Yesterday we chatted with Giuseppe Falco, the owner, with Leo Sacco, of Astoria’s Vesta Trattoria and Pachanga Patterson. Falco spoke at length about the neighborhood’s changing restaurant scene, and, among other things, the origins of Vesta’s famed Baby Jesus cake. In Part Two of our interview, he reflects on foodies, trends, and the Great Edison Bulb Blight.
Would you consider yourself a foodie?
I don’t consider myself a foodie. I don’t generally approve of the word “foodie,” and not because there’s anything wrong with it but because it seems like something where somebody is going to criticize everything they eat. Food for me isn’t that. It’s supposed to be spending time with people you love to hang out with and having a good time. In the last seven or eight years we’ve gotten away from the idea of having a great time. People go out and spend so much time criticizing that they forget they’re out to have a great time. Everyone should have an opinion, but I think sometimes people focus so much on that that they forget to say, “I’m having dinner and drinks, let’s have a good time.”
Have a good time first. Be a critic second. You can have a great time in a place where you don’t have the best meal. It doesn’t have to be life-changing. Not many things are. You’re not going to a French bistro to have your life changed.
Kind of along the same lines, are there any restaurant or food trends you wish would go away?
Lots of them. Oh my goodness. I don’t know if this is food or restaurant, but if I never saw another Edison bulb again I wouldn’t cry. When it first started, it was so cool. Then all of a sudden it was tiring. It’s like, how many can you put in a restaurant? When you grow up in an Italian or European household, it’s all mix and match, I’m going to have 100 things that look completely different and not like they belong in the same place. And then you walk in some place and it’s all Edison bulbs.
But trends, that’s a tough one because I think anything done well is amazing. We’ve also seen things weed themselves out as we go along. For example, tapas: You don’t hear that as much anymore. That’s weeded itself out. People are still doing it but don’t call it tapas. But definitely the Edison bulbs. They can go.
Do you have any desire to open more restaurants?
I mean, yeah. I think from the moment we started we had the desire to open three or four. That’s really where you get to the point where you sacrifice quality, for whatever reason. The only thing I’m basing that on is the fact that we’ve opened two and we’re getting it done and doing good. Three might be the number where you’re like, All right, we should relax. Coming from a company that now has 10 restaurants, there are ways to handle it if you hire enough management. With good management, you can figure things out.
But I don’t know if we had those kinds of aspirations. We’ve always been about something fun in the neighborhood. It’s such a difficult business to do if you don’t love it.
It sometimes seems like a lot of people these days open one restaurant and then they’ve opened five more by the next year.
There’s definitely a fine line and a balance. Some people go into it for the money and some people go into it for the joy. I think we went into it for a balance. We love joy and love money, but there’s got to be a fine line. When you’re not giving people a good product, you look silly.