In early 2015, brothers Kosta and Johnny Diamantopoulos celebrated the eighth anniversary of their first restaurant, All Star Sandwich Bar. At the time, they spoke of a desire to expand their younger restaurant, All Star Pizza Bar, to a new location, possibly across the river. Now, the wheels are in motion.
Over the summer, Boston Nightlife Ventures closed its five-year-old original location of Griddler’s Burgers + Dogs, a fast-casual spot on the Mass. General side of Beacon Hill (204 Cambridge St.) The Diamantopoulos brothers are expanding their funky Inman Square pizza joint to that space, aiming to open within the next few months, according to Kosta.
The new space is about the same size as the original location, and the All Star team won’t have to do too much in the way of construction. "We don’t have to really make any changes other than some signage and some branding, putting our colors in there and figuring out how to put some murals and add some funk to it," says Kosta. There won’t be any major differences between the two locations, although there will be some different daily specials, and Kosta anticipates that there might be a greater desire for vegetarian-friendly options at the new location.
When the opportunity came for this expansion, it was an easy decision to add another pizza location, as opposed to the sandwich concept. "When we decided to do the [first] pizza bar about five years ago, Johnny and I really wanted to create the type of restaurant that was scalable," says Kosta. "We wanted to do a menu that was easily managed; we wanted an operation that didn’t require much oversight beyond various quality controls and manager accountability." They ended up with something better, he says — a restaurant that allows each brother to play to his strengths, with Johnny focusing on the menu and getting to have some fun with it, while Kosta tinkers with areas like the marketing, music, and art.
But true to the original goal, it’s also more easily scalable, making it a good candidate for this next expansion. That doesn’t mean that All Star Sandwich Bar will never expand; on the contrary, the brothers have lots of things they’d like to do in the future, from new locations of the existing concepts to a new All Star concept altogether. (Kosta hints at the possibility of a grill-oriented concept with steak tips and the like.) For now, though, it’s pizza time, and growth is careful and organic for the All Star team.
"The one thing that we don’t do is take on investors or venture capitalists," says Kosta. "That allows us to have better control over the decisions we make. We rarely make a decision because it’s a financial decision; we make a decision because it works with our concept and brand. We can execute it, we can control it, and ultimately we feel that it’s what people want. We’ll make a little less, but we know that you’ll leave satisfied."
There’s another key player on the team, too — general manager and partner Tyler Stratton, who has been with All Star since 2013, focuses on operations. "He’s great at keeping consistency among the product, training staff to really focus on that aggressive friendliness that we value with our front-of-house staff, and keeping our kitchen staff responsible for quality," says Kosta. "The three of us together, we can really put on a show."
The "aggressive friendliness" he mentions boils down to a management approach that simply recognizes that employees have lives outside of work. "We genuinely prioritize them over ourselves," Kosta says, noting the importance of flexible scheduling and closing early enough to let staff get home to their families. (Neither restaurant currently stays open past 10 p.m., and the new location will likely be the same.)
"You want good people above all else. I don’t care if you have experience; we’ll train you. We have everything from pharmacists to lawyers to aspiring actors." (A nearby server chimes in to mention the comic book artists and hula hoopers, too.)
Many employees have been at All Star for over eight years. "We’ve been very fortunate," says Kosta. "They’re interesting people, and you get to experience some of that when you sit down to eat. If you care to ask, they’ll share a story."
The Beacon Hill All Star will likely have seating for 20-25 people, and it will be open for lunch and dinner. Like the Inman Square location, it will be counter-service. (The Sandwich Bar is full-service.) First-time customers can expect to find bright colors, smiling staff, and loud music, whether it’s Kosta’s favorite ‘80s music or a wide variety of newer picks from the staff. "You come in here on a Tuesday, you might hear some Dead. Bon Jovi on a Wednesday. And then on a Thursday, you get some Biggie," he says.
As for the food, it’s all about "interesting flavor combinations," says Kosta. All Star’s current menu offers a roster of meat, vegetarian, and vegan pizzas, from the Ms. Piggy’s Fig (white sauce, mozzarella cheese, goat cheese, prosciutto, black mission figs, pistachio gremolata, baby arugula, sweet-fig balsamic drizzle) to the Big Jerk (almond milk béchamel, Daiya mozzarella, jerk roasted jack fruit, mango, pickled red onions, fresh cilantro). Customers can also design their own pizza from a wide range of toppings.
"When you come into an All Star establishment," Kosta says, "the first thing that hits you are the sights, the sounds, the smells, the colors, the staff that interacts with you. We try to create an atmosphere where people want to be here."
Stayed tuned for an opening date.