So it took a few months, but this post is finally being done… It definitely feels like I’ve been working on it for 4 months – in my head I was adding a section to this post after every shift – the truth turned out to be a little more daunting however!
There are a series of photos that will be attached to this post and subsequent posts that will show some before and after shots of what this restaurant went through renovation-wise, and the what the finished product that is now The Bench. It is pretty amazing to see people with enough forward vision and imagination put together a great space from pretty much nothing.
The food was about 8 weeks in the making and got off to a great start because of the opening falling in August and all the bounty that was within our reach from the Salinas Valley. Monterey bay and Pebble Beach happen to be in such a great location – one that draws from Salinas, Sonoma, Napa, and North Bay – which means that we had first dibs on product before the rest of the country got it. Tomatoes were crazy delicious this year, and lasted quite a bit longer than anticipated… our tomato items are coming off the menu next week. We also saw some wonderful local Monterey Salmon, which had been off limits to fisherman in the area for years; it was by far some of the best fish I’ve every butchered, served, and eaten.. at it’s peak, it had a beautiful bright orange glow resembling the yellowest, most natural egg yolk you’ve ever seen.
For meat and poultry, we deal with a great company from Santa Barbara, Newport Beef, that supplied us with wonderful natural beef for our burger and steaks, as well as Jidory chickens and eggs for our Wood grilled chicken.
Of course the highlight of this opening for me was working with our killer oven, a beauty built by Vesuvio in Italy, and assembled/distributed/marketed by Mugnaini ovens right here in Watsonville… I documented the ceremonial first firing (and the following 6 to cure the oven and get it ready) and will do a post on that soon. We also had to learn to adjust our great dough recipe to fit the oven and its temperament, which ended up teaching us a few things about making great pizzas.
I feel that I’ve modeled the finished pizza at The Bench after the 10 or so places that have stuck out in my mind through my pizza eating days in the past few years. I really didn’t start paying attention to pizza until I had one at a restaurant in Oakland called Pizzaiolo a few years back, and didn’t really understand Neapolitan style pizza until I saw it made at Eataly in NY. I love our finished product here, and that my friends will be a wonderful post all on it’s own…
that’s all for now, enjoy the photos below, and look for more to come!