After leaving Charleston in 2000, Indaco chef Robert Berry came back to a very different environment in the Lowcountry. The Southern city had transformed into an established culinary go-to while he was away. Coming from New York, Berry wasn't sure what to expect from the opening of his highly-anticipated Italian restaurant Indaco. Eater interviewed Berry after his first week, and it appeared it was a calm beginning for the new wood-fired pizza and pasta place.
How was the first week?
Surprisingly smooth. We had the normal things that you don't expect to happen, happen. I think we dealt with them well. It was a little noisy in here the first night, it felt like the whole place was coming down like a football stadium, but we got some sound panels installed. I was lucky to have a good crew. I wasn't sure what would happen coming from New York to here, but these kids are super passionate and really love what they do.
Were there any changes in how you ran service over the course of the week?
The interesting thing is we're putting out food faster than we thought. Our fire times are quicker. Servers are setting the table before they fire dishes—it's weird—I've never had that happen before. The pizzas cook in two minutes, the pastas are four to five minute pick-ups. It's a fast paced style of cuisine. Everything's cooked from scratch but it's quick. Usually at an opening you have people wondering why the food is taking so long, hour ticket times and such, but we're just like, "Here it is."
Were there any menu changes in the first week?
In Charleston, the buzzwords are budino, burrata and prosciutto. People know those, they're familiar with those items, and they certainly order those. Now we'll look at trying to convince people to look more in-depth at the menu. We were gonna do gnudi, but Jeremiah [Bacon] and Mike Lata have that, and I didn't want to get in a gnudi war. I think we're trying to skip the things that are well known and introduce some new things to Charleston. We have a wide selection of things we can do, and I want to put that out there. Charleston is a food smart town.
Any surprises in what people have been ordering?
Rabbit. We have a rabbit agnolotti that sells out. I've always had rabbit on my menu since working for Frank Lee. It's something I like to sell. I wasn't sure how it would go and thought, "Prepare to take this off." And I can't. People love it. And that goes back to how well educated Charleston diners are, Frank Lee started it back in the day, and Mike Lata was just starting when I left. They really had to put in some effort to get ingredients on the table, and now it's like, "Oh, you don't have rabbit? What's wrong with you?" Places like Two Boroughs Larder ten years ago may have not worked, but now they can do some cool stuff thanks to the educated audience.
Is there anything you're hoping to implement going forward? Are there seasonal ingredients you're excited about?
It's been tough to source stuff here because I don't know everybody yet. In New York, I had people I could call, and within an hour I could have whatever I could want. Here, I have to plan a couple days out, and I'm not so good at that yet. Dan Kennerty and Celeste [Albers] are still here from back in the day. I have my regular pig guy. He does our spectacular prosciutto hams. I'm used to the whole animal butchery. In New York, I had two full-time butchers, we went through two whole pigs a week, five lambs, 70 or 80 ducks, 50 or 60 rabbits—and here, we're gonna get there. We have a special locker to hang meat. We're gonna get to curing sausages. It's all coming, we just didn't have the space to hang before we opened.
How has the late night crowd been?
We just started it on Saturday, and it was pretty good. We had to ask people to leave at 2:00 a.m., which is pretty cool. I think the room is cool. The lights are low with clean light wood; it's a pleasant place to hang out, and people want to be here. We limit the menu to the oven—pizza and baked pastas. I think we've got a good thing going here.
It's great things went so well. Are you sure there were no glitches?
Well, we expected to get the kitchen on Thursday, but we got it early. We didn't have any time to practice; we had 24 hours. It was, "Ok, we're open now." And funny story (points outside) you saw they're digging up the street here? Our first day, they popped a gas line, and we smelled gas in here, and they shut down the whole block. So, we weren't supposed to come back till 5:00 p.m. We opened at 5:00 p.m., and no one has seen the food yet. So, I was sneaking behind the police lines, checking the braises and such, thinking "We can't fail. People have high expectations." And it worked out.
Congratulations to Indaco on a successful first week.
[Photo: Landon Nordeman Photography]
· Chef Robert Berry [-ENY-]
· Indaco [-ECHS-]