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Greg Reeves on Opening Viale in Central Square

The "green-driven, Mediterranean-inspired" restaurant could open by Columbus Day weekend in the former Rendezvous space in Cambridge.

Greg Reeves
Greg Reeves
Rachel Leah Blumenthal for Eater

Greg Reeves and Mark Young, both alums of Green Street in Central Square, are weeks away from opening their own restaurant for the first time. Here's Reeves on what it has been like working towards opening Viale (that's pronounced vee-AH-lay, Italian for "avenue") and what diners can expect from it.

How did all of this come about?
My partner Mark and I, we grew up together — I’ve known him since I was five years old — so it was a natural fit. He used to be a chef out in San Fran, and then he moved to Boston and started working front of the house. He and I got together at Green Street; I was the chef, he was the general manager. That’s when we kind of knew we had the same ideas, and we could actually work together. Gotten in fights, but we’re able to work things out, all of that kind of fun stuff.

We were always kind of looking for a place for the past couple years. I originally left the Butcher Shop to go to Green Street because I was looking to buy the B-Side, and then I lost out to Hobo — that was a bummer — but I definitely wasn’t ready then. That was like eight years ago, and I wasn’t ready. I thought I was, but I wasn’t.

"We feel very lucky, and this feels like it's the right timing and right location for us."We’d been looking for awhile and got real serious about another space, and that didn’t work out for us either — another blessing in disguise in my eyes. And then Rendezvous came to our attention. From working in Central Square five years and living in Central Square, loving Central Square — it’s a really cool place in the city, and there’s not a lot of great restaurants here for all that’s going on. There’s a lot of cool shit going on here, lots of live music, but there’s only Craigie and Green Street and Central Kitchen and a few other places, so it felt like a great fit on the business side. We’re excited to be in Central Square. We feel very lucky, and this feels like it’s the right timing and right location for us.

What kind of changes are you making to the space?
Mostly just a facelift: putting in a hardwood floor, putting in some cool concrete tiles in the bar area, changing a little bit of the shelving behind the bar so it’s a little more user-friendly for us. New sign, new paint, tightening a few screws, and a couple knickknacks here and there.

What do you have in store for the menu?
We’re calling it green-driven, Mediterranean-inspired. We’re going to have five or six pastas, apps and entrees, a couple of grilled pizzas, kind of Al Forno-inspired, because I think those pizzas are delicious. That kind of puts us in the Mediterranean area. And ingredient-driven. We live in New England, so we might as well use the shellfish and the farms when we can. Use what’s good and around.

Is this your first time opening a restaurant?
This is my first time owning a restaurant, but I was opening staff at Upstairs on the Square, and I kind of consulted with Trina’s Starlite Lounge when it opened. Green Street we closed down a couple of times — we had a fire and some construction — so we really had to close down, lose all of our food, and restart, a little bit like an opening. And Pier 6 was my major big opening; that’s a seasonal spot in Charlestown. And I worked at La Brasa with Daniel [Bojorquez] and kind of helped him open up that. Another set of eyes and ears. It was good to work with him, learning and seeing how he does things as he’s opening.

"It's about taking care of the people who work here while making the money decisions."As a first-time owner, have you run into anything surprising or new throughout the process?
You need a permit for everything. And I’ve always had my vision of how I think things should be run, but now, I’m actually making those decisions, like how much health insurance should I offer? What can you afford, but what’s the right thing to do? These are the people that you’re going to be working with. They’re really the driving force of how successful the place is, so it’s about taking care of the people who work here while making the money decisions.

Restaurant owners have been talking about a talent shortage a lot over the last couple of years; there aren’t enough good people to go around. Have you run into that at all while hiring?
Yes and no. I don’t think I have my full staff yet, but I couldn’t be happier with the people I’ve found already. But there’s the old cliche — any good person you want to work for you is probably working right now, so it’s definitely not easy. It takes awhile to find the right people. And when you open a restaurant, there are people who don’t make it to day one. There are going to be people who don’t make it to day 30 or 60 or 90, but then the people that are there are your rocks. It’s tough finding people, but that’s the best part for me — building that team. Sometimes you find the diamonds in the rough, the dishwasher who is going to be your sous chef six years later or your back waiter who’s your assistant manager five years later.

What’s your rough schedule? Will you be offering brunch, late-night, etc.?
To start we’re going to open up probably at 5 p.m., closing the bar at 1 a.m. and keeping food going until probably 10 or 11 p.m. in the dining room with a bar menu until about midnight. Easy for employees to get to the train on time. We’re probably going to open for Sunday brunch starting around the beginning of the new year. The first month or so, we’re probably going to be open six days a week (closed on Mondays). We want a little downtime to figure out what we did wrong, have a day to correct it rather than try to do it all on the fly and then keep it going.

"I can't wait until we make our first mistake."What are you most excited about, aside from just getting open?
Can’t wait to burn things directly on the wood-fired grill. And it’s nice to have a program we’re going to start from scratch — start all the systems from scratch. It’s the scary part and the exciting part. I can’t wait until we make our first mistake. At the time it’s going to be very frustrating, but looking back, those are the life experiences.

Viale

502 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139, Cambridge, MA Visit Website

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