By Alex Gallagher
Nico Doniele has been frustrated with the lack of attention restaurants paid to where the food comes from.
Many eateries in California source meat and produce from regenerative farms, which, among other things, seeks to reverse climate change by improving soil health through practices that increase soil organic matter.
Doniele had an idea.
She met with her good friend, Nick Neuman, the owner of the successful restaurant EVO in Old Town, to pitch an idea and mission.
“The idea is to look at food and its sourcing in a different way, along with how we use it to heal the body,” Doniele says. “And my mission statement is ‘let us eat to live and live longer to eat.’”
Neuman loved the idea and went into business with Doniele, giving birth to the Scottsdale restaurant Santé.
The first step was finding a location. The perfect one was found on Scottsdale Road and Tierra Buena Lane, across the street from the Optima Kierland.
After months of renovations, they feel they created a chic atmosphere that is comfortable for diners of all diets and tastes to enjoy food that comes from farms that do not harm the environment.
“This allows people to learn how to eat properly through well-sourced food in a fun and chic atmosphere,” Doniele says.
Doniele describes the interior of the restaurant as “bohemian chic meets ’20s and ’30s glam Hollywood regency” as evidenced by the 6-foot pink feather chandelier, floral decorations and art-covered walls.
While the two knew how they wanted the restaurant to look, the renovations were challenging due to supply chain disruptions.
“We had issues sourcing materials,” Neuman says. “Our tiles were ordered ahead of time from Turkey. We also had trouble finding chairs and flooring, as those items were either out of stock or on a backorder.”
They confronted a bigger challenge sourcing food.
“One of the hardest things we’ve dealt with has been sourcing our food,” Neuman says. “Because of how particular we are about where the food is sourced from, it has been more challenging to source food.”
Santé prides itself on its ability to source food from regenerative farms and local produce purveyors.
“We source our food from regenerative farms that work with nature by creating a carbon-neutral or carbon-negative atmosphere,” Doniele says. “We also go beyond organically grown. We look into how the animals are raised, how the earth and soil is treated, and how the farm works on a day-to-day process.”
Because some menu items are harder to come by, the pair plans to adapt their menu around the items they can obtain.
“Because we know exactly what we want, we are creating our menu around that,” Neuman says. “If we can’t get a particular item, we will change our menu to match what we are able to bring in.”
Oddly, they easily found staff who believed in the restaurant’s mission and were excited to open the doors on December 14.
“Our staff has to have a good attitude,” Doniele says. “You can train people how to pour coffee and wait tables, but they have to have a good attitude and believe in what we’re doing for the earth.”
Additionally, Doniele asked staff to educate diners on Santé’s options to complement any dietary needs.
“We have all these great opportunities for people to eat together and be inclusive,” she says. “We want to create inclusivity with really beautiful vegan dishes and really beautiful meat dishes.”
However, the restaurant’s signature dishes are buttermilk brined chicken with pickled spaghetti squash, brown rice chicharron, olive and cherry gastrique and bison filet with onion puree, roasted yellow tomatoes, red wine and hemp reduction.
On the sweeter side of the menu, Santé offers items like cheesecake and cornbread.
The full bar is equipped with a variety of alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. Guests can also reserve Santé’s private dining room for high-tea parties or to show a film on its projection screen.
For those who may not have time to sit down at the restaurant, it has a grab-and-go gourmet marketplace that sells salads, juices and breads, as well as a coffee bar.
Neuman says he believes the restaurant, which will offer lunch and happy hour beginning in June, will become a “destination spot.”
“I believe in building a restaurant for the area that you’re in, and I think this is an amazing area that will become a destination spot,” he says. “This is a one-of-a-kind restaurant that is going to draw in people who didn’t know that this was possible to do.”
15507 N Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale