Fahri Karakaya is renovating and updating the former Petrino's on Main Street and plans to reopen it as The Local cafe this spring.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Fahri Karakaya was wandering the city's downtown looking for opportunity last September when he realized something was missing.
"There was no place to really sit down, have a coffee, relax," said the West Palm Beach, Fla., transplant on Friday. Plenty of restaurants, pizza places, but no casual coffeehouse on the main drag. That, he decided, was his opportunity.
He plans on opening a cafe, The Local, with coffees, espresso, sandwiches on fresh-baked breads, light breakfast, homemade soups and some hot offerings for dinner. Karakaya described his vision as similar to a Panera.
"When you come in for coffee, you're going to smell the bagels and the fresh-baked bread," he said.
Not surprisingly, Karakaya turned to the empty Boston Store location on the corner of Holden and Main streets, a prime spot that's hosted coffeehouses and a sandwich shop over the past dozen years or so. The last in there was Petrino's, which closed in March after owner Mark Petrino took a job offer in Colorado.
That's left a hole on Main Street that Karakaya is hoping to fill.
"This is my commitment to do something nice, good service, simple, fresh food," said Karakaya, who's confidant — but still a little anxious — over this new venture.
He's got 25 years in food service, but that's managing in high-end resorts and five-star restaurants, most recently at the Breakers in Palm Beach. "There aren't many of those around here," he laughed.
Karakaya and his family moved to Williamstown earlier this year after his wife, Melahat Karakaya, took the position as innkeeper at the Porches after falling in love with the area, especially Williamstown Elementary School for their 5-year-old daughter Ece Lina.
Now he's planning to take his experience in five-star food and exemplary service and simplify it for more casual — but high quality — family friendly offerings. A comfortable cafe where people can meet and relax.
The former Petrino's will be renovated and updated with a mix of booths, couches and high tables along with the popular counter seating in the storefront window. Wi-fi will be available. The stage area in the back will be turned into a kids' zone.
"If your kids are happy, you are happy," explained Karakaya, who's considering hosting children's parties and other family gatherings. "I want to do something unique."
He said building owner Scarafoni Associates has been very helpful with his plans.
New equipment will be installed and the counters and display cases will allow customers to see and select their fare. Offerings will include coffees (light, dark, roasted, decaf and seasonal flavors), espresso, fresh fruit smoothies, salads, panini and deli sandwiches, bagels, danish, and four soups daily.
The cafe will be open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Karakaya hopes to open in March.
Williamstown Trendy Eatery To Fill Former Mezze
By: Andy McKeever On: 08:55PM / Tuesday March 29, 2011
Restaurateurs Gill Rubenstein and David Aldecoa spoke to the Selectmen on Monday night with their attorney, Adams Filson.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The owners of the new restaurant Hops and Vines, in the former Mezze building, said they are bringing the "city trendiness to the country friendliness."
The new Water Street restaurant received its liquor license Monday and the owners presented the Selectmen its idea of a mix between fine and casual dining.
"The idea is to renovate it into two sections. One side will be the hops — the causal side — and the other will be vines — the fine side," owner Gill Rubenstein said. "It's a trendy but friendly concept."
The owners are renovating the inside of the building with a new fireplace, tasting room and a partition to divide the two types of dining. But the real draw, they said, will be the outdoor beer garden.
Rubenstein said it will carry a "sizeable" beer list, on draft and in bottles, that will feature international and local micro brews and a large wine selection. Co-owner David Aldecoa said he is a certified sommelier.
The restaurant will feature seating on two outside porches with seating for up to 92 people as well as live music. It is expected to be open between May 16 and June 1. When the restaurant opens it will start with only dinners, opening at 5 p.m., but the owners said they would like to expand into brunch service, too. However, more serviceable parking would need to be created.
Foodwise, the owners have yet to decide exactly the angle. Rubenstein said they are leaning toward French-American food but it will depend on which chef they hire.
The owners said they both have extensive restaurant experience. Aldecoa said he got started when he opened a restaurant with his brother in Arizona more than a decade ago. He then worked at a resort casino in Las Vegas, where he first began working with Rubenstein. The two both moved to New York City and worked in various places there including the Essex House.
Aldecoa worked his way through the ranks on the food and beverage management side while Rubenstein's career is in financial consulting. Rubenstein said he worked with top chefs as a consultant in asset management.
"The capacity was more to make the chef's artistic side better on the financial side," Rubenstein said after presenting to the selectmen.
Rubenstein has opened other restaurants before, the most recent being Unwined in New York City.
Fiori more than fills the empty void at the end of Railroad Street.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The haunting of Railroad Street has come to an end, hopefully. The dark shell of Pearl's, which has stood empty for nearly two years, is now bustling with a stylish crowd and an impressive menu of new Italian classics.
Enter Fiori, which opened recently at the "bottom" of Railroad Street. Of course, I wanted to go in on opening day and do my little write-up then, but reviewing a restaurant when its first opens is, I feel, in bad form. So, last week when a friend suggested that we meet at the bar for a drink, my curiosity got the better of me.
"Of course, sounds great," I said, thinking that I was being rather gallant by steeling myself against ordering any food, because then I'd absolutely have to write a review.
When I arrived there, I was relieved to discover that my usual attire of jeans and black T-shirt was actually fine. In fact, the place was crawling with jeans and T-shirt folks (one was even wearing a baggy sweat shirt) just looking to eat some good food. But, again, I was not there to eat, just to sip a cocktail and watch everyone's dishes go sailing by leaving the delicious fumes behind to torture me.
