By Giorgi Meyer
Recent years have experienced a rise of a new culinary trend, the gastro pubs.
Since its inception the idea behind gastro pubs was to take the old English savoir-faire of pubs and fuse it with modern European gastronomic cuisine.
Novo Dolce, hidden behind Penn Station on the Old Town Square is a nearly two-year-old gastro pub which serves drinks along with culinary creations.
The restaurant is part of the gastro pub movement which, according to General Manager of Novo Dolce, Michaela Easton, the pub has introduced Bowling Green community to the gastro pub culture never experienced before in this region.
“We never would have expected the pub to be what it is today.” Easton said.
Novo Dolce combines imaginative, opulent cooking with casual experience of a pub, adding a new sophistication to the local hangout.
The pub is the second restaurant co-owned by Sasha Mandrapa, the executive chef of both Novo and The Bistro, the first restaurant he opened in Bowling Green.
“Back home, every Sunday was a family meal,” Mandrapa said, while cutting up chorizo and prepping for an upcoming catering charity event.
The self-taught native Bosnian chef, immigrated to the U.S. in 1996 during the Yugoslav Wars. Mandrapa worked at several restaurants learning the crafts of cooking as he went. He lived in St. Louis for several years, later moving back to Bowling Green to open The Bistro.
The chef’s culinary beliefs are contemporary and in sync with time.
Change is important to recognize, he says, to keep up with the trends and the current generation, their preferences, ways and needs in culinary fashion.
“You are as good as your last plate, you got to raise the bar,” Mandrapa said.
The result, Novo Dolce, which opened in April, 2014.
One of the most popular gastro pubs had emerged in the early 1990’s. The first standards were set by The Eagle Farrington, a popular English pub based in London.
According to The Eagle’s web history description, in an attempt to open a restaurant the owners, while pressured by costly financial demands, purchased a small pub with an eight foot by five foot kitchen, from which they served food.
Food became a priority in gastro pubs. So it is at Novo.
Along with the conventional pub favorites like the fish and chips, baked cod and ribeye the menu offers other inventive dishes such as the Rustic Potato pizza, made up of traditional Italian pizza dough poured with olive oil, gorgonzola cheese, thin sliced potatoes, bacon, red onions, sprinkled with mozzarella and cooked at exactly 500 degrees for four to five minutes.
“I give the classics a twist,” Mandrapa said, referring to his cooking and his ideals for culinary culture.
Western Kentucky University student Joana De La Cruz sees Novo Dolce providing a break from city food chains of Bowling Green.
“It has a great atmosphere and their food is just unbelievable, you won’t be disappointed,” De La Cruz said.
THE SPACE arrangements tightly follow the chef’s original belief of innovative blend of old and new. Minimalistic interior with a touch of abstract expressionistic paintings which remind of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko or Malevich, are accompanied by sounds of modern musical compositions and simple black shirts worn by waiters, bartenders and cooks. The atmosphere of the pub is laid back and undemanding, with gourmet food and comfortable bar environment.
THE PRICES range from $6 to $15 a meal, major credit cards accepted.
IF YOU GO Novo Dolce is open Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday through Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight, closed on Sundays.