Joe Cassinelli explained why, in the midst of a pandemic, he is creating new menu opportunities at his Posto restaurant in the Bedford Marketplace.
“I built this company boot-strapping myself, and along the way created a family of people,” he said. “We are all doing everything we can to make sure we have a home to come back to. Employees are the most important aspect, and my job is to create as much opportunity as possible.”
Cassinelli is chef and owner of Alpine Restaurant Group, which was born in 2009 in Somerville and today has eight outlets in the area, including Posto. The growth of a restaurant group is evolutionary, Cassinelli said. “You’ve got to build your reputation and build trust.”
So now he is integrating the specialties of two of the other restaurants into the Bedford business, at least throughout the winter.
Elm Street Sweets offers an array of cakes, pies, and cookies inside Posto, available for purchase over the counter or ordered online. And the Mexican kitchen and tequila bar The Painted Burro of Somerville, which had a recent “popup event” at Posto, continues to offer tacos, margaritas, and similar specialties at least until spring.
“You’ve got to play the cards you’re dealt. You’ve got to be creative. The other option is, you give up. I’m not built that way,” Cassinelli said. “We are all doing what we can to make sure the restaurant is there after the Covid thing is done, by being fresh, staying relevant, creating more foot traffic.”
Looking back a few months, “We had to take baby steps reopening what was meant to be a big, fun, lively restaurant,” Cassinelli said. “Doing it alone wasn’t going to make it. We try to keep the space active for the entire day, and there just wasn’t enough volume for a lunch crew. It has taken people a while to get comfortable going out again. It just takes time to build community trust. You don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver.”
Cassinelli, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, noted that after opening in Bedford in December, “we never really got a solid footing” before the virus changed everything in March. So now “we are trying to create buzz and let people know we’re still here.” He added that word-of-mouth seems to be working.
“The community is a big part of any restaurant surviving right now. I am very appreciative of the Bedford community’s coming out and supporting us. And the landlord really understanding what we are going through and giving us the flexibility to operate in that kind of environment.”
He continued, “We took a menu from Posto, all of our greatest hits, and the top 10 or 12 from Painted Burro (including signature margaritas) and put them together on one menu. You can order either, and that appeals to a lot of people,” including children. It’s about providing as many choices as we possibly can, almost like a mini-food court. Without indoor dining, we needed a way to use the space and provide more options.”
“As more people have learned about the bakery and interest has grown, we’ve been looking for a suburban pickup location to cater to people who live outside of Boston. The Posto Bedford space is the perfect spot to reach customers in MetroWest and beyond with Elm Street Sweets’ excellent desserts.”
All of the baking has been done in Bedford since October, Cassinelli said. “We took the whole pastry team and put them together. We took part of the space and opened up a café area. We keep a rotating stock available in the café; most ordering I do online.”
Cassinelli said “there really isn’t any Mexican food, any Latin food, in the area. So there has been a really great response to the Painted Burro. Takeout has been really strong.”
He added, “We may be popping up an Italian marketplace in December – pan pizzas and things you can take home, bake-your-own cakes and cookies, quick breads, hot cocoa mixes.”
Posto was not set up for outdoor dining when that option came around last spring. “Maybe we can do something outside in the spring,” Cassinelli said. “We really took a hit this year, and when this is done we are not out of the woods. There are a lot of bills that are going to come due. Businesses really need to work with the communities and understand that a lot of stuff is in deferment.”
Customers can place Elm Street Sweets orders for pickup at Posto online at https://www.elmstreetsweets.com/shop or by calling 781-271-9100. Elm Street Sweets is open daily from 11 am-8:30 pm.
To make a dine-in reservation or place take-out orders with contactless pick-up for Posto or the Painted Burro call (781) 271-9100 or visit https://www.postoboston.com/location/posto-bedford/.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 781-983-1763
Click this link to learn more about The Bedford Citizen’s first community reporter.