Chef and owner Matt McPherson is planning to open a cafe in East Boston’s Clippership Wharf development in spring 2021. Café Iterum will feature a menu he describes as a “fusion of world cuisine,” inspired by his past experiences as a restaurant chef.
“I’ve been influenced by so many different cuisines throughout my career,” said McPherson, noting that in the past he’s cooked food with influences from Asia, the Middle East, France, Italy, and beyond.
McPherson — who’s worked in some of Boston’s most revered kitchens, including Menton and Craigie on Main — initially planned to open a noodle bar on Sumner Street in East Boston’s Jeffries Point neighborhood, but he said that the project fell apart because of a lease dispute. McPherson didn’t scrap the entire plan; indeed, he still plans to open the noodle bar sometime in the future, after Café Iterum is up and running, and his commitment to operating a zero-waste restaurant will be part of both projects.
“I’ve always been very big about waste in restaurants,” McPherson told Eater in 2019. “Fine dining is so wasteful because it’s all about presentation, always about making things look perfect. Why can’t you not only have something be perfect, but utilize the waste for that in making something else?”
McPherson said he’s working with Eastie Farm to source local food for the cafe, and he has also teamed up with the farm to help feed members of the community who have been impacted by food insecurity due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Opening a restaurant in Boston isn’t an easy endeavor in the best of times, and it’s been exacerbated by the pandemic. “Everything goes so much slower in a pandemic,” said McPherson. “No one is meeting face to face, you’re emailing documents back and forth, trying to figure out how to sign PDFs ... Even just signing the lease was made more difficult because you’ve got to go to the store, make copies, and find a notary who’s working to sign those copies.”
Still, McPherson said he feels fortunate because he made the decision to shift gears from noodle bar to cafe before the pandemic struck. Planning for a restaurant that is just open during the day, with a more simple, streamlined menu, has made the process a bit easier.
“Honestly, it’s kind of a great opportunity right now,” said McPherson. “When I started working on the cafe, I’d already begun thinking about simplifying.”
Café Iterum will operate with a no-tipping policy, and its employees will be paid a fair wage. (Advocates of no-tipping policies believe it leads to better treatment of employees — by owners, fellow staff, and customers — and a fairer, more equitable workplace where an employee’s financial wellbeing is not determined by the individual whims of customers.)
McPherson said, crucially, that Café Iterum will function as a neighborhood cafe that is not dependent on the foot traffic of a business district like downtown Boston. While so many people continue to telecommute throughout the pandemic, having a cafe serving good coffee within walking distance is a godsend. Eastie will get one such cafe next spring, steps from the Maverick MBTA stop.