Chef Gabriel Pascuzzi—who has cooked in the impressive kitchens of Noma, DB Bistro Moderne, Colicchio & Sons, Paulee, and Multnomah Whiskey Library—is a native Portlander who wants to own his own restaurant, PN26. In fact, he's already picked out a space. But since red tape is holding up the process, Pascuzzi is kicking off PN26 in Renata's commissary kitchen, a private dining space located in the same building as Renata.
Pascuzzi is bringing some friends with him—The Bent Brick's sous chef Alex Ditton, and its bartender, Michelle Ruocco—and PN26 will offer four to five-course prix fixe menus of "Pacific Northwest cuisine" grounded in fresh, local ingredients. After this Friday, it will offer seatings at 7:15 p.m., every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, until further notice.
Each dinner can accommodate 18 people, and the menu will change every two weeks. The dinners will run either $65 (for four courses) or $75 (the four courses, plus dessert). Optional drink pairings will come with a flat $25 fee.
Pascuzzi is sweetening the deal for service industry workers: They'll pay either $55 or $65. Pascuzzi says he has a soft spot for service industry workers, because they work long hours, have tough schedules, and, in many cases, are vastly underpaid.
In fact, that's why he's created a radically new restaurant business model. For a while, he's been following how restaurateurs have been aiming to improve working conditions for all employees—he cites both Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio—in a "broken" system that he says regularly "abuses" them.
"Turnover is the biggest killer in restaurants, so give people a reason to not leave," he says. "Take care of them and show them kindness and commitment, and it will be returned to you and your business. There is nothing worse for your business than an employee who feels like they are not valued, respected, or treated fairly."
Of course, you have to walk the talk, too, which is why, when Pascuzzi's brick and mortar becomes a reality, it will operate with a tipless format and start all employees at at least $40,000 per year. Additionally, he says he'll institute 40-hour work weeks; offer pre-service family meals; give employees the chance to vacation; and make sure the restaurant is closed on certain holidays.
He'll also carve out $2 per employee from every meal sold, which he'll pool together for a sort of "commission" to bolster his staff's overall pay. In other words, the more people the restaurant serves, the more money everyone makes.
PN26 opens for service at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, March 18 in the commissary kitchen at Renata (626 SE Main Street). RSVP by calling 503.660.3124 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or try your luck and simply show up.