BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
Nearly four years ago, Jeff and Candace Finch took ownership of Trulli Flatbread on East Kirkwood, the restaurant they had moved here from Vermont to run for a wealthy entrepreneur. With that purchase they were able to make the place their own. It still has the huge wood-burning oven that turns out small, fire-blasted pizza-like flat breads and the long bar with a choice selection of wines and beers, and the separate, airy party room upstairs, but now the sign outside reads Finch’s Brasserie, and the menu and the ambience bear that stamp.
With the transition to Finch’s, for instance, the menu is no longer flatbread-centric. Though there are pizzettas (a must-try is the one with leeks, potatoes, bacon, and crème fraîche), there are also new appetizers (including a daily preparation of mussels and a house-made charcuterie plate), fabulous soups (any time you see parsnip soup on the menu, order it immediately), innovative salads (look for one with pan-seared sea scallops), pasta dishes (favorites like linguini with clams and inventive variations like rabbit cacciatore), and other bistro-type entrées, including heavenly smelling steak frites and wood-roasted chicken with buttermilk mashed potatoes that invite you to tuck right in.
The food is classic and cozy, the way the fare at a local bistro should be. It’s uncomplicated, too. Jeff, the chef of the pair, says that over time his cooking has gotten simpler. “Really, with all the great ingredients we have, I just don’t need to alter them that much.”
Indeed, at Finch’s, it’s all about great ingredients, and Jeff spends an inordinate amount of time sourcing the best, from as close to home as possible. Both Jeff and Candace are longtime Slow Food members, dedicated to the idea that food should be seasonal and local and that the relationship between chef and farmer is key. Although they work with a number of farmers to get local vegetables, cheeses and meats, a high point is when farmer Teresa Birtles stops by in her huge white van loaded with ripe vegetables and fruit. Jeff calls it “the ice-cream truck,” so stuffed with temptation is it. “We have a lot of daily specials,” Jeff laughs. “When I overbuy at the ice-cream truck, I am sort of forced to add specials.”
Food is not the only thing that has changed at Finch’s. Candace says that they have reached out to the arts community, staging photography and art displays upstairs, renting out the space for art and music events, holding after-parties and pre-theater dinners. “We figured in Bloomington we didn’t need to reinvent the sports bar,” she says. The upstairs space, which holds 60-65 people for stand-up cocktail affairs and 50 for a sit-down meal, is also used for weddings, private parties, and is filling up for Christmas events.
Maybe the biggest difference since the Finches have owned the place themselves is that, as Candace says, “We are part of the community now.” They have created a neighborhood restaurant that says just that.