Author Archives: pauliepetro

About pauliepetro

Restaurateur, Connector, and Food & Beverage community supporter

Paulie’s Counter-Culture

I am really impressed and happy about how well our counter-service restaurant has been received in our neighborhood. It has proven to have stability and longevity, as we are celebrating 16 years this April.

It hasn’t always been easy gaining respect from patrons for our hard-working Baristas multi-tasking while on their feet behind a counter. There seems to be a stigma about people behind a counter serving food and beverage. I am picky on who works with us in this restaurant family. And after years of training and sourcing, we have a very talented bunch of working Baristas behind our counter. I realize it is difficult to get to know them in the short time you are conversing about a transaction, so I’d like to take this opportunity to share these stories with you all.

I am calling this Paulie’s Counter-Culture. Our counter-culture focusing on the fact hard-working, talented people work behind counters as well.

I will release a story of each Barista once a week, so you all have a chance to really know these guys and their talents, besides being diligent, responsible employees. The stories will be released on Paulie’s blog, pauliepetro.com. We will share that link on Twitter (@pauliepetro) and Facebook (Paulie’s Restaurant) each week.

First one coming next week.

Say hello to them next time you are in!


Workation

Workation: A necessary component to success.

Working any position in the Food and Beverage Industry can be exhausting.  The everyday operational tasks can become challenging in the high-traffic environment.  Occasionally, it is necessary to step away from your job to remind yourself why you are working in this industry in the first place.  The best option for your intended escape without feeling guilty is something called a workation (work + vacation).

I encourage everyone to do this; second to Staging, it is a necessary component to succeeding and growing in our field.  A workation for you should involve traveling and eating.  When I walk into a restaurant, I notice everything.  I notice what flatware and serving pieces are used, I notice the temperature of the room, I notice if there are ceiling fans, are they on or off.  I notice the appearance and demeanor of the servers, I notice the restaurant layout, is it efficient or a circus, I notice the coffee service.  I take away MUCH more from each establishment than just the food.  Traveling allows me to attain that new breath of fresh air from other restaurants. This fresh air gives me continued education on how other restaurants may operate, a different network of fresh faces that share similar vision, and refreshed inspiration to continue bettering myself.   My overdue workation this year was to one of nation’s oldest cities also known as the “city of brotherly love”: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

DSC_0049

The main reason I chose Philadelphia was Vetri.  Vetri has been proclaimed “possibly the Best Italian Restaurant on the east coast” by Chef Mario Batali .  Alan Richman, winner of 14 Journalism James Beard Awards has noted Vetri as “probably the Best Italian Restaurant in America”.  With all this in mind, I thought Vetri would be the perfect place for me to experience and to continue to learn as a chef and take on new ideas in the overall dining experience.  Continued education for our industry is very important; you have to go out and explore what other people are doing in other parts of the world.  This is how you can set yourself apart from other restaurateurs as well as bring in new ideas to your community.  Experiencing the best of the best allows you to set or realign standards for your business.  The dinner at Vetri was as expected: nothing short of extraordinary. The courses were planned out thoughtfully, the plating was beautiful, the atmosphere was cozy, the service was impeccable, and of course the food was remarkable.

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Vetri January 2014 Menu

Di pesce (fish)

Osso di mammut lanoso

Diver scallop and persimmon crudo

Bocconcini de baccala

Pappardelle with cockles and tardivo

Whole fish ‘secondo il mercato’

Di Verdure (vegetable)

Sweet onion crepe with truffle fondue

Ricotta ravioli with wild pecan

Spinach gnocchi wth brown butter

Almond tortellini with truffle sauce

Lasagna all giudia

Di terra (from the earth)

Tortellini pie

Smoked Canada goose stuffed endive

Pajata

Chestnut fettucine with wild boar ragu

Capretto with stone milled polenta

Milk braised lamb with mint

Dolce (dessert)

Chocolate polenta soufflé

Pistachio flan with milk chocolate gelato

Panettone

Bunet with kiwi

Piccolo pasticceria

Aside from Vetri, the Italian Market in Philadelphia made me feel like a kid in a candy shop. The outdoor market has fresh produce as well as butcher shops and specialty Italian items available every day of the week rain or shine.  To be able to sample rare types of olive oils, vinegars, cheeses, meats, etc. and have all these resources at your fingertips for your restaurant would be a luxury to me but not to the average Philadelphia restaurateur.

