When I picture Bruce Logue of Italian restaurant BoccaLupo in Inman Park, that image includes a terrycloth athletic sweatband around his head. Does he wear it to keep the sweat off his brow, I wonder? Is it to keep hair out of his face, or simply part of his kitchen attire — as essential as an apron — and a reminder that, when the band is on, it’s time to get down to business?
Logue wore that awesome Richard Simmons-style ’80s-throwback sweatband for a pasta-making video for last year’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution Fall Dining Guide, about all things noodle. We scheduled the shoot on a day that BoccaLupo was closed. It could have been time off for him, but, when you’re the chef-owner of a neighborhood restaurant, you do what it takes to survive. Sometimes, good press helps to fill the dining room.
Logue isn’t taking a break these days, either. Despite shifting his operation to a takeout-only model due to the COVID-19 outbreak, he’s been able to keep his 28-person staff on payroll. But, it’s taken muscle, sweat, brains and sheer determination to remain open.
“The only reason we are doing this is to make payroll,” he said.
Apart from churning out massive amounts of fettuccine, bucatini, black spaghetti and garganelli, he’s playing numbers games with a menu that changes daily, having to factor the cost of “the right containers to fit the food” into the price of his upscale, farm-to-table dishes. “You are adding the cost to each serving of primo butter and local produce,” he said.
With each passing day, in this new normal for restaurants, Logue and his staff hone their processes — from sourcing to cooking to order-taking to customer pickup — because each is deeply intertwined with the other.
The veteran chef ticked off numerous checklist items that are all brand-new to business as usual. “You have to know how much you have, how much you can offer, have someone manning the phone beginning every day at noon,” he said.
The list goes on: “You build 15-minute (pickup) windows. Pickup is on the back patio. Tables create a counter/barrier.”
Things that used to be predictable are not, like scheduling staff. “We’re not writing a schedule,” Logue said. He tells his staff, “If you are willing to help out, we have masks and gloves. But, we need help.”
He needs help, because orders are coming in fast and furious — as are generous tips that go into BoccaLupo’s “coronavirus tip pool fund.” So far, it’s been enough for Logue and his wife to make payroll every two weeks. There’s not much left for anything else, though — not even to hire a dishwasher.
At the end of the night, it’s always Logue in back, wearing that terrycloth headband, rolling up his sleeves and washing pots and pans.
“I don’t want to add to the extra layer of contact,” he said. “That seems to be going way too far, to have someone take MARTA to come here, wash dishes and go home.”
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Menu: daily changing, limited menu of farm-to-table, Italian-inflected appetizers, entrees (including single-portion lasagna) and desserts
Alcohol: beer and wine. Phone staff is highly versed on selections. Ask for recommendations and pairing suggestions.
What I ordered: Roman fried cauliflower, ham and cheese bruschetta, bucatini alla gricia, Georgia white shrimp risotto, baked strawberry crumble. The bruschetta was piled high with smoked prosciutto and a loose tapenade that offered brininess, color and texture; it makes a great starter for two. We scarfed down the pasta, loving every bite of those chunky noodles. The shrimp in the creamy risotto tasted commendably fresh and buttery. The caulifower was the only dish that didn't travel well; it easily is reheated at home (toaster oven) to crisp it up. The strawberry crumble — with a lovely, vanilla bean-accented creme anglaise — was a fine, shareable meal-ender on a spring day, and it satisfyingly straddled the line between sweet and tart.
Service options: Order by phone, pay by credit card, pickup only. No cash payments. No delivery.
Safety protocols: Kitchen and staff adhering to all COVID-19 health and safety precautions. They wear gloves, wash hands and sanitize often. Pickup times are staggered to help physical distancing among patrons. Customers are not permitted inside. Sterilized pens and clipboards are used for signing credit card payments.
Address, phone: 753 Edgewood Ave. NE, Atlanta, 404-577-2332
Hours: The menu is posted on the restaurant's Instagram account and Facebook page daily by 11 a.m. Place orders beginning at noon. Pickup is between 4 and 7 p.m. (customers are provided a designated pickup time) Wednesdays-Saturdays.
Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition
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