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Taking a pause: San Mateo Italian restaurant ‘Pausa’ offers breath of fresh air
January 10, 2017, 05:00 AM By Anna Schuessler Daily Journal

Anna Schuessler/Daily Journal
Andrea Giuliani prepares house-made pasta at Pausa in San Mateo. The Italian restaurant offers selections such as porcini flour ravioli with a butternut squash puree; salmon crudo with king trumpet mushrooms and salmon caviar atop horseradish mousse; and Margherita pizza from Pausa’s wood-fire stove.

Steve Ugur

For Steve Ugur and Andrea Giuliani, creating an unforgettable restaurant experience for diners is in their roots.

At 16, Ugur was a server at his father’s San Mateo Italian restaurant, Spiedo. At 13, Giuliani was beginning his career as in the kitchen, washing dishes in a restaurant in his home country, Italy.

The two are teaming up as co-owners of Italian restaurant Pausa at 223 E. Fourth Ave. in San Mateo, where they hope to share their passion for fresh food and hospitality with the Peninsula. The restaurant will officially open its doors this Wednesday, inviting San Mateo diners in for a new take on Italian cuisine.

In mid-2015, Giuliani was ready for a break after 28 years as a chef. He had recently finished as a chef at Piazza D’Angelo in Mill Valley, and was looking for a fresh start.

“I was saying, ‘I’m tired, I want to reinvent myself,’” he said. “Then my daughter was like, ‘You can’t do that, this is you.’”

Giuliani, now 42, worked at Spiedo with Ugur’s father when he first came to the United States in 2006, and reconnected with his former manager during his 2015 sabbatical.

When Hamdi Ugur, who now owns Porterhouse Restaurant in San Mateo, learned that Giuliani was looking for his next step, he told Giuliani to call his son, Steve, who was starting a restaurant of his own.

“It was awesome,” said Ugur, about his phone call with Giuliani. “We had very similar visions of what we wanted the space to be, you know, designwise, conceptwise… Both of us, we really have a strong passion for having a restaurant where everything you do is house-made.”

Ugur, 28, has long been a student of the restaurant experience. After working at Spiedo, he went on to study the dry meat curing process in France. He eventually became the general manager of Porterhouse Restaurant, where he oversaw the meat preparation process, dry-aging and cutting steaks himself. For Ugur, a fascination with preparing food where it is served is what drives his work.

“I was always interested in other restaurants, interested in what restaurants were doing, how restaurants were approaching their guests,” he said.

As the pair prepares to open Pausa, they are leveraging their strengths to bring a fresh perspective on Italian cuisine, sourced locally from California farms and pastures. Theirs will be one of three restaurants in California licensed to make their own charcuterie in a curing chamber at the restaurant. Giuliani’s culinary approach is to find fresh produce from local California farms to cook with essential Italian ingredients that bring Italy’s 20 regions to life.

“We need to really try to translate as much as we can every day, to the clients,” he said. “First things first, tell them who we are. The fact we are farm-to-table, we are an Italian restaurant, we produce everything in-house.”

And they have left no stone unturned. A room where they can knead dough allows them to craft their own pizza and pasta dough with spices like saffron or Italian flour to lend specific colors and flavors to the pasta. They made sure to install a wood-fired pizza oven and pasta extruder imported from Italy so their pasta and pizza crust are as fresh as possible.

Giuliani’s culinary instincts are rooted in his experience tasting and cooking Italian food for most of his life. For him, the fun is in helping guests understand what they are eating, which, for many, defies what they expect to eat at Italian restaurants in the United States.

“Food is not just for me the most important thing in the restaurant,” said Guiliani.

And for the past 16 months, the pair has been focused on creating a holistic experience for their guests. They have revised their menu several times, after realizing an earlier draft of their menu contained several Italian words, which they thought may make the menu difficult to understand. Both Ugur and Giuliani have been working with their servers and kitchen staff to make sure that the guest experience is memorable, from the way staff answer phone calls to making sure they say goodbye to guests after their meals.

The two have also immersed themselves in several major construction projects to transform the space on Fourth Avenue where Spiedo formerly stood into an airy interior space with colorful accents. Ugur said Spiedo used to be dimly lit, with a few, small windows facing the street. Now the main room fills with light from large, street-facing windows and skylights, warmed by wood furniture, a wood-burning fireplace and loops of brightly colored yarn on the walls, forming several fiber art pieces. The two have also accounted for live entertainment during weekends, when the restaurant will be open later, and installed a state-of-the-art sound system to accommodate live music and DJs.

Ugur and Giuliani’s attention to all these details is perhaps why guests at Pausa’s soft-launch events find it hard to leave. This is exactly what the pair hopes to achieve, which is why the restaurant is named Pausa, which, in Italian, means “pause.”

“I always put myself in the guests’ shoes and think about how we can make the experience memorable, make their pause memorable,” said Ugur. “That’s it for us.”

Pausa will open for lunch and dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 11. Visit pausasanmateo.com for more information.

anna@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

 

 

Tags: restaurant, their, italian, giuliani, where, experience,


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Millbrae looking at development fee hikes: Builders oppose the proposed increases charged to projects in the 116-acre site
 

 
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