I cannot write in depth about every restaurant experience I had in Philadelphia, there’s too many and I would sure lose your attention.  The two restaurants that I had more of an intimate connection with was Vetri and Tequilas.  Having talked to my bar friends in Houston, I reached out to the owner of Tequilas.  I cannot stress how important networking is in our industry.  It builds a community where we can share each other’s innovations and experiences to better our industry. Learning from Vetri’s chef de cuisine, Adam Leonti, that his Panettone took five years to perfect brings me joy to know that someone else share’s my vision that perfection is attainable through perseverance, dedication, and lots of trial and error.  Meeting David Suro, owner of Tequilas was a humbling experience. He walked right up to me at the bar, he noticed someone ordered Del Maguey Chichicapa mezcal, so he knew it had to be me.  I also realized he makes Siembra Azul Tequila that I regularly find at high-end bars in Houston.  His recommendations of tequila, mezcal, and food that night were unforgettable.  I remember delicious tripe and grasshoppers!

Felipe Riccio accompanied me to Vetri.  Felipe works for us at Camerata expanding his wine knowledge, but he is a chef first.  Some past cooking experiences in Houston include Reef and Pass & Provisions.  His inspiration from Vetri and the Italian market for his upcoming private dinner was noticed by his guests.  Like Vetri, he incorporated quality ingredients with minimal alterations to make sure each component  kept its original essence.  He made sure his service was attentive but not intrusive.  He stressed beauty of plateware which he really noticed at Vetri and how that element added value to each dish.  That single dinner at Vetri inspired a dish at his future private dinner:

Roasted Ceci Pappardelle/ Fregola Sarda/Burro di Buffala/ Parmesan-cured Yolk

Felipepasta

As I said earlier, there were too many amazing restaurants, bars, coffee shops I visited in Philadelphia and all of them are worth mentioning.  Follow them on Twitter through Paulfeeds.com (Elixer coffee, Han Dynasty, Yard’s Brewery, Dim Sum Garden, The Ranstead Room, Franklin Mortgage and Co.)  My advice is to take a workation and explore them yourself.  A workation is the perfect combo of allowing you to further enjoy your profession, while actually still working…


NEWS: David Keck’s New Playground

camerata

May 15, 2013

Houston, TX – This is an announcement of a new project with Houston sommelier, David Keck and restaurateur, Paul Petronella.  David will be heading up a progressive yet warm and welcoming wine and beer bar in the space adjacent to Paulie’s Restaurant at 1834 Westheimer, Houston, TX.  It shall be called Camerata at Paulie’s.

This is actually an expansion of Paulie’s, except patrons may use the separate entrance door which was formerly 1830 Westheimer, or the back door located in the Paulie’s parking lot.  As Paulie’s customers already know, Southland Hardware on Morse St. has already agreed to share their lot after 6pm, and of course after 9pm the Paulie’s lot is available.  As the operating hours shall be 4p and 2am, there will be ample parking. (Which doesn’t mean you still shouldn’t walk or ride the bike when possible)

The name Camerata was taken from the Florentine Camerata, a group of artists, musicians, intellectuals and writers in Renaissance Florence, Italy.  The term “camerata” means literally, room or chamber where the gatherings were held.  These rooms incubated some of the greatest art and music in the history of Florence, as well as birthing the concept of opera.  The name rings true to both David and Paul because of the Italian heritage and appreciation for music and art, David being an opera singer.

