Ryan Poli’s Tavernita
Can the handsome young chef’s new concept prove he’s more than a pretty face?
HOME AT LAST, 2012
This winter, Tavernita, the restaurant the Sandovals and Poli collaborated on, will open, and Poli will be a partner and the chef of a Spanish restaurant, as he’s long wanted. It’s a little bigger than what he had in mind, but that’s all right—in the Sandovals he has found what he says he never had before: colleagues he trusts, who feel like family. For the first time, Poli has been included in every decision, from the menu to the drinks to the decor to the tableware.
A bit of the paranoia is still there. But it dissipates, somewhat, when he puts on the chef jacket. A few weeks ago, Poli stood in his jacket in Alfredo’s home kitchen, which for the past few months has served as Tavernita’s test kitchen. He was with his sous chef, John Kaiser, and his chef de cuisine, Greg Bastien. They were completing Tavernita’s opening menu, testing eggplant fries with “honey whip” (honey whipped to the point that it looks like sour cream); smoked, sous-vide, housemade sausages; a baked corn pudding with shrimp. The fries in particular were giving Poli some trouble. He cut them large, cut them small, tried them as chips. After a little tinkering, he tried a batch and said, “These are better. These are good.”
He gathered the chefs around to try the fries. “These are better, no?” Poli asked. The chefs dipped their fries and chewed on them.
“These are good,” he said again, though it was unclear if he was talking to himself or to the chefs. He searched his chefs’ faces.