local), most flavor-packed ingredients possible, and then don’t screw ‘em up. It’s a back-to-basics culinary style that has Stanza flying high and hitting on all cylinders.
Stanza Italian Bistro & Wine Bar
454 East 300 South, SLC