Sunday, July 16, 2017

K Restaurant: The end of the Kevin Fonzo era

I have known Kevin Fonzo since the late 1990s when I was first introduced to his restaurant on Smith Street and Princeton Avenue by a golf buddy. Since then, Kevin, and K Restaurant, have been important parts of our entertainment life. So it was with mixed feelings that I read the Scott Joseph article which disclosed the sale of K Restaurant: happiness for Kevin (in that I knew he wanted to do things which tied him less to a fixed place) but also saddened by the breaking of a chain with a lengthy pedigree. When I saw a Facebook post advertising a final Sunday dinner at K, I knew that we had to be there. We were scheduled to be in Jamaica that weekend but would return on Sunday and, if things worked seamlessly, would arrive at K at the beginning of the dinner or shortly thereafter. Things worked seamlessly.

When we arrived, everyone was already seated and the antipasti had just been placed on the table. The place was filled to the gills and the laughter and conversation indicated that wine was already flowing freely. We were sitting with the Magnos and I was pleasantly surprised to see that Rosario Spagnola (Terramia) and his family were also sitting with us. The second table in our section was occupied by the Brosé boys and my neighbors Fred and Laurie. This was going to be a fun night.



Fred and Laurie
Shortly after our arrival, Kevin went to the front of the restaurant and officially launched the proceedings. “Tonight is about family love and gratitude. K is still here. The staff is still here, and they are the heart and soul of the restaurant. The sous and pastry chefs had been doing the cooking anyway, given the amount of time I have been spending away from the restaurant recently. Let the dinner begin.”

Valery and Mark, two K regulars whom we had met on an Art in Voyage trip to Umbria, were also sitting at our table and I sought her perspective on the restaurant. She had been going to K since the beginning and remembered it having great burgers and music in the early days. “With K, you always knew that you could come at any time and get a great meal prepared and served by a caring staff.’
Mark and Valerie
Mussels were served as the appetizer and these were some of the largest ones I had ever seen. I ate one and was done for the night. At the conclusion of this course, Kevin spoke to us once again and relayed the circumstances of the sale. K had been a family restaurant in the true sense of the word and his parents wishes were that, upon their passing, the restaurant should be sold and the proceeds used to pay for the grandkids' education. He went on to tell us a story of being despondent in the week prior to the dinner when he had a mystical revelation which served to assure him that he was making the right decision and that everything was going to be ok.

As the night wore on, I continued to speak to staffers and customers to get their impressions of the Kevin era at K. I had one of those conversations with Michelle, the K pastry chef. I asked her when did she learn about the sale of the restaurant. Kevin sat them down and told them that he was going to be selling the restaurant, she said. She was in shock. The team had spoken to the new owner and he seems committed to maintaining things as they are. He does not want to fix what is not broken. He will probably elevate the wine list and do some cosmetic stuff. The staff, she said, has spoken together as a team and they are committed to the restaurant and their customers.
After most of the attendees had left, a small group congregated in the bar and kept the lights burning and the wine flowing. At this time I had a lengthy conversation with the sous chef. He was going to miss Kevin, both as a mentor and a leader of the team. He was disappointed by a recent article on the pedigree of the new owner based on its potential for shaping perceptions as to the restaurant’s direction. Like Michelle, he was committed to the restaurant.
And then we dragged ourselves away from Kevin Fonzo’s K for the last time. Parlo and I were going home. Kevin and the surviving Brosés were heading to another late-night spot. Animals.

I guess Brian will be missing Kevin

I guess not
Thank you Kevin. Thank you for creating an environment where members of the community could come as frequently, or infrequently, as they please and still feel the warmth and enjoy an ever-changing, masterful menu.
Thank you for building a community of customers who have gone from sharing meals at the restaurant – through Family Dinners and suchlike – to sharing travel experiences in some of the most beautiful locations in the world.
Thank you for your creativity as evidenced by the fare you placed in front of customers on a regular basis.
Thank you for your talent-spotting and team building which allowed you to attract and retain high-quality staff such that customers became invested in the “family” that was K Restaurant.
Fortunately for us, while this is the end of the Kevin era at K, it is not the end of the Kevin era. Continued good luck in your endeavors Kevin.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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