Enjoy fresh-baked, wood-fired pizza and pasta using classic Italian recipes from Romo's grandmothers | Photos by Ruta Smith

Laura, the newest concept by French chef Nico Romo, who was voted Best Chef in City Paper’s 2022 Best Of awards, is now open in historic Summerville on 101 Main Street. Named after Romo’s grandmother, Laura joins NICO in Mount Pleasant and Bistronomy downtown as part of the Nico Dining Group. 

Romo

While Romo’s first two restaurants focus on his French roots, Laura takes inspiration from his Italian lineage. 

“I’m pretty much as immigrant as it gets, with an Italian grandmother on mom’s side, my dad’s side is Hispanic and I was born in France,” Romo said. “So I’m a mutt, especially food-wise. 

“My Italian grandmother taught me so much about flavors and ingredients, as well as the importance of hospitality even while at home. For NICO and Bistronomy, I pulled culinary inspiration from my childhood in France and my classic French training. So I’m excited to celebrate my Italian heritage and the huge impact that my grandmother’s cooking continues to have on my food. I think I eat more Italian food than French food, honestly.”

Romo purchased the property nearly three years ago, but unfortunately had to sit on the project and “went into survival mode” due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He was confident though that the property and restaurant would still be there for him on the other side and starting last September, construction and planning for Laura went into full effect. 

“I felt like a lot of people were expecting me to come to Summerville and open another French restaurant like another NICO, and I was like, No, no, no. NICO is the rustic French seafood brasserie and Bistronomy is your fine dining with an Asian twist.”

Instead, Laura will offer guests authentic experiences and dishes found in Rome, Florence and Naples and follow the rustic simplicity of Italian culinary traditions— making everything from scratch and using the freshest ingredients in a room dedicated to making pastas, breads and pizza dough using the methods and recipes employed by Romo’s grandmother. 

The core of the dishes offered at Laura will be centered around the “Mother Sauce,” made over two days using only five simple ingredients — olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, basil and salt.

A highlight item Romo is excited to share is the Casarecce or “Laura Bolognese,” named after his grandmother’s recipe. 

“Put simply, it’s basically a beef bourguignon,” he said. “A beef bourguignon with tomato sauce is basically how she makes it. She’s from Arpino, which is a small town in the middle of Italy, so the way we’re doing it is basically beef, pork, veal — whatever parts — and pretty much braise it off in tomato sauce for like 10-12 hours on the stove. That’s how she made hers.”

And all of the braised meats in the Laura Bolognese are used in the “pretty ridiculous” Lasagna a la Laura, with pork belly, chopped beef and veal cooked low and slow overnight to avoid burning, according to Romo. “It’s just awesome.” 

When it came to actually employing his grandmother’s recipes, Romo said he had to interpret some of her handwritten notes, as a lot of the measurements were: “a little piece of this, a little bit of that.”

He added that opening Laura in Summerville, rather than downtown or Mount Pleasant, is more than just celebrating his grandmother; it’s about celebrating locals and their own family memories. 

“I want to build a family restaurant for someone in Summerville to be like, ‘That’s my restaurant. That’s not a restaurant that came from downtown to open a second location,’” Romo said. “I wanted to give the community of Summerville their own restaurants, not something that’s a copy of something else.

“I want it to be a new institution for people where it’ll be their first date and then they get married, or to be that place where people create memories on birthdays, anniversaries and all that kind of stuff. That’s what we need to be, and that’s what I want to be part of. I want Laura to be Laura.” 

Laura will open for dinner nightly from 4-10 p.m. Lunch and brunch hours to come in the following weeks. Reservations are recommended, but not required. For more information, visit laurasummerville.com.


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