So Long, Europa

If all goes according to plan, May 31 will be the closing date for the sale of Scott and Gigi Cowell‘s popular Europa Café & Bakery. Its new owner: local businessman Andrew Atterbury. According to Gigi Cowell, Atterbury has hired Nathan Feldmiller, former chef at the recently closed Circe, to be the chef.

The Cowells are selling Atterbury the rights to the name Europa Café & Bakery along with most of the assets of the restaurant. That may include the secret recipe to Gigi’s lemon layer cake, the top-selling dessert at the six-year-old Europa.

Atterbury says he intends to keep the name — and most of the dishes — at least until he obtains a liquor license and moves ahead with plans to offer dinner and brunch. “Then we’ll re-evaluate how well we’re doing as Europa Café,” he says. “We want to maintain the high quality and reputation that Scott and Gigi created.”

After the sale, Atterbury and Feldmiller — former classmates at Pembroke Hill School — will close for a week before reopening for lunch business as usual.

The Cowells closed the restaurant, then called Europa, A Café, briefly last year and reopened it as Europa Café & Bakery in an effort to downsize the business so they could operate it more economically — “as more of a carry-out place, like a Panera,” Scott explains. The venue’s dining room went from 21 tables to six, and the Cowells swapped out the china for plastic. “But our clientele screamed, so we added six more tables and brought back the china,” Gigi says.

When their rent went up at the Crestwood Shops, the Cowells decided enough was enough. The past year had taken its toll on the young couple: They closed their second location, L’Etage, at Crown Center, but not before Scott collapsed there one afternoon from a brain aneurysm that left him unable to work for months. The stress was nearly overwhelming.

“We finally decided we wanted a normal life,” Gigi says. “I have my master’s degree, and I’m going to start teaching again. Scott hasn’t decided what he’s going to do yet. But I’ve been in this business for 17 years and baking lemon cakes for eight, and I need a break. I don’t want to look at frosting anymore.”

I’d say she’s earned her time off.

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