Two weeks after landing “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto, downtown Napa’s Riverfront project confirmed two more restaurants Tuesday — one by Food Network star Tyler Florence and a seafood eatery by the Bay Area’s celebrated Lark Creek Restaurant Group.
All three restaurants are expected to be open by next summer, adding to downtown’s concentration of quality eating establishments.
Florence, a TV celebrity who has penned five cookbooks, is planning a rotisserie restaurant near Morimoto’s high-end operation, which will offer sushi and foods that combine Asian and Western traditions.
Lark Creek Restaurant Group, which operates 10 restaurants, including One Market Restaurant in San Francisco and Bradley Ogden at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, intends to open a popularly priced seafood spot along the lines of its four Yankee Piers in the Bay Area.
Michael Dellar, president and CEO of Lark Creek, said he lives in Napa and had long touted downtown’s resurgence. “I’m putting my money where my mouth is,” he said Tuesday.
“I think there is a big need for local, high quality, egalitarian restaurants in the town of Napa,” Dellar said. He promised a seafood operation that would appeal to families, “not just foodies.”
With these three restaurant leases, the Riverfront will now focus on bringing in supporting retail stores, Michael DeSimoni Sr. of Channel Properties said Tuesday.
“It’s easier now, with the restaurants signed, to pick the shops,” DeSimoni said. “We want to make sure they’re the same caliber as the restaurants.”
Florence made his name working at some of New York City’s top restaurants, then shifted his charismatic presence to the Food Network where he hosted “Food 911” and “How to Boil Water.” “Tyler’s Ultimate” is his current show.
Florence, 38, now lives in Mill Valley where he owns a kitchen store. He is in the process of opening the Wayfare Tavern in San Francisco.
Florence will be offering food demonstrations at his Riverfront restaurant as well as sell cooking equipment, DeSimoni said.
Last fall, Florence took the job of executive chef at Copia’s Julia’s Kitchen, but Copia folded a short time later.
Lark Creek’s 4,000-square-foot seafood restaurant will be located at the north end of the Riverfront, at the corner of Main and Third streets. There will be 90 seats indoors and another 90 outside, said Dellar, who served on Copia’s board of directors.
Although the Napa operation will resemble a Yankee Pier, it will have a unique Napa Valley identity with its own name, Dellar said. The average Yankee Pier dinner bill is about $30, including food and beverage; the lunch tab averages about $20, he said.
The Napa restaurant will serve only seafood that has been sustainably fished, he said.
Construction of the $72 million Riverfront, a mixed-use project occupying two blocks along the river, wrapped up this spring, with only one tenant, a brokerage firm, moving in.
Leasing in this economy has been a hard slog, but DeSimoni pledged from the start that he would rather have his building empty of tenants than lease to mediocre restaurants and shops.
Things are now starting to move, DeSimoni said. He predicted that he would have retail leases to announce in coming months. Napa River Velo, which now runs a bike shop on Soscol Avenue, has committed to opening a European-style bicycle store.
The Riverfront’s 50 condominium are beginning to sell now that prices have been lowered by 30 percent, the developer reported.