‘We are doing the best we can each day to adapt and survive and nourish the community we love so much, the community we call home and where we raise our family.’
Few industries have been hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than the restaurant industry. We’re slowly getting used to the new reality of takeout- and delivery-only restaurants, as well as the advent of fundraisers benefiting laid-off staff. But how are chefs themselves adapting to this new reality?
How are you and your team staying safe? We made the very difficult decision to close temporarily for the safety of our team. In the short term, it’s in the interest of their health, but it’s also about doing what we can to protect our business. Then we can quickly welcome them back when our doors are open. Right now, we are continuing to cover health benefits for our staff out of work.
What dish do you recommend people order, and if you’re not open how can people help in the meantime? Please buy Otium merch, available on our website, to help support our staff. Everyone needs a comfy hoodie or a super soft tee right now. You can also purchase Otium gift cards. And please continue to support our industry colleagues by ordering takeout and delivery.
How are you and your team staying safe? Well, the first and most obvious change to operations is that we no longer allow customers to gather or eat inside the restaurant. Like all restaurants at the moment, we’ve transitioned to a pick-up only business. After restaurant closures were imposed, we quickly transitioned our back alley behind Broad Street into a drive-thru with a pick-up window and all. So now our customers have the opportunity to order from home and pick up their food without ever having to leave the car. In addition to the new style of service, we are beyond vigilant about sanitation and safe cooking practices.
How have you had to alter your menu? We completely reformatted our menu. The favorites from our original menu are still available, but we’ve added a wider selection of family-friendly options. Grilled cheese and tomato soup, spaghetti and meatballs, shrimp scampi linguine and a veggie burger just to name a few.
What dish do you recommend people order? Right now, I would definitely go for our uni spaghetti. We aren’t selling the fresh sea urchins we used to for the time being and this is a super limited time offer. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And of course, get one of our famous lobster rolls. We’re serving them with fries and Old Bay aioli now just to sweeten the deal!
How are you and your team staying safe? In addition to abiding by all local, state and federal ordinances and recommendations, we are a concept founded on sanitization and specialized cleaning protocols to prevent cross-contamination for our very special guests with life-threatening food allergies. We never anticipated that our founding principles would be those that the industry looked to in an effort to #flattenthecurve as well.
How have you had to alter your menu? Fortunately, we have not had to. As a brand-new business and first-to-market concept at a brand-new retail center, our challenges are many, but we are so fortunate that our menu was perfectly designed for takeout. Our food was meant for travel. Our concept was designed for a high level of food safety in the form of kitchen processes, sourcing transparency, clean ingredients and letting the ingredients shine.
Yesterday, we removed plates and silverware from our expo [and] we stocked our takeout containers and set up our line for takeout only. We completely reformatted our organization, schedules, labor and marketing efforts. We are pedaling as fast as we can and pivoting as quickly as the news conferences and ordinances come in. We are doing the best we can each day to adapt and survive and nourish the community we love so much, the community we call home and where we raise our family.
What dish do you recommend people order? All of them. You can’t go wrong! My personal favorites include our rotisserie chickens, which are, of course, the star of the show and come from an amazing Southern California farm called Pasturebird. They are 100% pasture-raised chickens with zero antibiotics or additives. Our sweet and sour eggplant is a must-try flavor bomb and our beautiful hummus eats like a meal, topped with fresh mixed greens, olives, cucumber and tomato. If sandwiches are your jam, our chicken salad sandwich on blueberry bread will make you smile. For bowl enthusiasts, our Noble Bowl is perfect for when you’re looking for something heartier than a salad but full of good-for-you grains — with or without our rotisserie chicken added to the mix!
How are you and your team staying safe? We are only letting our staff come into work if they are completely healthy and have not been around anyone who has been exposed to the virus. We are following the recent health department protocol, which includes having minimal contact with others in an enclosed facility.
