Success in the restaurant industry requires flexibility

BY KATE JONUSKA

The idea was sparked, like many good ideas, over a plate of good food shared by friends. In this case, those friends were Joe and Peg Romano and chef Antonio Laudisio, and the idea was tapas—those Spanish “small bites” which, in 1993, had not yet hit the Boulder culinary scene. From those small bites came big successes, including the celebration of the 25th anniversary of that first venture, The Mediterranean Restaurant—known as The Med by its many devoted fans.

“The St Julien was a dirt parking lot when we started The Med, so when I look back to the beginning, it does seem like a long time,” said Peg Romano, co-owner of the Walnut Restaurant Group with her husband Joe. “My kids were so little and they’re in their 30s now.”

And while their dreams were once little, now the Romanos’ restaurants have grown into a Boulder powerhouse and include not only The Med—a partnership with Laudisio—but also Brasserie Ten Ten, founded in 2003, and Via Perla, opened in 2016. Boulder Magazine caught up with these restaurateurs, who’ve fed our community so well for a quarter-century, in search of the secrets to their staying power.

Put People First

“Our commitment is to the customer, to our guest, and we keep that in the front. Everything goes behind that,” said Peg. Creating a quality customer experience requires attention to every detail, from décor and service to food and marketing, and she says their employees have been a pillar in the group’s success.

In fact, commitment to staff was a driving factor of the Romanos’ expansion from one restaurant to multiples.

“Our goal really wasn’t to create a group, but we were successful with The Med and we wanted to find space for our employees to grow,” Peg explained. “It just kind of happened.”

Know Who You Are

All three of Walnut’s restaurants focus on classic European cuisines: The Med serves Mediterranean food from Spain, Italy and Greece; Brasserie Ten Ten is French; and Via Perla serves authentic Italian. That strict specialization was not a matter of chance.

“One reason we’ve stayed as busy as we have is, I think you need to stick with what you know you are,” says Peg, who’s known within the group for her attention to detail in keeping both their restaurant interiors and menus strictly authentic. “We work to stay within our genre. If you try to be everything to everybody, you get all mixed up and then you have a diner.”

Expect the Unexpected

Respect for tradition aside, success in the restaurant industry requires flexibility and the ability to roll with the punches. The group’s 25 years have proved that the unexpected is usually the norm. The Med, for instance, was supposed to be a small tapas restaurant but they instead found a large space. The solution was a widening of the cuisine and ordering an authentic Italian pizza oven. Pizza is now one of the restaurant’s best sellers.

“You can have it all planned and you finally get it all built and designed. You have great people and a creative chef,” said Peg. “Then something just changes someday that’s not in the plan. It’s inevitable.” And in the end, you need to enjoy the work, and the restaurant business is a lot of work.

“You’re either all in or you’re all out” she said. “It’s fun, it’s exciting and it’s rewarding.”

THE MEDITERRANEAN RESTAURANT
www.themedboulder.com
303-444-5335
1002 Walnut St., Boulder, Colo. 80302
Lunch Mon.–Sun. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 4 p.m.–10 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Sun. 4 p.m.–9 p.m.
Happy Hour daily from 3 p.m.–6:30 p.m., plus 9 p.m.–close


BRASSERIE TEN TEN
www.brasserietenten.com
303-998-1010
1011 Walnut St., Boulder, Colo. 80302
Lunch Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–4 p.m.
Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 4 p.m.–10 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.–11 p.m.
Sun. 4 p.m.–9 p.m.
Brunch Sat.–Sun. 9 a.m.–3 p.m.
Happy Hour daily from 3 p.m.–6:30 p.m.


VIA PERLA
www.viaperla.com
720-669-0100
901 Pearl St., Boulder, Colo. 80302
Lunch Mon.–Sat. 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
Dinner Mon.–Thurs. 4 p.m.–10 p.m.
Fri.–Sat. 4 p.m.-11 p.m.
Sun. 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Happy Hour daily from 3 p.m.–6:30 p.m.