Bryan Caswell announced today that Stella Sola, his Texan-Tuscan restaurant in the Heights along with partner Bill Floyd, closed its doors on Sunday. The announcement followed months of rumors that Stella Sola would soon be closing, a result of the building in which it was housed going up for sale.
"It wasn't an easy decision," said Caswell by phone. "But there's no reason to drag it out."
Caswell cited chef de cuisine Adam Dorris's departure and the uncertain fate of Stella Sola's building -- which he and Floyd leased, but did not own -- as the two main reasons for closing the popular restaurant, which opened in late 2009. Under its previous chef de cuisine, Justin Basye, Stella Sola pioneered the charcuterie movement in Houston and even netted Basye a James Beard semifinalist nod in 2010. Basye left Stella Sola a year ago to pursue other projects.
What made Stella Sola unique was -- as Caswell acknowledges -- the fact that it was "a way [for him] to run a chef-driven restaurant without being there every day." As such, talented chefs de cuisine like Dorris and Basye were vital to Stella Sola's success.
"The fact that Adam [Dorris] was splitting, it was kind of timely," said Caswell of the closure, as Dorris recently gave his two weeks' to Caswell and Floyd. "Adam had four days left on his notice."
After Dorris's notice, Caswell and Floyd made the decision to close Stella Sola in conjunction with what he calls the "building's uncertain future."
"What do you do?" Caswell asked rhetorically. "There are plenty of restaurateurs who'd go out there with a big smile on their face and try to recruit some young guy and say that everything's fine. So we decided to close rather than rebuild on uncertain ground."
The employees, for the most part, will be reabsorbed into the Caswell-Floyd empire at places such as Reef, Little Bigs and El Real Tex-Mex Cafe. "Most everybody is coming into the team," said Caswell. "Things appear down because of Adam leaving, but almost everybody has a job in the other restaurants."
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"It was a beautiful restaurant and I loved it," said a sad-sounding Caswell. "I built it. It was a part of me and I miss it already."
"But we've got plenty to keep us busy."