Tag: opening a restaurant
Yesterday, my mom took June to the aquarium, and Brandon and I spent the day at Dino’s Tomato Pie, hanging photographs and making lists, getting ready to open the day after tomorrow.
Like Delancey and Essex, Dino’s is owned by the two of us, but this business is more purely Brandon’s brainchild than either of the first two. I know I once said Delancey was Brandon’s baby, and then Essex was Brandon’s baby, but no, Dino’s is really, really, really Brandon’s baby. Dino’s – which is pronounced deeno, a shortened version of Brandino, the faux-talian nickname some of our friends have given Brandon – is a pizza tavern, modeled on the kind of place you find along the New Jersey Turnpike. It’s wood paneling and marbled Formica and a stripped-down menu, pizza and salad and well-stocked bar.
Brandon went into the project planning to outsource much more of it than we did with Delancey or Essex, to be better about delegating and not take on everything himself, but half the fun is in the muck of it, so he’s still there every day, up to his elbows. (And because opening businesses is not my strong suit, nope nope nooooo, aaah ha ha haaaaaaaa, my contribution to Dino’s has been mostly elsewhere: picking up slack at Delancey and Essex, and acting as Primary Parent until the insanity subsides and it’s my turn to do a big project.)
Brandon designed Dino’s with our friend Michael Riha, a general can-do person who will complete a Master’s in architecture this spring, and our friend Tom Clark, a contractor, finish carpenter, and loyal neighbor of Delancey. Tom did the overwhelming majority of the build-out, from demolition to trimwork to building the booths and restoring the original front doors, taking care that every detail was in its place. The bar and the fire exit, which I hope no one will ever see, were done by the good people of Metis Construction. Heliotrope was the official architect on the job. Brandon, Michael, and Tom began pounding out the plans early last summer, huddled around a table in the window at Delancey, and oddly, they still seem to enjoy each other’s company today, though Brandon and Michael did have a pretty contentious arm-wrestling match last week.
Dino’s is across town from Delancey and Essex, and from our house. It’s at the corner of Denny and Olive, in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. That fact brings with it plenty of challenges (Capitol Hill parking! cross-town traffic! CAPITOL HILL PAAAAAAARKIIIIIIING), but on the upside, we get to share the block with our friend Rachel Marshall, reigning queen of ginger beer, who owns the bar Montana; our friend Monica Dimas, who owns the nighttime sandwich shop Tortas Condesa; baker extraordinaire Neil Robertson, who owns Crumble & Flake; and the good Kevin Burzell and Alysson Wilson of Kedai Makan. We lucked into an historic brick building with tall ceilings and big windows, for which our friend Sam wrote and designed window signage, which our friend Natalie, who is married to Michael, then installed.
Sam also designed the Dino’s website. And Natalie’s friend Cristina Victor painted a giant mural in the back hallway, with nudes of all shapes. I plan to tell everyone that the reclining redhead in the foreground is me, though I will now rush to clarify here that she is not me. If you’re standing in front of the mural and look down, you’ll see that the floor is spangled with gold confetti, thrown by Michael.
Dino’s will be open seven days a week, from 4:00 pm until 2:00 am. It’s a bar, first and foremost, and that means that it’s 21 and over. We’ll be making the pizza in a brick oven, powered by gas, and you can order it in two different styles: a round pie, which is in the same style as Delancey’s, but 18 inches in diameter, rather than 12; or a square pie, or Sicilian pie, which is baked in a pan, a little thicker and crisp on the bottom and corners. With your pizza, you can get a salad, if you want something green: the “regular” salad is romaine with our garlicky “Jersey” dressing, and the “fancy” salad is wild arugula, shaved fennel, and Fra’Mani soppressata. Dessert is Valrhona chocolate feves, sold by the ounce. Bar-wise, we have nitrogen negronis on tap(!), 11 beers on tap, Ferrari shots (Campari, Fernet Branca, and vermouth, rawr), and of course wine, more beer, and a full selection of other booze, whatever you’re into. I’m into negronis on tap.
As with Delancey and Essex, Dino’s gave Brandon plenty of opportunities to indulge his love for eBay and for thrifting. We hope you will enjoy the statuettes above the bar, the light fixtures, the naugahyde bar stools, the red leather chairs.
On the walls, you’ll see old photographs from our families, plus a few shots of one of Brandon’s old dance teachers, when she was on Broadway. Look out for Brandon’s prom photo! His aunt Joellen and uncle Tom on their wedding day! My beautiful uncle Jerry in a “GAY FATHERS” t-shirt! My dad in an ad for a friend’s Volvo dealership! My mom and Barbara Fretwell, making Aunt Bill’s Candy!
Dino’s will open to the public this Wednesday. It’s almost there. Thanks, always, for giving us the opportunity to do work we can be proud of, and a reason to do what we do.