David and Paul have known each other for several years connecting through the food and beverage industry.  The extended space next to Paulie’s has been available for quite awhile, and the idea of a wine bar has always been on the table.  Finding the right person is what made this possible.  Paul & David see eye to eye on the future of wine in Houston.

David has been in the fine wine and dining industry for the past decade, beginning his work with artisanal beer and wine service in Vermont and New Hampshire. Following graduation from high school, David traveled extensively in Europe, sparking his passion for wine in the hills surrounding Vienna and in the vineyards of Tuscany.

David received his Bachelor’s Degree in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, concurrently receiving his bartending certification from Columbia’s prestigious Bartending School and Agency. He also continued his wine education and pursuit of fine wine service in various establishments in New York City, working with several fine wine specialists. Following graduation he pursued Diploma studies at the Juilliard School, studying operatic performance at school, and continuing wine appreciation and education outside of school.

He left New York City to work two years as a professional opera singer.  He completed his Master’s Degree in Opera Performance at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. While traveling for singing, David pursued his passion for wine, tasting extensively in New Zealand, Austria, Italy, France, and of course throughout the United States. Following studies at Rice, David pursued wine exclusively, receiving further education and certification through the Guild of Sommeliers. He recently received his Advanced Sommelier Certification through the Court of Master Sommeliers, winning the Rudd Scholarship for the top score in the exam.  He was also first runner-up in the 2012 Texas’ Best Sommelier Competition at TEXSOM, and placed third in the National Finals for the 2013 TOP|SOMM competition in May in San Francisco. Most recently David worked as the Beverage Director for the renowned Uchi Restaurant Group.

In the Camerata at Paulie’s, David wants to provide an unpretentious meeting place where guests can enjoy delicious beverages that are made by people not companies, and speak of the place where they are grown, harvested, fermented, and bottled.

The food menu will be limited to fine charcuterie and cheese options.  If looking for a full meal, dinner at Paulie’s is recommended, then follow with drinks next door at Camerata.

Gin Braverman is heading up the design.  She is most known locally for designing the beautiful Oxheart space, as well as bars/restaurants in New York.  www.gindesigns.com

The space is on schedule to open this July.

Follow at www.twitter.com/cameratahouston and www.cameratahouston.com for updates.

These guys are excited to share beverages in this space with Houston!


Paul FEEDS 2.0

paulfeeds_3

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Houston, TX -

People in my close circle know about a website I have been working on for almost two years now, http://paulfeeds.com.  I have had an amateur version live recently, then decided it was time to seek a professional designer and programmer, which I found in San Francisco, http://wickedcode.com.  Now I am ready to launch PaulFEEDS 2.0.  The concept was incubated from my want of Food & Beverage professionals recognizing other Food and Beverage professionals.

I believe we need food writers and critics, no matter if we disagree on opinions.  They do make us better, whether consciously or subconsciously.  There are comments that stick with us, linger around, sometimes they may not even be pertinent, but they stick.  F&B professionals are putting themselves out there.  We can be vulnerable as our heart and soul lie on a plate, or our experienced and educated palate fill the glass.  We can be sensitive, its true.

On the other hand, there are too many “Foodie” sites going the wrong direction.  One that comes to mind is Yelp.  Yelp is a public forum that allows anyone with internet access to post comments AND photos of any F&B establishment on the site.  Even if the comments are false and the food pictures are NOT from the establishment, Yelp has refused to remove false information in the past.  This now becomes public information to others who have never visited but already have negative thoughts in their head, false or not!  Its not really the users’ fault, they don’t have a better influence.

