Welcome to On the House, a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to open a restaurant — or several. In 2013, Steve “Nookie” Postal shared weekly glimpses into his experience opening Commonwealth in Cambridge, and now he’s back as he works to open two cafes (Revival) and a beer hall (Mothership), all while keeping Commonwealth up and running. Keep an eye out for new installments of On the House on alternate Fridays.
How the hell did I end up here? Sitting at the same typewriter, in the same room, writing about the same shit. Just different, I guess. So, what’s going on, you ask? Ha. Not really much, but first, let me just say that I wasn’t valedictorian of high school. Ridgewood, New Jersey shoutout! I am not a writer; my grammar: poor. I’m aware. Not my thing. I love a guy with great punctuation; I am not that person. But I have good qualities, I think. Anyway, what’s going on? Ok...
Let’s start where I left off. Commonwealth opened in Kendall Square a little over four years ago. Some of you followed along on the adventure that was opening it. Commonwealth has grown to something I never imagined it would be. We love Kendall Square in all its quirky weirdness. I wish it never snowed and summer lasted forever.
We have an amazing staff led by my amazing general manager Phil Marshall (aka DJ Honey Dijon) and my chef de cuisine Nicco Muratore (aka...I guess just Nicco). They are great and are continuing my heartbeat, which is Commonwealth. I’m still there most every day. It has become a wonderful place, and I love it.
About a year and a half ago, I started helping out at Crema Cafe in Harvard Square, which had two owners, Liza Shirazi and Marley Brush. 10 years ago, these two women with little to no experience built one of the most beloved cafes in Cambridge/Boston. The coffee program is known nationally. After 10 years, Marley decided that it was time to make a change in her life and follow her passion into social work, trading one tough life for another. So, out stepped Marley and in stepped Nookie. (That’s the CliffsNotes version, FYI.)
So, now I have a new business partner, Liza. I can see her cringing now as she is reading this, ha. Liza and I have had our paths cross many different ways throughout the years: Her husband, Josh Shirazi, is my milk man — cheap plug for my partner-in-law or whatever he is — and Liza’s brother is none other than the “retail whisperer to the stars,” Jesse Baerkahn of Graffito SP, who found me Commonwealth’s home. Plus, roughly five years ago, we did the first Steinbones pop-up at Crema.
Liza and I complement each other really well: She is smart and tough, and she’s better at saving than me. I’m pumped about our partnership and all of the things our futures hold together, although I wish she would pick the damn colors of the espresso machines already, but it’s fine...
So, what’s to come? Liza and I — and a new ragtag bunch of characters — are opening two cafes and a beer hall. One cafe is located in Davis Square; it was home to the original Bertucci’s. I’m thinking that I need to get some vintage Bertucci’s piece somewhere in there.
Yes, it’s the place that had the bocce court in the basement. Believe it or not, that isn’t really to code anymore, so no, there won’t be bocce in the basement anymore.
The second cafe is in a funky space. I like funky. There was a Whole Foods in Alewife — no, not that giant one. You know where the Summer Shack is, right? The Bertucci’s? Go down that road. You pass a hunormous office park, maybe ’80s. I’m seeing Flashdance a little, but I like it...maybe Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink. Back to the Future. No, it’s Over the Top with Sly Stallone. Oh, or Road House. Yes, Swayze. Anyway, keep going, and there are, like, four million new condos. Back up that road, the cafe is in a huge space in the back of one of the office buildings, facing the bike path. It’s gonna be gorgeous. We have a great landlord. Free parking on the weekends and after 5 p.m. A patio. It’s gonna be awesome.
The cafes are both going to be called Revival, and both are amazing. We were so psyched about both that we couldn’t pick which to do, so we had to do both. (Not really; it just worked that way, but that’s kinda funny.)
If that weren’t enough, in that same building, we’re putting a 7,000-square-foot beer hall. 10 taps. Highly curated. Food. Games: Skee-Ball, shuffleboard, Golden Tee (because I love Golden Tee). No pinball (because I don’t like pinball.) Ms. Pac-Man. Well, we’re taking requests; I haven’t bought the games yet. Honestly, no fucking idea where one buys a Skee-Ball machine. Amazon? I have Prime...free shipping, right?
So that’s kinda it. It’s a lot; it’s enough. And don’t forget I still have three children — 10, seven, and five years old — and a wife who says I work too much. There are still birthday parties, tooth fairies, movie nights, and all that goes along with that.
I believe that you can work in this business and still be able to have a family. I surround myself with people who agree with that. It’s important to remember at the end of the day, well...you’re smart; you get it. No need to blabber on.
I’m not in survival mode just yet, but shit is heating up. Thanks for coming along on this crazy roller coaster of clichéd lines and dreams. I don’t know what’s gonna happen, but I’m sure it’s gonna be pretty entertaining. At least for you. Hopefully it doesn’t end with me in a puddle of tears, like someone on The Bachelor.
Sniff, sniff...it’s already happening. See you in two weeks...
Hugs and kisses,