I am happy to report, Chef Tony and partner Tony Black of Barrique Restaurant and Piccolo Restaurants, have realized their dream of opening a Piccolo chain. In fact, they now have three locations.
My conversation with Tony Black:
Hi Tony. Always great to catch up with you. Piccolo was somewhere between an actualization on Lincoln and a concept. And now, as I understand it, you have three Piccolo restaurants open. Amazing!
"I know and it's going great. Pasadena has been open 4 days and the opening went smoothly. You know, South Pasadena is a tight-knit community, so our reputation is what's going to ensure that we do business, for years to come. If you notice restaurants often open and they have this pyramid, where they peak: they plateau and then they come back down. Right? Our food is great and on top of that it is important to treat people kindly and to build and be part of the community. I train the staff on how to interact with people. I want people to feel like they are walking into your home."
That’s exactly how I feel when I am at Barrique. Piccolo on Lincoln was the first one, right? Which one is the hub? Where is Chef Tony making all the sauces and what not and sending it to the other restaurants?
"Currently, we have three locations. Santa Monica, Venice and South Pasadena. And we are using our Venice location as our centralized kitchen, because it is a much bigger kitchen. That’s where we make all the pastas, sauces and desserts and they get sent out to the restaurants where the sous chefs put everything together. Even Barrique. This keeps food and labor costs down. Our next move will be to find a centralized kitchen. That’s what we need and that’s what we are looking for. Even though our Venice kitchen is the largest it is now becoming too small to handle all the restaurants."
That totally makes sense. I know a couple of chefs that have done exactly that, and it has been a game changer for them.
"And with the centralized kitchen it allows us to keep our labor costs down and keep our food costs down. And keep the consistency the same for all the restaurants. That's the concept, right?"
Yeah. Exactly. So how are they faring? You're only four days into Pasadena, but how is Venice and Lincoln faring?
"You know. The first three nights have all been at capacity in our Pasadena location."
"For Pasadena we are still just at the soft opening stage. We are relying on our reputation. And we want to make a great impression. That is important for all the locations. Restaurants are all about repeat business. It's important to build relationships and have and be a part of the communal vibe. We all know and like each other."
So very Italian. It’s familial.
"In the beginning I must get a feel for the place. It’s one thing to know it and quite another to feel it. So, there will be some rearranging until I get and feel the flow of the space. Tables, silverware, bus bucket. Where does everything go?"
Design and placement rests on your shoulders.
"Yes…I gotta feel it. What works, what doesn't work, and that takes time and rearranging."
"It takes three to six months of any location when you open to get the groove of the restaurant and the community. We're in the process with Pasadena now. Piccolo Santa Monica and Venice are seamless now. They're essentially running on their own with management help."
Are there plans for other locations?
"Yes. First a centralized kitchen is what we need and then who knows…maybe South Bay,
Calabasas, Studio City. Specific communities and areas we feel that will love our type of cuisine. We want to be known as the neighborhood spot."
Are the menus the same at each restaurant?
"Yes, they are but we’ve given our sous chefs at each restaurant the freedom to add their flair. They are creating the specials. So those are different at each restaurant. And if there is a dish of theirs that the customers can’t live without that will be added to the menu. They are very talented in their own rite."
I can envision that. It’s a recipe for success. Thank you, Tony, for enlightening us about your quest. You are well on your way. Congratulations.
The following are the addresses to each of the Piccolo’s: If you are in the neighborhood make a reservation, you won’t be disappointed.
Piccolo Santa Monica
2127 Lincoln Blvd,
Santa Monica, CA 90405
1616 Abbot Kinney Blvd,
Venice, CA 90291