In my hopes, PaulFEEDS.com will fill that void.  The void of recognition of professionals, by professionals.  I will NOT review restaurants, food or beverage.  I WILL recognize industry professionals and establishments for their skills, knowledge, progression, community relations, leadership or just overall bad-ass-ness.  On top of that, the site has a growing database of Twitter handles of those professionals.  Twitter is so important in our industry.  By sharing these Twitter handles, hopefully they will be “followed” more, drawing the attention to these individuals and eateries, and away from cynical public forums.  The database is composed of Chefs, Bartenders, Sommeliers, Restaurateurs, Baristas, Purveyors, Writers, Mobile Food and more.  The database is global, and I hope to expand to include more over-seas prospects soon.  At the moment it is very U.S. heavy.  As I travel, or as word of mouth travels to me, it will grow.  I also have “Get Featured” option where you can share with me your idea of prospects to include.  After I do my research, I may or may not include those.  I HIGHLY encourage as much help as possible.  I cannot be everywhere, all the time.  Share with me those who need to be shared.  If I do choose your submission to be included, your name will appear on the Contributors page!

The site does not generate income at this time, and was built on a personal budget.  As the site grows I will seek advertisers to help with expenses.  My advertisers will be just as important as my subjects.  I would like to include industry equipment, vineyards, spirits, purveyors, etc, whom I believe in.  I am currently exploiting

http://arcobalenollc.com and http://www.lamarzoccousa.com as guinea pig advertisers.  They have been gracious enough to let me include them as my first “test” advertisers.  Honestly, I couldn’t have picked any better two.

The name, PaulFEEDS was not my first choice.  I do not like naming things after myself.  I originally wanted the domain Feeds.com, but it is currently parked with an extremely high price.  So I gave that site owner the finger and moved on.  After very little word play, I chose Paulfeeds.  It seems to pair well with my other day job,

http://pauliesrestaurant.com, which I also did not name after myself.

I will not spend money marketing the site.  It will solely depend on word of mouth and social media.  So please spread the word and share with me your ideas on the “Get Featured” page!

Thank you,

Paul Petronella

http://paulfeeds.com

https://twitter.com/Paul_FEEDS

https://www.facebook.com/Paulfeeds


Richey Quinton

We heard news today one of our employees Richey Quinton was killed in a car accident late Sunday night. As his employer, he was one of the best this 15 year old establishment has ever seen. Hungry to work, and good at it. This past Saturday we did close to 600 covers, Richey worked a double that day. I saw him that night after work, and he was still hungry for the next challenge.

He was also our friend. We loved him, he was and always will be one of a kind. Those of you who knew him, know what I am talking about.

I have been trying to keep this off of social media as we told our staff and friends first. I know some people have already seen this on the news.

As his family learns to deal, and is ready to make funeral plans, I will announce that. Anyone who knew him is welcome to come, I encourage you. It always feels good to pack the house to show your love.


It. Is. All. Happening. In. Houston.

I have seen a great deal in my short life.  Included in that is the transformation of the Houston restaurant scene.  It’s like watching a child transform into adulthood.  Gaining confidence to leave the nest and fly an original path.  Realizing stepping on others will not get you to the top, instead ensuring you fall through the cracks.  Appreciating how it feels to lend a hand.  Making decisions that are not only good for yourself but the people around you.  Maturity at its best.

I come from a restaurant family, so I’ve spent some time in restaurants as a kid.  I slalomed through line cooks during dinner rush.  I passed out at the bar with my Cherry Coke during closing.  I slept in the office waiting to go home.  I made bow and arrows with rubber bands, straws and cocktail swords.  I learned that I could hide in a walk-in.  I learned how to “fry” ice cream.  I learned Spanish slang.  And I learned that a restaurant becomes a family.  You see so much of each other, they become part of your life.  Some come and go, and that can be sad.  But then you meet others that have worked at competing restaurants.  And so the restaurant community is built.

The difference between now and then is the sense of community support.  Community doesn’t necessarily mean support is present.  Our restaurant scene was quite competitive back in the day.  As most restaurant communities are, I’m not knocking our retro scene.  It is a highly volatile industry which can breed fierce competition.  But I feel like we haven’t quite matured until recently.  We are not stepping on each other, we are going out of our way to help our community succeed.  All the while still spreading our wings and flying our own paths.

