Even though civilization hasn't yet been able to pinpoint the soul, we know it's irreplaceable.
But that's just what Shaun Fiaccone and Kim Dansereau attempted to do when they took over the restaurant space previously occupied by Galileo in late 2009.
Galileo was an eclectic restaurant and bar in the heart of the Paseo Arts District, principally owned and operated by Craig Roche.
Galileo hosted poetry readings, open mic nights and local musicians while offering a better-than-necessary menu to locals who embraced the 1990s resurgence of coffee bar culture. Roche and his partners built a centerpiece to the Paseo with an aesthetic built for its time. The goateed and flannel-clad had a mutual meeting place to discuss love, art and the whole Karmic enchilada over coffee, cocktails or both.
So when Roche died in November 2008 and Galileo followed shortly after, it was a missile to the solar plexus for the arts district known almost as well for its many comebacks as its annual Memorial Day festival.
Not long after partnering with Dansereau to open Picasso Cafe in the fall of 2009, Fiaccone said, “Galileo was the soul of Paseo.”
Fiaccone knew it was risky trying to replace Galileo, so instead, he and Dansereau reimagined it.
“We knew we had a built-in audience,” he said.
So they gave the quirky space a fresh coat of paint, a new name and simplified the menu.
Flying through its freshman, sophomore and junior years, Picasso Cafe, 3009 Paseo Dr., hasn't even graduated its senior year but has successfully completed a soul transplant in the Paseo.
Simplicity was and is the plan. The menu features entrees that don't exceed $14, but the items flying from the kitchen of chef John Madore are far from expected. Madore, who took over the stove at Picasso Cafe after just a few months as a line cook, serves artfully interpreted Americana.
Madore, who joined Picasso after a year in the kitchen at Rococo, brings a fresh, enthusiastic attitude to the table with winners like the ahi tuna Indian taco.
The Indian taco haunting State Fairs past, present and future get a welcome makeover with seared sashimi-grade ahi. The chili is not only vegan, but better than most versions of chili ever ladled over a square of fry bread. Madore has transformed a legendary Oklahoma gut-buster into dish that plays light and fresh without losing an ounce of octane.
Other standout entrees I've had include airline chicken with bacon, blue cheese cream, and risotto, and a three-cheese macaroni and cheese with chicken, onions and tomato.
My favorite sandwich is the lobster po boy with Creole aioli, but the burger is fantastic, too. I'm told the blackened tilapia sandwich should be my next order.
You also will find twists on familiar dishes, such as chorizo and mushroom risotto.