Public Kitchen & Bar is the kind of place that you probably wouldn’t find unless someone told you about it. Hidden between an old barber shop and tattoo parlor on Lancaster Street, you could easily race past the restaurant on a busy afternoon, missing the quaint, cozy atmosphere and decadent tapas. But, in a way, that’s kind of the point.
The restaurant, with owners Carly Blasutti, who manages the front of house and head chef Ryan Murphy at the helm, has grown from a basement catering business to full-fledged establishment that has made a definite mark in the Kitchener Waterloo food scene. The romantic restaurant has mastered the art of atmosphere, service and distinctive cuisine.
It is with this reputation and an unapologetic passion for giving the guest the best experience possible, that Blasutti and Murphy have made the bold move to shut down the Lancaster location for a bigger, flashier location on Victoria Street.
After all, in the words of Blasutti, “Who doesn’t love a little Hollywood?”.
The decision provides an excuse to re-build the menu with a new Spanish theme, a flexible floor plan that invites community events and collaborations with local chefs, a fully functioning cookbook library and triple the seating.
“It is very difficult to sustain a living in restaurant that only had nine tables. We have always had to cater to supplement our income and to make a go of it. I don’t think people realize quite how difficult small business can be,” Blasutti said with a weight that only comes from the stress of years in the restaurant industry.
The tension between a charming space and a sufficient cash flow made it a tough, but logical decision for Public to open a bigger space.
The biggest challenge for Blasutti, who is also taking on the role of interior designer, will be remaking the trademark ambience of Public in a different space. However, as she described in passionate detail her love for the colourful school chairs at the current restaurant, her desire to keep the organic chalkboard menus, her obsession with old world wine and cheese, and the effort she puts into beautifully curated playlists, it is easy to imagine how the feeling will translate.
The new location will also be making a pointed effort to support and engage with the community around them.
“I think if you are a conscious person, you do come to a point in your career where you ask yourself: what am I doing to help? What am I doing to use my platform for something good?” Blusatti said.
“We are at a point in our lives and in our careers where just making cool cocktails and serving tapas, ringing in those bills isn’t quite enough to feel fulfilled.”
The Lancaster Street location will be open until the end of November and although Blusatti feels somewhat bittersweet about the transition, ultimately, she feels grateful for the opportunity to grow and push the food network in KW at a greater capacity.
“In the food industry, we have this little advantage to change people’s minds about locations,” she said. “Screw up their little circle of comfort and get them to come outside of it because it’s just that extraordinary.”