In just a few weeks, MAST' will open its doors at 45 Province, a luxury development in Downtown Crossing. The 4,000-square-foot, two-story restaurant will feature a patio seating 30, lots of space for private events, liquor lockers for storage of unfinished bottles, and a menu that offers Neapolitan street food and more. Co-owners John DeSimone, Anthony DePinto, and Marco Caputo and general manager Nicholas Garoufalis chatted with Eater about what to expect when MAST' opens, which could happen later this month.
Where did the concept for MAST' come from? How'd this all get started?
John DeSimone: We came together kind of by chance, I guess. We worked together for a long time in the industry, off and on, and we've all done other things in the private sector as well, in other industries. Coming back, we all decided that we wanted to get back into the industry in some facet, so still being friends, we decided to speak about getting back into it together.
Anthony DePinto: That was about two years ago. We started looking for locations and trying to set up not just financing but the concept, build-out, capacity, what we really wanted to create. Two years later, it's coming to fruition, and we're a few weeks away, so that's really exciting.
JD: The concept originated as us wanting to do a really authentic restaurant with a nice lounge feel, gathering experiences we've all had from working in the industry in different cities and countries. We've been in New York, Rome, Athens, Barcelona...we have a lot of different experiences and takes on the industry. I put together a concept where I wanted to try to bring these experiences together for a Mediterranean-style restaurant. I brought the idea to Marco, and he was interested in doing something like this. We decided to tweak it towards real strong and authentic southern Italian. We wanted to weigh heavily upon our Neapolitan background. Marco's from Naples. My family is from Naples and Sicily. Anthony has southern Italian roots, and Nico is our Greek connection.
Marco Caputo: He's more southern than us!
JD: He's southern Greek, which has a lot of similarities with Neapolitan culture.
MC: I was already looking for a restaurant for awhile with another friend, but we decided not to do it together because he wanted to get something small, and I wanted to get something bigger. Then I heard John was trying to do something. We had known each other for awhile; we worked in the industry together for awhile. I started working in restaurants when I was 17 — I've worked in Italy, Spain, Germany — a little bit around. I came to the United States in '98 with an executive chef background, but I started working in the front of the house instead of working in the kitchen because I like to have contact with people and talk with people. I have a nightlife background, too. I've been a promoter, I've been a deejay, I've been security, so I've been working both in the daytime and the nighttime. We combine everything — nightlife and daylife — and we're trying to make something different for Boston.
Is this the first restaurant any of you have been involved with from the start?
JD: I think we've all had experiences working with projects from inception, but this is the first big venture really starting from scratch. There wasn't a piece of blueboard on the walls.
AD: The learning curve was steep.
JD: We're doing this one from scratch because we want to really show our concept right from the beginning to the end, so this is a huge venture for us.
How did you find this space — were you specifically looking for something in this neighborhood?
JD: We were looking for a few years. It's been a long time.
AD: South End, West End, North End, the Waterfront, Assembly Square in Somerville — these are just some of the locations that we looked at, and then we stumbled across this place.
JD: We weighed a lot of options, but the commitment to this area of Boston from government, what I see going on down here — I think it resembles a lot of what the Seaport was when people took a chance on it in the very beginning, the very inception. I see that happening here now. I see that with the Millennium Towers being built, I see that with the different people who are investing money into the area...we felt that this was the right choice moving forward for longevity in the industry.
Nicholas Garoufalis: They're putting a lot of money in this area, because this is the heart of Boston. This is where everything started, and we are a part of the most historical part — Governors Alley.
When you were showing me around the space, you pointed out where the Scotch lockers will go. That's something you don't see much around here.
JD: We're going to be focusing on something called a bottle keep. People are reluctant to call this area a neighborhood, but it's growing to be a neighborhood, so I want people who are coming here quite frequently to have the opportunity to buy their favorite bottle of liquor, wine, whatever, and if they don't want to finish it in one setting, they can store it in our bottle keep. They can even gift it to friends who come in.
NG: That's something that started in Europe, a treat for your customer. When I came to Boston in 1999, I had 10 years of experience in the entertainment industry, in the Athens nightlife and hospitality industry in Greece. We just want to create something that doesn't exist out here, and that's why we're all combining our different ideas and our different concepts. We're just merging forces, and we all have the people skills, and that's where everything starts and ends. You treat your customers in the right way, you have the appropriate staff, you have the right environment, the right food, the clean liquor — in general you create an atmosphere that does not exist anywhere else. They will come back to you.
What are you most excited about going forward?
JD: Opening. [Laughs.]
MC: That's kind of my nightmare right now.
JD: Honestly, we're just looking forward to working. Opening up and presenting our concept to people. We have that Neapolitan wood-burning oven right from Naples. We want to start showing people true Neapolitan-style pizza from Marco's backyard. I think that's really something we're excited to give to people.
AD: Building relationships in the neighborhood. Getting the word out. Meeting the people, the business owners, the people that live upstairs. We want to be a neighborhood place.
MC: We bring some New World and some Old World together; we try to combine everything. I bring old-fashioned dishes from my mom, I bring some old-fashioned street food that I used to eat when I was a kid in the streets of Napoli. We try to combine this with the new future. We have a great chef with 17 years of experience at Mamma Maria in the North End. He's going to make my thing happen. I'm going to tell him and he's going to do it, and he's also going to do his own. He's very talented, so that's what we're offering to people.
How did you come up with the name?
MC: In Neapolitan slang, o'mast means maestro, the boss, the one who's in charge, the one who does all that kind of stuff. We went through so many names, believe me. You have no idea. [All laugh.]
JD: It's a term of respect — the master of your craft. We're trying to bring that experience to our patrons — bring our experience with cocktails, with food, with hospitality. I think we've built a team that's going to give you that mastery experience of all these things.
· All coverage of MAST' on Eater [~EBOS~]