Pastoral, a restaurant specializing in Neapolitan-style pizza, was a long time coming. Its arrival in Fort Point was first announced in early February 2013, and it opened its doors in late March 2014 after initial promises of summer 2013, then fall, then winter. Now a year old, the bustling restaurant is finding its groove in the increasingly culinary-minded neighborhood. Co-owner and chef Todd Winer, a Met Restaurant Group alum, discusses how things are going heading into year two.
Does it feel like it’s been a year?
No, it’s blown by really quick. Probably one of the fastest years of my life.
Do you remember anything from opening day or week?
I remember being really stressed out with all the delays, trying to get the restaurant open and then finally getting word and scurrying around trying to get it all to happen. I know I upset a lot of people by not inviting them to friends & family; I do remember that. But it was last-minute. My parents had to cancel their flights, like, three times to come in because of the delays, so at that point it was hurry up and get open.
Did you run into anything unexpected getting the restaurant open, or were those delays pretty standard, anticipated issues?
It was a lot of construction issues, waiting on permits, waiting on weird parts to come in — nothing that I had imagined. I had it all timelined out over and over and over again, and it didn’t work out that way. But the end product was worth the wait.
What has been the hardest moment of the year?
I think there have been a few. Finding a GM has been extremely difficult for me, finding somebody I can work with, relate to, run the operations. And the snowstorms. We were sailing through the year in a really good spot, and then the snow came. And it was a little stressful being a chef and an owner and having to deal with both sides of that. Probably the most challenging thing for me.
Have things really started to pick back up yet, post-snow?
It’s amazing. As soon as it crept over about 35 degrees and the blue sky came out, the restaurant was full again. Everyone just got sick of being inside and had enough.
What has been the best moment of the year?
Every day. My wife jokes with me every day, "Oh, you’re living the American dream. You actually get to go to work and do what you love." It’s coming to work every day, it’s solving a puzzle, it’s cooking, it’s working with fire, it’s talking with my chefs and people that come into the restaurant. It’s great every day.
How would you tell a first-time Pastoral guest how best to navigate the restaurant — what should he or she order to best experience it?
I think we’re kind of known for our pizza at this point, a year later, and the pizza’s phenomenal. And there are so many other little treats and little dishes on the menu that get overlooked because of the pizza. All the pasta’s handmade, and the beer list is incredible, so it’s hard to say. I come in and get the octopus and the pasta, usually, and I’m happy. A lot of people are starting to discover that they can come in and have multiple courses. You can come in and have a pizza and a beer and get on with your day or your night, or you can come in and have a really cool experience, and I think that’s the beauty of Pastoral.
About what percentage of your clientele comes from the neighborhood versus farther away?
Probably 30% is neighborhood. We’re busy every day at lunch, and that’s the neighborhood coming out. And the after-work crowd is neighborhood, and then on the weekends we tend to see a lot of people from the suburbs and outside of our direct area, which is really cool. It’s tourists, it’s people staying at the hotels down on the water, and it’s a lot of people just kind of migrating over to Fort Point to see what’s going on. In the two years we’ve been here, from construction through the year we’ve been open, the growth in Fort Point is amazing.
We’re fortunate that we’re in Fort Point because it’s historical and it can’t change — the beauty of the old streets and the old buildings will never go away. But I remember coming down here in the ‘90s, and there were tumbleweeds, and you didn’t want to go underneath the train tracks to get over here, so it’s quite different. It’s beautiful. I love it.
Is there an unsung hero on the menu — something you love and wish people would order more often?
Right now it’s octopus carpaccio. We change the menu a lot, and we run seven or eight specials every day, so it’s kind of hard to pick a dog — if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work; we move on and I don’t cry about it. But some things I wish sold better, like the octopus carpaccio. We did a chicken liver ravioli that I loved — people didn’t want to get it. But we’re running a squid ink pasta with spicy sausage, and it’s flying out the door, and I wouldn’t have thought that that would have sold as well, so I’m still trying to figure it out.
I know we don’t sell a lot of entrees; it’s a lot of small plates, a lot of stuff to share. I think people lean more towards the pizza to share rather than ordering a steak or a whole fish. We’re toying with the idea of getting rid of the big plates altogether and just going to a lot more small plates.
Any other changes in store for year two?
We are working on trying to do delivery with a courier service and online ordering, so that is our next venture.
Anything else you want people to know?
I’m happy we made it a year. Hopefully year two is busier and better than year one, and the more the neighborhood grows, the better we do. The first year was about construction. I learned how to do wiring, plumbing, fix HVAC, order fans for refrigeration units...yeah, it’s been very interesting.