Last week, I ordered my dinner at the new “dark kitchen” Osso Smash House from Peruvian chef and butcher Renzo Garibaldi, who specializes in aged beef burgers. The term is bad for me … after all, life is enough in living in these difficult times. Dark is the shortage of the restaurant industry. Every day, a few more fall, broken.
Not only was the fear of many people going out to eat, there are still plenty of restrictions in place to make it difficult, from banning sidewalk tables to having to close before 11pm. Having a restaurant has become the worst business imaginable.
Despite the unfortunate name of “dark kitchen,” at least these new restaurants without living rooms, which are kitchens that just deliver food, are saving jobs for many people. Living! Ditto for restaurants that survived this crisis, basing their business model on delivery.
There were a lot of people who didn’t get their hands on it and went out of their way, because changing everything suddenly requires talent and luck, but smart chefs like Rodolfo de Santis, owner of Nino Cucina and other businesses, have thrived on sales.
Lucky. And it’s no luck for us to have our lives hampered by this damn pandemic. Because even if a waiter in a black coat and bow tie hadn’t climbed in the elevator to hand me my cheeseburger on a silver platter (instead of a paper bag), I wouldn’t have been happy because I enjoy eating in a room with people around. I wish a long and successful delivery life – but let me be happy to eat out, this packaged and travel food is not for me.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a Japanese banquet or a R $ 10 PF: everything tastes better as soon as it comes out of the kitchen and on a plate. The warm queen of São Paulo is the first to admit it. Rita Dalmaso, chef of the public restaurant chain Bom Prato, misses the audience.
Since the start of the pandemic, Bons Pratos has halted service in the salon and started distributing hot items – 115,000 of them a day statewide. The price remains the same – R $ 1 per meal – but before that, his team served food with a portion of human warmth. “It makes a big difference,” she says.
It shouldn’t be a coincidence that Italian chef Marco Renzetti opened a dark kitchen in the gardens and soon after transformed it into a little secret restaurant. He, who had to close his Osteria Petirosso with the crisis, thought he would live alone from childbirth. But then a customer discovered that he had installed a dark kitchen and asked to go there to eat, then another, then another….
In the end, there was so much demand that he decided to put a few tables, gave a light decoration in the space without luxury and his kitchen went from darkness to light: he is reborn under the name of Fame Osteria. His joy is evident. In the small space, he cooks next to the few customers, as if he were at home. He and his wife Erika are just smiles, warm as that.
Oh, and the Peruvian meat master, another who likes to be close to his customers, will come out of the dark as well…. Osso Smash House is set to open a place on Rua dos Pinheiros soon, pandemic closed or not. The two leaders’ strategy of investing in face-to-face service can be risky, as market research indicates people are still afraid of catching viruses and delivery is only increasing. However, I think economists underestimate the appeal of vibrant restaurants with well-served tables. They haven’t yet invented the delivery that brings joy with food.