By Kristine Cannon
Local chef Alex Stratta may be a James Beard Award-winning chef with two Michelin Stars and have a resume boasting experience at top-tier restaurants in Las Vegas and Arizona like Renoir at The Mirage and The Phoenician Resort, respectively—but it’s his new restaurant, Stratta Lifestyle Kitchen, that he considers his most personal feat.
Slated to open in mid-April, the restaurant embraces the necessary lifestyle change that helped Stratta not only lose more than 100 pounds but also overcome colon cancer.
“I call it Strata Lifestyle Kitchen because it’s the lifestyle change that needed to happen, not only the diet, but just about taking care of yourself,” says Stratta, a North Scottsdale resident of four years.
While living in Las Vegas for 15 years, Stratta maintained an unhealthy lifestyle. In 2009, when his children were born, he was diagnosed with colon cancer.
“Luckily, I had it all removed very quickly, but I was about almost 300 pounds at the time. I was just unhealthy, and I didn’t feel good about anything,” Stratta recalls. “So, I started by taking care of myself by starting to curb all of my bad lifestyle habits.”
Located near Hayden Road and Via de Ventura, Stratta Lifestyle Kitchen is described as a “fast-casual healthy whole-food dining” spot with a vibrant menu boasting natural and fresh ingredients.
The Mediterranean-focused restaurant’s menu is largely inspired by the foods Stratta himself ate to get his health back.
“The way I cook, which is inherently Mediterranean, is just a natural healthy way to eat,” Stratta says.
“It has a lot of benefits, so that kind of transmuted into a restaurant concept that I felt was very strong and very much to my heart and very relevant in the sense of people trying to find that magic bullet of a special diet.”
In short, the Mediterranean diet is a primarily plant-based plan that emphasizes healthy fats, like olive oil, as well as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, nuts, herbs and spices.
Foods with animal proteins—preferably fish—are eaten in smaller quantities at least twice weekly.
Research shows that the Mediterranean diet is effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
For instance, a study published by JAMA Network Open in 2018 showed that nearly 26,000 women who followed the Mediterranean diet had 25% less risk of developing cardiovascular disease over 12 years.
Other benefits include reduced risk of stroke in people with diabetes or other risk factors for heart disease and weight loss, among others.
The Stratta menu is composed of six sections: shareable plates, grains, greens, “the goods” or protein, sauces and sweets.
“We’re trying to make it more customized to the guests,” Stratta says, describing the menu as “well-curated, thoughtful and healthy.”
The customizable menu allows patrons to mix and match the proteins and sauces in their grain- or greens-based dish.
“When you get your order of the greens or the grains, we’re going to toss them lightly in very high-quality olive oil. And then you get to choose whatever sauce, and it’s up to you to see how much you want to put on there. Most of the caloric intake is going to probably be in that dressing,” Stratta says.
The selection of sauces allows patrons to choose their own flavor experience.
“It’s about how you want to carry the flavors of your dish,” Stratta says. “For example, you could have a bowl of romaine lettuce and you could put every one of these sauces on it and you’re going to get a different experience, whether it’s a spicy experience or a sweet or a tangy or sharp experience.
“Harissa and pesto chimichurri look the same, but one transports you to Italy and the other one transports you to Mexico.”
Stratta stresses, however, that all of the sauces are oil based.
Prices range from $6.50 for sweets, like goat cheese panna cotta with berries, to $11.50 for a grains-based bowl with an added $7 to $11 for guests’ optional choice of protein, which include strip steak, salmon, mushrooms and more.
“They’re not huge portions,” Stratta says, “but they’re really nice portions of meat or fish. We’re going to give you a nice 4-ounce portion of protein, which is essentially what is suggested—4 ounces of whatever protein per meal.”
He said he’s serving high-end food for reasonable prices.
“I’m trying to pare down my experience to just the quality of the ingredients and the execution of the food and making it a very seamless, no-bells-and-whistles approach to having a great bowl of food or having a great plate of food,” he says. “I’ve taken away all those superfluous parts that make fine dining.”
Stratta describes the restaurant as more fast casual—one that fits people who live a more on-the-go lifestyle.
“Most people no longer have an extended amount of time to sit there and eat a full meal—especially for dinner, and definitely for lunch,” Stratta says.
Stratta had the idea for the restaurant for years but didn’t pull the trigger until October.
The restaurant, which Stratta describes as “light, airy and open,” will replace The Melting Pot’s Scottsdale location, which closed after 22 years last September.
Stratta will participate in a dinner event June 28 called Too Many Cooks alongside other notable local chefs, including Chris Bianco, Charleen Badman, Matt Carter, Tracy Dempsey, Beau MacMillan and others.
The dinner, which features 16 local chefs and will take place at Mountain Shadows, is a tribute to Barbara Fenzl, the mentee of Julia Child and owner of Les Gourmettes Cooking School, and will benefit the Jacques Pépin Foundation.
The Rhode Island-based foundation offers those who were previously incarcerated or homeless or struggled with substance abuse free culinary and life skills training through community-based organizations.
“I’ve worked with Barbara Fenzl for a long time. I did a lot of her classes when I first moved out here back in like ‘89 and ‘90. She invited me, and I’ve been doing them ever since, even when I was in Vegas,” Stratta says. “She’s a dear friend of mine, so anything I can do to help.”
More information will be announced at a later date.
“Everybody’s done her classes at least two or three times, everybody from Vincent (Guerithault) to Christopher (Gross). It’s really a great honor to be part of it because she deserves every bit of it.”
For more information, visit strattalifestylekitchen.com.