How have you had to alter your menu? Luckily, we have not had to make any changes to our menu and have been able to serve all our offerings for both takeout and delivery.
What dish do you recommend people order? Any dish that can still be heated up and enjoyed over the next few days. Customers can order as many dishes as they want and keep them refrigerated so they always have something in their fridge. All our rice dishes, curries, stir-fried noodles, spicy herb soups, Tom Yum, Tom Kha are delicious as leftovers.
How are you and your team staying safe? We are adhering to vigorously to HACCP protocols. Single-touch transfers from kitchen to guest via the takeout/delivery options at present. We are being very diligent in ensuring our staff’s personal safety outside of work.
How have you had to alter your menu? We have added a non-alcoholic beverage program to our takeout; featuring CBD cocktails to help alleviate anxiety in this most stressful time.
What dish do you recommend people order? At Formosa Cafe, the orange chicken, chili wontons and fish dumplings and noodle dishes are great comfort foods.
How are you and your team staying safe? We are staying safe at the restaurant by cleaning and taking all extra precautionary safety measures to keep the environment safe and clean for guests coming in as well as for our staff.
We are keeping our social distance in the restaurants, even though we are working together every day. We are also trying to keep a safe distance from customers coming in for takeaway/pick up. We put up signs and tape on the floor in the restaurant specifying the 6-foot distance to direct people that come in so they know the parameters (as well as for our employees). If multiple people come into the restaurant at once for pickups, we have kindly asked for them to wait outside for their food to keep capacity at a minimum so everyone feels safe and comfortable.
How have you had to alter your menu? Our top priority is to serve fresh food, so we have been limiting our grocery orders until we sell out of certain items. Normally, our orders are planned in a way that we would never sell out of anything — we always keep close track of our supply — and now we prefer to sell out during the day versus buying extra products, so we have what we need to get by. The last thing we want to do is have products go to waste.
We have reduced our menu and my mom — Pasta Sisters executive chef Paola Da Re — has stopped buying products that require to stay fresh, such as clams and salmon. We don’t know how many spaghetti with clams we will sell each day, and it being such a delicate product, we don’t want to risk throwing it away or compromising its freshness in any way.
What dish do you recommend people order? Our eggplant parmigiana! It’s a special right now that is only offered when eggplants are in peak season, and [it’s] a recipe that has been passed down in our family for many generations. If you ask my mom what she is most proud of, her answer would definitely be, “My children and my eggplant parmigiana!” It’s only available for a limited time and can be ordered via pickup or delivery on ChowNow and Postmates. No better time than now to try it.
My personal favorite on the menu and our best seller is the Bolognese. I always recommend people try it. And especially through these current tough times, it’s the perfect comforting feel-good dish. We also make fresh pasta and sauces in-house and guests can purchase those to cook at home later. Our eggplant parmigiana and lasagna can also be ordered uncooked to be [kept frozen] at home, which is also a great option for getting through the next few weeks of quarantine.
We have Easter chocolate eggs, too! Available now in store. With us being closed for dine-in through April 19, we want to be sure to have an option for our guests to enjoy a treat with their families in the comfort of their own homes for the Easter Sunday holiday.
How are you and your team staying safe? We’re being hyper-vigilant about cleaning, hand-washing and practicing the recommended 6-foot social distance. We are encouraging people to pay with Apple Pay to limit touch. We also implemented A-frame menus so people can view the menu without sharing a laminated one.
How have you had to alter your menu? We have “Serve at Home” menu items for families. These include a chicken casserole, a chicken bucket dinner, chicken Bolognese and a chicken-bite casserole designed for kids. Any of these options are available with our sides that travel well too, which include mac and cheese, street corn, coleslaw, tater tots and curly fries. We are also bringing back our 24-hour brined Naked Fried Chicken, which doesn’t have any breading. You get a lot of the fried chicken flavor with fewer calories.
What dish do you recommend people order? Naked Fried Chicken. It really is amazing. It’s so tasty and guilt-free.