One local Italian eatery recently received national recognition by the way of Garden & Gun magazine. Local restaurateurs John and Lauren Stokes, owners of Tarasque Cucina, say they are humbled and honored by the highlight.
“It’s a magazine that we have always held with such high regard,” Lauren said of the feature in the October/November issue.
One of the key points Garden & Gun contributor and Oxonian John T. Edge highlighted in his article was the transformation the restaurant has endured since their reopening. For instance, he praises that the majority of the small-plate dishes that were previously reserved for tasting menus “have now earned their way to the everyday chalkboard.”
Small plates include fried artichoke hearts with lemon miso dressing, boiled peanuts doused with olive oil, sweet-corn skewers rolled in a pecorino gremolata, and blueberries tossed with cashew butter and sunflower sprouts, Lauren said. As creative epicureans, they are adding to that menu each week.
As an upgrade from its previous location, the Stokes have added a dine-in experience with a room in the back that caters to chefs tasting events. Also, a full-size patio now welcomes diners during warmer months.
“Tarasque is still a modest spot, where you order at the counter and fetch your own water glass and cutlery roll,” Edge wrote. “And, yes, John and Lauren still do a lot of takeout and delivery business.”
The duo said they were pleased with how Garden & Gun positively impacted their business in more ways than one.
“The feature helped our business in that it gave people expectations about us, in a good way,” Lauren laughed.
For instance, Lauren describes the customer’s experience in their restaurant as a flashback in time with “mom and pop.” She remembers her college dining days and is hoping to give today’s Ole Miss students a taste of the past, in a hospitality sense.
“It’s nice for younger people to have a similar experience. In a college town that’s going through a lot of changes right now, there aren’t a lot of places that will remember the test you were telling them about last week and follow up with you about how you did,” Lauren said.
As a complement to that personal experience, Edge describes the restaurant aesthetic as shop-class chic.
“That handmade look jibes with the handmade food, which suits a clientele that ranges from women in yoga pants who arrive with bottles of rosé to professors and spouses who book babysitters,” he said.
“It’s one of those places where the company is just as good as the menu,” says Ole Miss student Alice Hollensteiner.
In conclusion, Edge said John and Lauren “work with a kind of jubilance.”
“To make food that is artful and delicious, to make a space that is warm and graceful, they channel earnest intents and good energy,” he said. “Their small plates beg your attention. The show they stage wins your affection.”
For more information about the Stokes and the Tarasque experience, follow this link.