Pleasing All Palates

Beth Stallings, Columbus Crave

The conversation started over a sold piece of art-glasswork about to be sent overseas. How exciting, thought Amy Schottenstein. She had never before visited the colorful Hayley Gallery, which features Ohio artists in its bright showroom. After only a few minutes, she and gallery owner Hayley Savage were chatting like old friends.

"It was kismet," said Savage, who opened the gallery in New Albany in 2007. "I remember calling Amy the next day and saying, 'I feel like I met my new best friend.' "

At the time, in 2009, Schottenstein was operating popular seasonal restaurant Summer Stock Food and Flowers in Lakeside, Ohio. A one-time registered dietitian, the New Albany resident opened the restaurant near her vacation home to offer the gated, affluent community more diverse, healthy food choices.

Inspired, Savage thought they could accomplish the same thing in New Albany, a city not known for an abundance of restaurants.

Now, the duo is set to do just that, planning a November opening for their contemporary American restaurant Ella, a moniker that stands for "eat local. love art." The concept is meant to create a seamless flow of art-on the walls, on the plate and on the palate.

"Rather than wait for somebody to come in, we're putting our money where our mouth is," Savage said. "We live here. We understand what people want."

Savage easily recalls the first time she met New Albany Mayor Nancy Ferguson and told her she was opening an art gallery.

"That's wonderful," the mayor said. "But we really need places to eat."

Built on the end of a small red brick plaza on state Route 62, Ella will focus on all things local. Ingredients will be sourced from area farmers and vendors. The artwork hanging on the neutral-toned walls of the 3,100-square-foot restaurant will come from Ohio artists and rotate monthly. The décor will be an extension of the new Hayley Gallery location, built next door.

The restaurant layout is designed to cater to large parties, with spaces that can be sectioned off and tables easily moved to create communal-style dining. Toward the front, more intimate areas are perfect for couples. On the side, a 75-seat patio will offer a large outdoor option. And an open window will give guests a view straight into the kitchen.

It's obvious Schottenstein and Savage want diners to feel connected to the chef and to the artists. There's a comforting calm to the way they speak about Ella. They're grounded and proud; certain they know their future customers.

After all, with six children between them, it's likely Savage and Schottenstein are the parents sitting next to you at the high school football game.

"It was about having that gut feeling that if we want it," Savage said, "then our neighbors want it."

Awoman hovered over the piece of art Savage had donated to a charity silent auction, circling it again and again.

"Do you like that?" Savage finally asked.

"I am going to be opening a restaurant," Savage told her.

"My husband's a chef!" the woman said.

Travis Hyde, the former executive chef at Z Cucina di Spirito and a member of the first graduating class of New Albany High School, had been looking for a new opportunity. Ella was a perfect fit.

"The timing is almost euphoric," said Hyde, who lives in Westerville. "I used to always say, 'I am going to open a restaurant in New Albany.' It was so weird."

As executive chef, Hyde tweaked the initial working menu created by general manager Schottenstein, adding his own simple-yet-creative touches. Moving forward, the two will collaborate on menu items to ensure there is something for everyone: entrées priced from $12 to $26 that range from steak to chicken to seafood, as well as vegetarian and gluten-free choices.

"It's food that pleases all the palates. It's stuff you can make at home, you've had at home, but this is better," Hyde said. "We don't want anyone to feel like they are walking into some pretentious restaurant. It's an extension of your home."

With a white tablecloth background, Hyde admits he has no plans to change his style of cooking. He's going to turn out the same upscale dishes, but with a familiar approach. It will be a play on American classics, such as shrimp cocktail that's been flash grilled and roasted chicken with butternut squash puree instead of standard mashed potatoes.

"This is very much a meat and potatoes town. I'm a very meat and potatoes guy myself," Hyde said. "I just like to get creative with my meat and potatoes."

It's been a busy two years of challenges and successes since Savage and Schottenstein first discussed this project.

Part of their journey included winning a year's worth of business coaching through a New Albany-sponsored program, and they used that time to hammer out the details of Ella and its feasibility.

Now, as they prepare to open their doors, they're confident in their food, their feel and their concept.

"We have a buzz," Savage said. "There's one word we hear from everybody: finally."

Photos by: Will Shilling


Yes, there will be a former registered dietitian helping to craft Ella's seasonally changing menu. No, that does not mean bold flavors will take a backseat to fewer calories. When the owners talk about healthy options, they mean reasonable portion sizes and dishes made with fresh foods from scratch, not processed ingredients from a can. "I've always believed you can have delicious food (that) doesn't have to be laden with saturated fats and salt and pre-made sauces and things that are unnatural," says general manager Amy Schottenstein. Schottenstein graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in food management and dietetics, but that doesn't mean she doesn't want to indulge, even in dessert. "It's a balance," she says. "It's about bringing out the natural flavors of foods rather than burying them in a lot of heavy sauces and creams."


Executive chef Travis Hyde takes a simple approach to his dishes, starting from the bottom up with a single flavor or idea, and slowly building upon it. "I don't want this to be 1,000 different flavors on the plate," Hyde says. "Good products, good cuts of meat, don't need a lot of stuff on it. I'm not going to mask its identity with a lot of unneeded flavor." After sampling some of his eats, here are a few dishes we recommend.

Spicy Grilled Shrimp Cocktail

Nix the martini glass with ice sticking to cold shrimp. This puzzle-piece arranged version offers four jumbo shrimp flash grilled, chilled and paired with a creamy cocktail-style sauce. A side of sliced cucumbers in lemon marinade adds a cool acidity.

Almond Crusted Mozzarella

Never want for mozzarella sticks again. Hyde's lighter version (with mozzarella he makes himself) is soft and smooth, and lightly breaded in just enough toasted almonds to add a good crunch. Prosciutto offers a little salt, while earthy sage pesto hangs in your mouth with a cleansing feel.

Ella's Beet Salad

This dish offers rich and heavy flavors that won't knock you down. Colorful beets are cut by slightly bitter arugula and acid from thinly shaved apples. Candied walnuts add great crunch and sweetness, but with a bit of heat from a dash of cayenne.

Pan Seared Lake Erie Walleye

Flaky and lightly seasoned, the burst of flavor in this dish comes from its bold accompaniments: hearty sweet potato hash, earthy shitake mushrooms, salty bacon and slightly sweet onions.

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding

Buttery brioche is seasoned with cinnamon and black pepper for a savory touch. Granny Smith apples retain a bit of crunch, and go perfectly with sweet caramel and a bourbon anglaise.


The Ella owners and chef promise a far-from-typical kids menu. Why? Because all three parents know it's hard to find good food kids will eat. First, the options will be healthy, says general manager Amy Schottenstein. "It drives me crazy when kids eat processed foods," she said. Second, they'll be creative. Executive Chef Travis Hyde's children love things in Hot Pocket form, so something like a mini chicken pot pie is perfect for young Ella customers. "Just because they're kids doesn't mean they shouldn't eat well, too," he said.