Pizzeria Toro’s chef-owner Gray Brooks said he hopes to open his second restaurant, Littler, in the original Monuts location in downtown Durham in April.
In a phone interview Friday, Brooks said he has hired Amanda Orser as the chef de cuisine. Orser is the talented former chef de cuisine at the now-closed Magnolia Grill in Durham.
The 30-seat dinner-only restaurant on East Parrish Street will offer a small menu. The concept is hard for Brooks to describe but this is how he did: “This feels like a dinner party to us more than anything else.” Change will dictate the menu, he said. It will include raw oysters and a few other raw items, six or eight small plates or appetizers, a lamb burger and three or four other entrees.
Brooks said he hopes it will feel like an excellent neighborhood restaurant, like those found in New York City in the 1980s and 1990s. “It always felt fun, neighborhood-y and close,” Brooks recalled of those restaurants.
This is the same restaurant project that generated headlines last year when some members of the Durham community reacted poorly to Brooks’ original name for the restaurant: Hattie Mae Williams Called Me Captain.
Brooks, a Durham native, worked in Seattle for 12 years for James Beard award-winning chef Tom Douglas, who owns more than a dozen restaurants. Brooks returned to Durham and opened Pizzeria Toro in 2012. He also plans to open a diner in the old Jack Tar Motel this fall.