I have best friends from high school and college, and then I have industry friends.  I tell you what, my industry friends share something that I could never have with my non-industry friends.  We get each other.  There is an unspoken bond.

And now It seems all my industry friends are coming into their own and making their dreams realities.  I can’t describe how excited I get when I walk into a restaurant space that is weeks from opening.  The space that was, just months prior, gutted to the bare concrete and support posts is about to change lives.  The cooks, the bartenders, the servers are being employed by this new dream and about to build their own life experiences.  The experiences that could lead them to their own entrepreneurial aspirations.  The patrons are going to engage in unforgettable meals that involve loved ones, family, first dates, blind dates, best friends, business meetings, and break-ups.

In the last few years I have had the pleasure and humbled opportunity to become friends with Houston’s new generation of restaurant and bar professionals.  Its amazing for me to see this, coming from my childhood and seeing this generation blossom in front of my eyes.  I am so proud to not only know these people, but share in the same trade.

Most of you are awaiting the opening of Pass & Provisions, as am I.  I’ve seen these guys pursue their dream for the past few years.  I met Seth when he started working at laidback manor with Randy Rucker.  Also employed by laidback manor was Justin Yu and Justin Bayse.  All four of these guys I’ve seen mature and come into their own.  Justin Yu obviously has opened a success with Oxheart, aka #8.  Justin Bayse put Stella Sola on the map and now works as R&D chef for the Pappas group.  Rucker is in the process of making it happen again, this time in the ‘Trose.

David Buehrer has become the community support breeder.  He loves his community.  I first met David at a chef throw-down I was competing in at Stella Sola.  David was set-up in the corner with a catering table making espresso drinks.  I had a cappaccino and instantly knew it was something I had to have in my establishment.  So I asked him how to make that happen.  Two years later, I have a restaurant run by Baristas.   Greenway Coffee is making waves not only in Houston, but nationally.  And with Blacksmith on the way, David and Ecky are changing the coffee culture in this city, for the better.

I first met Bobby Heugel when he was changing the cocktail program at Beavers.  Rucker told me he was the man and I had to have his drinks.  An inspirational dude who just wanted to make amazing cocktails.  And you can see where he is now…everywhere.

I met Morgan Weber when he was farming pigs at Revival Farms.  I bought a Red Wattle from him.  Now Revival Market is booming in the Heights and continuously gaining national exposure.

I may be getting off on a tangent, and you get the point.  Our city is pretty damn cool.  And there are tons of industry friends I am leaving off, but I could drag this on until you fall asleep.

And what is most amazing, I get to feed these people.  There are no amount of stars or awards that can compete with this.  There is no higher reward than to be recognized by your peers.

Someday we’ll be the old guys, we’ll be the mentors.  We’ll see hot shots change our city once again.  And we’ll know we had something to do with that.

Keep it up ladies and gentlemen.  Houston is your canvas.


Extruding Pasta!

My time recently has been spent working on my business oppose to working in my business, although I am still IN it everyday. This was, indeed, the goal from the beginning. As I take on more of an operator role, my time in our test kitchen has been reduced, but not terminated. This means now I can reach out to local talent, much more talented than myself, to collaborate and expand our food & beverage program. I did so with coffee, and alcoholic beverages. I also do so with bread and gelato. I want fine products, if someone else can do it better than me, then not only do I applaud, I want to serve that product in my establishment. In return, this allows me to engage our restaurant community and give them more avenues for exposure.

