It’s no secret that restaurants are strong supporters of the communities in which they serve. They are, after all, the face of the hospitality industry. This year Scalo Northern Italian Grill received the New Mexico Restaurant Association’s Restaurant Neighbor Award, sharing accolades with sister restaurant Brasserie La Provence. Their ongoing contributions have supported many Duke City groups including schools, churches, civic organizations and, notably, Dismas House, a transitional living facility.
The force behind Scalo and Brasserie is Steve Paternoster, himself the recipient of NMRA’s 2010 Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year for New Mexico. If there is an opportunity to make a difference, Paternoster is there. He hosted Scalo and Brasserie’s booths at the 22nd Annual Equestrian Wine and Food tasting last month along with P’tit Louis Bistro, in which he is also a partner.
Sitting with Paternoster during a rare quiet moment at Scalo, we talk about how he came to the industry at a very young age, spending time at his dad’s place—Duffy’s Tavern in El Paso, Texas. His Northern Italian ancestry gave him a foothold in Upper Michigan where, as a child, he visited the extended family who had put down roots in the rugged Upper Peninsula mining towns. He worked the hospitality trade from the bottom up, learned to hunt, fish and dress venison, and experienced the camaraderie of a neighborhood pub at Duffy’s. During a few wild years he had a short-lived stint running a Gallup bar. But a job as an airline host developed the connections he needed to focus his career in management and introduced him to food of intercontinental quality.
Over the years, Paternoster has seen many facets of the hospitality business. He once applied for a management job at Whites City Hotel near Carlsbad Caverns. He was wearing his college class ring and a mason’s pin. He was hired on the spot with the weight of those icons in his favor—yet another example of the importance of community to the up-and-coming restaurateur.
Paternoster takes pride in his restaurants, and patrons recognize the quality in the food and service—top-notch in the Albuquerque scene. But he will be the first to give the credit for his modus operandi to his dad. To this day, the senior Paternoster stands as a model for his life and work.
“He still calls and checks on me regularly,” Paternoster says. “Asks how things are going; keeps an eye on me.”
I expect Paternoster’s neighbors figure he’s doing just fine.