Well, the bad news is that I seem to have fallen into a black hole called Delancey. But the good news is that we’re open. And that Brandon and I are still alive! And that somehow, people are coming to our little restaurant! And, get this: I actually managed to take a picture of one of the pizzas. Wonder of wonders! I can die happy now. No, really, right now. I’m tired. This particular pizza looks sort of cockeyed and misshapen, but please bear with me. (Secretly, I like them that way.) It also looks small, because it’s sitting on a huge metal plate. In person, it’s our normal size, I swear, which is to say about 12 inches in…Read more
It’s very peaceful at Delancey right now. I’m going to try to remember what this feels like. Wait. Is the art in this photo crooked, or is it just me? Maybe my eyes are crooked. Anything is possible. Delancey opens tonight at five. There’s no signage outside the building yet, but that’ll be fixed soon. It’s at the top of our to-do list. In the meantime, for those of you in the Seattle area, maybe this map will help you find us? Our address is 1415 NW 70th Street. (It might be helpful, too, to know that we’re one block north of Ballard High School, directly across the street from a bar called Tarasco, and right next to Honore Bakery.)…Read more
I meant to post this last Friday. You can see how well I did with that. I also meant to take a picture of some pizza, since that’s what this whole business is about, but that didn’t work out either. The cook we hired to help Brandon with the pizzas didn’t show up for his first official day of work – the day before our first pre-opening dinner – which has left only Brandon and me in the kitchen. That means that I do my work at my station, run over to his station to help top and finish pizzas, and then run back to my station again. This has not left much time for photography – or breathing, or…Read more
So, Delancey is opening its doors on Wednesday, August 12, at 5:00 pm. I’m a little short on words to describe how I feel about that, but maybe this picture will give you some idea. Brandon feels pretty much the same, I think. Maybe with a touch of queasy on top. Or maybe I’m just projecting. Hard to say. Nah, actually, we’re very, very excited. This is the part that we’ve been waiting for. It’s been a long time coming, and though I don’t know that we’ll ever feel completely ready, we’re close. Or close enough. I just hope we get some sleep sometime soon, because apparently, I’m already having a hard time keeping my eyes open. And we’re in…Read more
I am pleased to report that we are finally approaching the part of this restaurant thing when we actually get to cook. It’s kind of amazing. The construction is essentially done. There are some details left to complete, like installing acoustic paneling (to cut down on noise), hanging art and mirrors, and setting up the computer system, but we’re very close. Two of our construction workers – I’m not going to say who (rhymes with “Holly” and “Mandon”) – accidentally glued an eight-foot-tall chalkboard to the floor on Sunday, but it’s okay. It came up easily enough. We’re really very close. And we still seem to remember how to cook, which is promising, since that’s the whole point. About ten…Read more
I’ve got to hand it to you people. You really know how to welcome a girl back. Thank you. I have so many things to tell you about, but sitting down to do it is not so easy. Last week was a blur of pizza-testing, potential staff-interviewing, convection-oven buying, and kitchen-rearranging, and then on Saturday evening, just as we were rounding up a long day of errands, Brandon gashed the side of his thumb on a sheet of stainless steel in a home improvement store. I looked down at his hand for an instant, just long enough to see a lot of blood, and then I gave him a Kleenex and proceeded to quietly hyperventilate. Clearly, he was going to…Read more
Well. That took a little longer than I expected. Thank you for hanging in there, and even more, for being so understanding. I missed you all, and I missed being here. I was having a pretty rough time a couple of months ago. You could probably see it more clearly, actually, than I could. I have never, ever, done something as consuming as this opening-a-restaurant business. Even writing a book doesn’t compare. People had warned us that projects like these always take twice as long and cost twice as much as you expect them to, and dude, that is Seriously. No. Joke. It’s been like Little Shop of Horrors over here, only the role of Audrey II, the man-eating plant,…Read more
Restaurant-wise, we are entering what I call Crackdown Mode. That sounds sort of scary, I realize, as though it might involve body armor and high-tech weaponry, but what it actually means is even scarier. It means that this restaurant, this Delancey thing, is now a full-time job. Not just for Brandon, but for me, too. It feels good. It feels good to be caught up in its momentum, pulled along by something so tangible and so big. But it also feels like diving into a murky pool, enormous and very deep, and I can’t see a damned thing. I know I have to jump in, and I want to jump in, but let me tell you, it is dark down…Read more
We are long overdue, I think, for a Restaurant Day. So much so, actually, that I’m not sure where to start. But I guess the front door is as good a place as any. I know I haven’t mentioned it around here much lately, but The Thing That Will One Day Be Delancey marches on, slowly but surely. With emphasis, I guess I should say, on the slowly part. We are doing this on a very slim budget, which means that most of the work is done with our four hands – mainly Brandon’s, actually, to be perfectly fair – and with borrowed labor, borrowed pickup trucks, and borrowed tools from friends and family. I can’t imagine doing it any…Read more
I would like to sit down here today and write as though everything were normal, as though I were actually capable of forming complete sentences. But the truth is, I am an absolute maniac. Tomorrow is the official release date for my book, a day that I never really trusted would come, and I feel alternately so ecstatic and so freaked out that I can’t decide whether I need to run around the block a few dozen times or lie down for a nap. In the meantime, I will eat some sweet potato pound cake. As you can see, that’s been my fallback position for a few days now. Many of you have written already(!) to say that you have…Read more