We recently purchased a pasta extruder. It is our new baby and toy. Two chef friends of mine have been playing with it at their “office” for the past few weeks, working on pasta recipes and learning the ins and outs of the machine for me. Home-made pasta is a staple in the Italian culture. I use to roll dough with my great-grandmother as a kid. Although the rewards are great, the work can be daunting. And not always feasible for a restaurant. The labor is extensive and timing sometimes difficult, especially for a fast-paced establishment like ours. What the pasta extruder does for me is priceless. It will take out the daunting task and hours of labor of kneading, rolling, and then cutting. The extruder mixes the flour and water for you, then at the flip of a switch, will extrude the dough through bronze dies. Each die extrudes a different shape, with over 100 to choose from. We can now produce enough pasta for the entire day of service in just a few hours, with consistency.

The Arcobaleno extruder not only helps with ease and efficiency, it opens doors for flavored doughs as well. It is a fine piece of equipment, engineered with intelligence and will probably live longer than me, comparable to the La Marzocco of the coffee world. It’s innovations like these that keep us moving forward and inspired.

We are currently introducing 3 new home-made pastas to our menu, with more to come soon. Consider it a pasta “soft-opening”. Serving now: Rigatoni Bolognese, Canestri alla Funghi, and Bucatini Amatraciana.

As far as I know, we have the only extruder in Houston, but without doubt more will show up. Its too great of a machine, more the merrier.

Ciao.

 

Paul


PaulFEEDS.com

I think now is a good time to announce a new project I have been working on for several months now. Its not a new restaurant, but it is definitely restaurant related.

I have started a website, www.paulfeeds.com, that is a searchable database of Twitter handles of Who’s Who in the Food/Beverage industry from around the world. The database currently consists of 1,800 handles, and not even close to my goal. The people and businesses have been chosen at my discretion. These people may be innovators, leaders, or just solid individuals doing important things for our industry. The categories to choose from are Chefs, Restaurateurs, Coffee (baristas, roasters, growers), Booze (bartenders, sommelier), Purveyors, News/Press, and Food Trucks.

Also featured on the site will be profiles of people whom I think are doing great things in our industry, mostly from Houston, sprinkled with other US cities. As time moves on, you can expect the geographical range to expand.

The site is free. Although I plan to monetize the site in the future, it will always be free to users.

We have been live for a few weeks now. It is a work in progress, and will continue to grow. There is a Recommend It link on the site that will deliver a message directly to my inbox.

Enjoy it! Below are a few videos edited via PaulFEEDS.com from last weekends Umami dinner at Kata Robata.

Merry Christmas America!

UMAMI 12/18/11 Kata Robata

Peek into conāt


Feast of Seven Fishes from Ned Elliott

On Christmas Eve, Ned Elliott from Foreign & Domestic will be offering a family style Feast of Seven Fishes.  Ned’s restaurant is in Austin, but Houston loves him too.  So he’s sharing his skills with us this Christmas.

The Feast of Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve is actually a Southern Italian tradition.   We appreciate Ned respecting our traditions.

Ned has been getting a lot of deserving press since his opening last year.  Ned has a very impressive resume, which includes opening team of Thomas Keller’s Per Se.  Please check out Foreign & Domestic impressive website.

For more information and to purchase tickets click there ———>TIX

Hope to see as many of you as possible!

Now for some gratuitous musical F&D food photos…Merry Christmas!


Tonight’s Special and Wine Tasting next Tuesday

Hello Friends!

Just a quick reminder of our “Friday night Special”:

Fettucini and Mussels

Mediterranean style mussels sauteed in EVOO, Sherry wine, onions, garlic and rosemary. Tossed in fettucini pasta.  Served with dinner salad and garlic bread.

Here are great choices to pair tonight with your dinner:

2010 Cantina del Taburno Greco (from Campania)

2008 Suavia Soave Classico “Monte Carbonare” (from the Veneto)

2010 Terlan Pinot Bianco (from Alto Adige)

Join us next Tuesday December 13th for a complimentary wine tasting from 5:00 to 7:00 PM. We will be sampling some of our great wines from our “100% Italian Wine Menu”All of our wines come from small, artisanal producers that really, really care what’s inside the Bottle.


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