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Rustica restaurant, bar to open in Moorhead's Kassenborg Block

Eric Watson, left, and Dan Dulany are busy putting the finishing touches on Rustica Eatery and Tavern at the former John Alexander’s space in the Kassenborg Block in Moorhead. David Samson / The Forum1 / 2
Rustica Eatery and Tavern plans to open in downtown Moorhead in early August. Rustica owners Sara and Eric Watson intend to use this area in the rear of the Kassenborg Block as an outdoor patio. Dave Olson / The Forum2 / 2

MOORHEAD - The new restaurant and bar planned for the historic Kassenborg Block in downtown Moorhead now has a name and a tentative opening date.

Rustica Eatery and Tavern will open in two phases, the soonest being early August, with the later opening sometime in the first part of October, said Eric Watson, who owns the enterprise with his wife, Sara.

Rustica will move into spaces formerly occupied by John Alexander’s, a Juano’s Express, and a lounge at 315 Main Ave.

Parts of those operations have been incorporated into the Juano’s full-service restaurant in downtown Fargo.

Eric Watson said the first space to open this summer in the Kassenborg Block will be the “Eatery” portion of Rustica and it will be in the space where John Alexander’s used to be.

The western side of the operation, or “Tavern” portion of Rustica, is receiving the heaviest remodeling. A wall that had separated the Juano’s Express from the lounge next door was removed.

Both sides will have full-service bars and food.

The Watsons also own Mosaic Foods and the Mezzaluna restaurant in Fargo.

Eric Watson said Rustica will be a stand-alone enterprise, though it will have a menu whose flavor profile will be similar to that of Mezzaluna.

Where Mezzaluna is largely Italian in approach, Rustica will have both Italian and Spanish influences.

Rustica is getting a tax break from the city of Moorhead for setting up there, but Watson said the couple’s reasons for selecting Moorhead for their new restaurant go beyond financial considerations.

“The primary reason we went there, first and foremost, was because we loved the space, we loved the building,” he said.

“Secondly, Sara and I are Moorhead residents, so we take a certain amount of pride doing what we can to get downtown Moorhead going,” he added.

Decisions like whether the new restaurant will offer lunch hours are still being worked out, but Watson said some things are certain, like their plan to get the outdoor patio going this summer.

Matt Maslowski, economic development director for the city of Moorhead, said Rustica promises to be a bright addition to downtown Moorhead.

“It’s a big win for residents in the community,” Maslowski said, adding that Rustica’s arrival contributes to the momentum of other efforts underway to enhance the city’s profile.

Dave Olson
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