Chef Chris Douglass Talks Tavolo Anniversary
On Sunday, Dorchester Italian restaurant Tavolo celebrated its fifth anniversary with a neighborhood bash. Since we're in the middle of Pizza Week, we grabbed chef-owner Chris Douglass for five questions (one for each year) about the the restaurant; which began, half a decade ago, as a pizza joint.
Zagat: Tell us about the original concept for Tavolo: how did you originally envision it and why, what kind of initial feedback did you get from the community and how did that inform the incarnation we see today?
Chris Douglass: Tavolo's opening concept was more along the lines of fast casual. The focus was on pizzas, pasta and paninis served in an informal setting. While we certainly had plenty of fans, our concept was one predicated on the idea of high volume. We had anticipated a higher demand for excellent food at an affordable price. What we came to learn is that there was a strong core of supporters who wanted a little more from us, a little more comfort, a little more choice on the menu and an overall higher level of service, and that they were willing to pay a little more for it.
Z: How has the dining scene in Boston, and Dorchester in particular, most changed over the last five years, and how has Tavolo worked to keep pace?
CD: Boston has been blowing up with new restaurants over the last five years. I don't have the numbers, but there are probably almost twice as many restaurant seats today as there were five years ago. At least that's what it feels like to me. One thing about the restaurant business is that you can never rest on your laurels. You need to be constantly working on improving. Competition is a strong motivator for us.
Z: What do you consider the one or two elements that have most contributed to your success?
CD: Drive and perseverance.
Z: It's your birthday, so you're entitled to make a wish! What's one thing you would love to be able to do at Tavolo that, for whatever logistical reason, you haven't been able to yet?
CD: I wish we had a wood-burning oven, but I have to say we make a pretty kick-ass pizza with our gas pizza oven.
Z: What is ahead for the future? Any major changes for the restaurant, or tweaks to menu and concept in the cards; and any intentions to work on another spot?
CD: We have been doing more and more catering, and see that as a strong growth area for us. As far as new spots... well, never say never. I love the idea of doing a brew pub, so I've been exploring what that would take to pull off.