An easy commute does not mean a smooth road — How David Iovino of Blue Spoon makes it work

Delicious Simplicity: Fig on a toasted baguette. Photos By: Christopher Papagni Delicious Simplicity: Fig on a toasted baguette.

There are several kinds of restaurant owners. There are those who thrive on chaos and wouldn’t have it any other way; those who give management over to someone else and detach completely; owners who can turn it off like a switch and back on when they need to; and then there is David.

David opened Blue Spoon in January of 2004. He reflects:

“If I had known how much work it would be and how much money it would cost me, I wouldn’t have done it.”

David graduated from The French Culinary Institute (now the International Culinary Center) in New York City in 1997. He had some solid cooking experience in New York before he relocated to Portland in 2000; most notably Savoy Restaurant in Soho — a restaurant that has since closed, but will always be remembered as a Manhattan favorite. A difficult commute from his home state of New Jersey (and a good many doors slammed in his face) brought him to Portland.

A search for the perfect space to open a restaurant took him from Cape Elizabeth to Yarmouth. However, what he wanted from the start was a place on Munjoy Hill. When he was first shown 89 Congress, his current location, David recalls having to see past the disrepair and structural concerns. He did just that, and 13 years later, he continues to own and operate one of the most beloved restaurants in Portland.

Richard Rothslisberger, a frequent diner, shares how he feels about Blue Spoon: "Change is good, is not an axiom that I revere when it comes to some of my favorite restaurants. In the case of Blue Spoon, this means a small intimate space that set out to serve lovingly prepared food, and has done so since its inception. Its neighborhood location, welcoming and in- formed staff, and locally sourced provisions all contribute to a consistently pleasurable dining experience.”

 

David has worked hard to remain true to his vision. He wanted a small neighborhood restaurant and his motto has always been, “Food from friends, family and travels.” His menu is creative yet simple and has always included a favorite of his mom’s. It is his love of fresh ingredients and good food that he strives to convey.

Artist Elizabeth Margolis-Pineo has this to say about David and Blue Spoon:

“David's blue cheese toast has sustained me through five long winters since my move to Munjoy Hill. His fish stew is what I order when I miss my Mom. Everybody has a death row meal, don’t they? Mine is the blue cheese toast and fish stew at Blue Spoon. Seriously.”

If you truly want to examine the success of a restaurant, look no further than the staff. Katie, the bar manager, has been with David since before he even opened, and there are others whose tenure goes way back. His nurturing and easy going management style fosters a hard working and dedicated team. You get a sense of how much his staff enjoys being at Blue Spoon the moment you enter the restaurant. Katie is one of my personal favorite servers in Portland.

David has spent a good deal of time balancing work and home life. He purposely always uses the side door to his building, so that he can enter while avoiding the 24-hour magnetic pull of his restaurant. This year especially has been an opportunity to give his staff more responsibility and thus pull back just a little. His hands-on approach will only allow for measured delegation.

He laughs and tells me about two gentlemen who approached him with an interest in opening a restaurant of their own. He requested they return at closing when he’d have more time to speak to them. When they stopped by later that evening, David was mopping the floor. “You have to mop your own floor?” they asked, and he shot back, “Well yeah, who else is going to do it?”

That’s what owning a successful restaurant is all about. 

 

Last modified onThursday, 14 September 2017 11:18