Alex Treml believes in reincarnation — at least for his famous Frenchtown restaurant. After a successful run of more than 22 years, Alexander's Café is about to close. But don't cry, because in a matter of weeks it will metamorphose into Bella Blu.
Same location. Same staff. Same owner.
New menu. New décor. New atmosphere. New — lower — prices. And a few tables added outside.
Treml says Bella Blu will have a Mediterranean theme, featuring Italian, French, Greek, Spanish and Middle Eastern flavors. The food will be lighter. The emphasis will be on appetizers, but there will be a full menu from salads through entrees to desserts.
"We're not keeping anything from the old menu" which was influenced by Treml's Austrian roots, he says. But he promises to continue the practice of cooking beyond the menu by request: "If we have the ingredients, we'll be able to fix it for you."
Treml has a long history in the food business on St. Thomas — first as a waiter at L'Escargot, then as a chef on charter yachts, and finally as co-owner with Dotty Sparks of Fat City restaurant — all before Alexander's opened on a prime Frenchtown corner on Jan. 15, 1981.
It was just a pastry shop at first, he recalls. But soon he was serving breakfast and lunch. By Bastille Day, July 14, that year it was a full-service restaurant, although it was solely al fresco. It wasn't closed in and air conditioned until the mid-1980s.
"A restaurant has a certain lifespan," Treml says. "We reached that, probably, a while ago." Although it is still busy most nights and maintains a good reputation with both locals and tourists, he says, its popularity seems to be waning, and "I have to pay attention to my numbers." And to trends — which seem to be toward less formal dining.
Regulars may be nostalgic for the old Alexander's Café, but its namesake isn't. "I'm not going to have time to miss it," he says.
If you want to see the old place, get there by the last week of August. If you want to see Bella Blu, go back in the fall.
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