It’s been a big week for restaurant openings and reopenings: prolific restauranteur Giorgios Bakatsias announced the two forthcoming North Hills spots, Las Ramblas and Giorgio Pizza Bar; NanaSteak collaborators (and brothers) Brad and Graham Weddington announced American Tobacco Campus addition Seraphine; and Durham seafood lodestar, Saint James, announced that it would be reopening after a difficult few years.

Hopeful restaurant news stands in stark contrast with this time last year, when many restaurants were closing their doors ahead of winter. (Read last year’s INDY tribute to a few of the restaurants that shuttered in 2020.) These hopeful glimmers continue with Durham chef Gray Brooks‘ announcement, this morning, that downtown restaurant Littler will reopen in early 2022, helmed by new chefs Elizabeth Murray and Tanya Matta. Murray will lead Littler’s kitchen, and Matta will lead the pastry programs at Littler and Brook’s other restaurants, Pizzeria Toro and Jack Tar & The Colonel’s Daughter.  

“I am excited to be back in Durham and to be a part of the Little Jack Toro Group,” Matta, who is originally from Durham, wrote in a press release. “Creating desserts for such varied dining experiences has been enjoyable and provides the opportunity for me to be creative with pastry on multiple levels. I’m looking forward to collaborating with Elizabeth on the much-anticipated re-opening menu for Littler.”

“I am delighted to be a part of reopening this beloved restaurant. The Little Jack Toro group is passionate about creating an exceptionally intimate and memorable dining experience,” added Murray, who is from Blowing Rock and has cooked in a long list of kitchens all across the globe, including at Pappacarbone in southern Italy; WD-50 in New York City; Hedone in London; and Noma in Copenhagen.

Littler, a cozy 36-seater, opened in 2016 on Parrish Street with much fanfare (glowing from Bon Appétit, with an initial lukewarm verdict from the former INDY food critic). It has been closed since March 2020. 

“We’re so excited to finally be reopening,” Brooks said in the press release, “and are incredibly fortunate to be doing it with such exceptional chefs—Elizabeth Murray and Tanya Matta—who have returned to NC after working in some of the best restaurants in the country.” 

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