Needless to say, the torture didn't last long. I tried sipping my Old-Fashioned with indifference, until my friend piped up.
Fiori is operated by brothers Alexander and Matthew Feldman at 47 Railroad St. Serving dinner daily beginning at 6; expected to open for lunch this summer. Find out more by calling 413-528-0351 or friend them on Facebook.
"You want to get some apps or something? I'm a little hungry."
And that was that. Before I knew it I was looking at a little bar menu (on very nice card stock, I might add) deciding on whether I wanted the cheese plate, the fries with garlic anchovy sauce or the duck liver pate over crispy bread. I finally settled on the pate and this curious little dish that sounded so intriguing I had to try it — anchovy-stuffed sage leaves fried with a panko breading. How could I not. My friend ordered the fries with the sauce and scallops from the dinner menu.
"I'm not trying to impress anyone tonight," she said.
We waited and chatted and enjoyed the general feeling of vibrancy around us. Once our pungent order came, it was all business. In fact, we didn't even try to carry on a conversation for the first 10 minutes. We just savored and sighed.
The pate, which is always an acquired taste, was the perfect mix of salt and the mild, irony tinge of all things liver-related. It was served on warm bread (spread for you) and that warmth seemed to allow the flavors of the pate to mix and soften. After taking a few bites of that farm-y deliciousness, it was time to move on to the anchovies. What struck me immediately was the breading. It was practically greaseless and when I bit into it, my mouth did not fill up with the oil that usually comes out of such a dish. In fact, the panko breading was just a formality compared to the explosion of sage on the palette. It seemed that the flavor would stop there, but the anchovy in the middle immediately dissolved the taste of the sage so that all that remained was a salty, herbal taste on the roof of the mouth.
"You've gotta try one of these," I said, pushing the basket of little fish to my friend. She dove in and had three while I took liberties with her saucy fries.
Don't be intimidated by Fiori's Manhattan, hipster-esque reputation (thanks to Pearl's). Although the high-end Italian cuisine gives pause, especially to local diners, it also encourages you to eat with your hands and savor every bite.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — There is about to be a shakeup in the town's restaurant scene.
Both Michael's Restaurant and Hobson's Choice have been put up for sale and the former Mezze site on Water Street will soon be filled with a new upscale restaurant.
Owner of the former Mezze location on Water Street Charles Fox said he could not reveal the details of the restaurant but the owners expect to open in June. The new owners have good reputations of running "upscale and trendy" restaurants in New York City, Fox said. The business is listed as Hops and Vines to be managed by Gil Rubenstein.
"In another 10 days there will be a more complete announcement," Fox said on Thursday. "They hope to have it up and running before Williams' graduation."
A liquor license for Hops and Vines will come before the Selectmen next month. The restaurant has just recently filed as a company with the Secretary of State and has yet to submit information to the town's Board of Health or Building Inspector.
Michael's Restaurant, a Route 2 mainstay, may also switch hands. The restaurant is advertised for sale at a price of $425,000 through the real estate company Alton and Westall. Michael Nikitas, who helps operate the restaurant with his sister and owner Cindy Nikitas, confirmed Thursday that the business is for sale but refused to elaborate. He said he would provide more information in the next few weeks.
The business has been in the Nikitas family for 40 years. It first opened at as an A&W Root Beer stand and became Michael's in 1984 when Michael Nikitas transformed his family's stand into the restaurant it is today. Cindy Nikitas purchased it from her brother in 1991 running it as the chef and owner. The two teamed up to run it in 2000.
Hobson's Choice is also advertised for sale for $495,000 but owner Daniel Campbell said he does not expect to close it. Campbell, who has been running the restaurant for 20 years, is looking for a new business partner after his former one left the establishment.
"We're testing the waters. I'd rather not sell it," Campbell said on Wednesday. "I'm actively pursuing partners."
Hobson's Choice, also on Water Street, has been in business for 20 years.
Sandy Smith preps the food for a Wednesday opening. The restaurant will celebrate America's barbecue history.
Editor's Note, Dec. 29, 2011: RUB closed its doors in early December because the owners are separating. Gramercy Bistro at Mass MoCA remains open.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A new restaurant will open its doors Wednesday celebrating Americana through its bourbon and barbecue.
Rub: Bourbon and Barbecue is opening in the former Marshall Street storefront of Gramercy Bistro, which moved its operations onto the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts campus last year.
The menu will feature a variety of barbecue sauces and about 20 different bourbon whiskeys.
"I have a secret rub that's going on the product," owner Alexander "Sandy" Smith said on Friday. "It's all about celebrating Americana and barbecue is very American."
The menu will definitely be different from Smith's contemporary French cusine at Gramercy, with regular barbecue items from ribs to brisket to chicken splattered with the customer's pick of sauce. The styles of sauce vary in flavor depending on origin, such as Texas or Kansas. The food will be available for eat in or take out.
"We have a Texas sauce that has a very Mexican influence so it is a little spicier. The most popular would be the St. Louis or the Kansas City style," Smith said.
The restaurant will feature a bar but will specialize in bourbon whiskey. The whiskeys range in price and quality and some are distilled locally, Smith said.
The restaurant will be open from 11 a.m. until 11 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Sunday. It will be closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Smith said he has only to hang a sign and artwork and then prepare the food prior to Wednesday's opening.
"People are scurrying around trying to get those last-minute details," he said. "I'm just going to open it and see what happens."