Scalo has a new owner. Steve Paternoster was general manager and a part owner of the Nob Hill restaurant from 1993 until leaving and selling his stake in 1999. Since then Paternoster has had his hand in several different ventures, including Sun Country Chile and Honey, whose sopapilla syrup is under fire in this section this week.
Scalo's founder, Tom White, will retain a 9 percent interest in the restaurant and stay in on an advisory role. According to Paternoster, "The first time I talked to him [White] about selling the place ... I mean, I've known the guy for years and I've never seen him get misty over anything. So I said hey! Stay in!" The new Boss Man at Scalo has nothing but praise for White, whom he characterizes as a mentor. "He's one of the people I respect most in the world. The years we spent working together were the best I ever had in a work environment," Paternoster said. White is also part owner at Il Vicino, the restaurant and brewing company.
As the two men were preparing for the sale, Paternoster started working a few shifts at the restaurant. The first Friday he was back, the once-and-future manager says, he probably saw 80 people he knew and recognized. Longtime guests also have something else to reacquaint themselves with: an all-Italian menu. "If you have a restaurant called Scalo, it has to be Italian food."
Chef Jonathan Perno has already updated the menu to include a long list of pastas that he cranks out on a machine that belonged to his grandmother. The new menu, Paternoster is eager to boast, offers nine pastas priced below $14. "The most expensive thing on the menu is our filet mignon that we've been doing for years—our customers don't want to see that go away."
Paternoster is thrilled with his kitchen staff. "They just want to do good food," he says, "and I feel that way as well. I just want to do one restaurant."
One of the first things the new owner wants to do with his restaurant is some remodeling. If you've lived here a while you'll know that, aside from the patio and wine room, Scalo hasn't changed too much over the past decade. Paternoster wants to paint, adjust the lighting and upgrade the sound system, which he complains is tinny.The patio is also a target of renovation. Paternoster would like to remove the bars that enclose the street-side patio, add more greenery and change the furniture.
Service is an area of particular concern to the front of the house, and Paternoster intends to ramp up the style of service at Scalo. Overall, he says, "I think it's just short of great right now. You don't get to stay an institution just by reputation."