At Paradiso Restaurant & Wine Bar, it's rooftop to table
LYNN RINALDI, 49, of South Philadelphia, is chef/co-owner of Paradiso Restaurant & Wine Bar, on Passyunk Avenue near 12th Street, South Philadelphia. Before opening the Italian restaurant in 2004, she ran a cafe at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Corey Baver, 42, who had worked at several restaurants, was hired to cook at Paradiso. The two fell in love and got married. In 2008, they opened Izumi, a Japanese BYOB on Passyunk near Tasker Street. I spoke with Rinaldi.
Q: How'd you decide to start a restaurant on East Passyunk?
A: I grew up near here. When I opened Paradiso, there were probably 25 vacant properties on this corridor, and a lot were mom-and-pop businesses. This used to be a furniture store.
Q: How would you describe Paradiso?
A: It's Italian and contemporary. The atmosphere is casual, comfortable. We're also seasonal, all pastas done in-house.
Q: A rooftop garden?
We have eight 6-by-6-foot boxes on the roof. We dedicate one box to herbs, couple boxes of tomatoes. We've had a great success with root vegetables. We have a box just for strawberries and another for zucchini.
Q: You have beehives?
A: We have six hives, and partner with a beekeeper. He maintains them and we do not extract honey.
Q: What sparked this?
A:We had the garden and I did a little research. We partner with Philadelphia Bee Co. and take a percentage of the pull. The beekeeper takes the rest, bottles and sells it. Each hive produces a different color honey.
Q: What do you do with it?
A: ]We serve it on our cheese cart. We use it in our dressings, and we're thinking about doing a dinner where we use honey as an ingredient in each dish.
Q: The biggest challenge over the years?
A: When the recession hit in late 2008, we saw a big dip in private events and with the check average, maybe people not having a bottle of wine but a glass. It was a scary time for us.
Q: How often do you have private events?
A: We'll do an event every week, if not two, and sometimes multiple events on a Sunday afternoon, one upstairs and one downstairs.
Q: How big a business is this, and how many employees?
A: Izumi has seven full-time employees and two part-timers; Paradiso has 12 full-time and a half-dozen part-time. I'd say Izumi did $400,000 revenue last year and Paradiso $900,000.
Q: What's next?
A: I can see us renovating Paradiso, maybe chaning the decor, redoing the bar, giving it a face-lift. I'd like to put more boxes on the roof and grow more tomatoes and maybe different fruits.