When Kristin and Matthew Gennuso met working at a popular Boston restaurant, they might have optimistically surmised the biggest hurdle they’d face would be someday opening their own restaurant together – but in 2003, those plans went off without a hitch. Their farm-to-table restaurant Chez Pascal was an instant success, as was their Wurst Kitchen food truck and walk-up window.
Cut to early March 2020, when fear was in the air during a RI Hospitality Association conference call. Not one person knew what a restaurant should do during a pandemic. Governor Raimondo decided for everyone that restaurants should close. For the Gennusos, the first reaction was relief that it was done: “We wouldn’t have to make that decision on our own. That feeling of relief lasted for probably five minutes.”
The following Monday they were closed, but after a quick wallow they decided closed didn’t have to mean dead. By Tuesday they had repurposed Matthew’s e-commerce site, trading pictures of their apron merchandise for images of popular menu items. Voila – they were running a pick-up restaurant. “It wasn’t about business,” Kristin is quick to say, “it was about people. Helping each other and connecting us through food – it comforts us and fills our souls with joy even when joy seems hard to find.”
As of this printing, Chez Pascal hasn’t allowed inside seating and the Gennusos have no regrets. With a refined order-in-advance model, they’ve eliminated wasted produce. They know exactly how much they’ll need to fulfill orders for the two versions of each dish they offer: “Ready to Eat” or “Reheat at Home”. This not only gives customers the utmost flexibility, but also keeps great relationships with purveyors and ensures there’s enough food to share with other establishments.
The Gennusos do offer a sit-down experience on their outdoor Après Ski Patio. Eight Adirondack chairs, painted race-car red, are available for 90-minute reservations between 4pm and 8pm. A limited food and beverage menu offers “a small taste of the Alps for your small table.” Through the winter, the Gennusos were always amazed to watch their supportive customers, bundled up to brave 30-degree weather, enjoying Chez Pascal’s food and each other’s company. “It’s a beautiful thing to see. Can we have a customer appreciation parade someday?” Kristin asks.
Though connection through food is what means most to the Gennusos as people, as restaurant owners what’s most important is safety. Chez Pascal keeps up to date with all RI Department of Health rules and enforces a stringent sanitization protocol. Strict adherence regarding use of PPE is demanded of employees and required of patrons, as is the minimum six-foot distance. Temperature screenings and testing are also mandatory for staff.
Despite all the changes Chez Pascal has been through this past year, their customers and community have never missed a beat. “We’ve learned so much about what we’re all capable of, with the support of neighbors and loved ones, and have been grateful for every second.”