Some of Boston’s most popular restaurants in the last 20 years have been due to chef Michael Schlow, the toque who brought us Radius, Tico, Via Matta and Café Louis. His talent has not only led to appearances on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Good Morning America, but to other successful restaurant ventures from Connecticut to California. His latest endeavor is the Hub’s Doretta Taverna and Raw Bar, which replaces Via Matta. Doretta is a derivative of the Greek word doro (“gift”). A present to anyone who appreciates grand displays of flavor, Doretta’s seasonal menu features everything from fresh whole fish to a slow-roasted lamb shoulder that cooks for 15 hours in a mixture of rosemary, lemon, garlic, parsley and mint. Recently, the chef shared thoughts on food, Fallon and his favorite music.
Via Matta was wildly popular, so opening a Greek restaurant in the same spot was a bit of a risk. What’s the response been like?
Via Matta was a very important part of my life for 13 years, but the time came to do something new. Anytime you change something that’s been around for a long time and is so beloved, there’s a certain amount of risk involved. But I felt confident that a stylish Greek taverna would resonate and be well received. So far, Doretta has exceeded any expectations, and the guests are loving it.
We saw Jimmy Fallon tweeted a photo of himself in front of Doretta. Is he a Schlow restaurant groupie?
Jimmy and I have been friends for years, and I’m always excited to get to see him and cook for him. He’s really interested in food and has a very good palate. He was picking out different herbs and spices in the food at Doretta the other night — pretty impressive to say the least.
You have restaurants from coast to coast. How do you stay organized and make sure they are all up to speed?
I’m only one person, so whether it’s one single restaurant or multiple ones, it’s all about the team and the people you surround yourself with. I know that’s a common statement, but it’s really true. There’s no way I could ever do what I do without all of the amazing men and women who work in our restaurants. It’s because of their commitment and dedication that makes us a successful company.
What’s one item you can’t travel without?
The [Bowers & Wilkins] portable speakers my wife bought me.
What’s your favorite Boston restaurant that’s not your own?
Any new chefs on the scene we should be looking at?
Leo Asaro of Tico Boston and George Rodrigues of Tico D.C. are doing some really amazing, exciting food right now. I had a great meal at Mike Pagliarini’s Guila in Cambridge, Massachusetts, recently. Also Abram Bissell at The Modern in NYC is making some of the best food I had all year.
What do you recommend first-time visitors to Boston see and do?
There’s so much to do in Boston. Obviously, you have to go to famous spots like Faneuil Hall, Harvard Square, Newbury Street, Top of the Hub and Trinity Church. But what makes the city so great is all of the fantastic neighborhoods like the North End, Kenmore Square, South End and the Back Bay. And, of course, if it’s your first time, you have to go on a Duck Tour; it’s a rite of passage.
On your website, you have a page called Music to Cook and Eat To. Is music an integral part of your kitchen? Who are you listening to right now?
Music is a very important part of my life and something I am very passionate and committed to. I help create all the playlists for all of the restaurants and I love it. What am I listening to right now, like right this second? It’s the middle of the day and I’m listening to [jazz saxophonist] Coleman Hawkins’ “O Pato.”
What’s up next for you?
Doretta is just a baby still, so all of my attention is on making sure the restaurant is growing and gets on solid feet. Next year we are very excited to be building an Italian restaurant in D.C.
Which destination is on your travel bucket list?
Peru. I want to explore the Chifa and Nikkei cuisines there.