MOORHEAD — The rumors are true: Downtown Moorhead restaurant Rustica Eatery & Tavern has new ownership. But locals can't head to the establishment to see what's new quite yet because it's temporarily closed.
The former owners of the business, 315 Main Ave., which opened its restaurant side of things in 2014 and unveiled its more bar-like tavern side in 2015, announced the change on Friday, July 5.
According to a news release, the new ownership group known as Rustic Hospitality includes Anna Weisenburger and Micah Leitel. Weisenburger, a longtime restaurant manager with Usher's House and Porter Creek, joined the Rustica team last spring, according to the news release, while Leitel, an executive chef, has worked in the kitchen at Rustica for more than four years.
Leitel said in a statement that he was "hooked" on the business as soon as he started working on its pizza station.
"I still feel the magic and hope to share it with all of our guests," he said, adding the new owners' main goal is to "stay true" to the Rustica concept.
Weisenburger, meanwhile, said in a statement that it's "really the jackpot for me" after being a former patron at the restaurant.
"I'm looking forward to owning a business in an industry that I love and in a community that is so loyal to its local businesses," she wrote.
Former owners Eric and Sara Watson said the ownership change came about much like their sale last year of another restaurant of theirs, Mezzaluna in downtown Fargo, to a new ownership group called Snelling Hospitality.
"We are proud of the business we created and the fact that our team members would like to carry on the name and quality as their own as Eric and I being a new venture," Sara Watson said in a statement, while Eric Watson added that he believes Rustica "will be a mainstay in Moorhead for years to come."
But it's not yet clear when Rustica will be open to the public under its new ownership. Friday's news release said "some licensing delays" mean the restaurant is temporarily closed until proper certification and license transfers can happen, adding that locals should stay tuned for a new opening party.
The Watsons' other longtime local business, Mosaic Catering, which opened in 2005, is still "alive and well" and owned by the couple, they added in an email.
The agenda for the Monday, July 8, Moorhead City Council meeting includes a liquor license request by Rustic Hospitality LLC for Rustica Eatery & Tavern.