Raduno: A Tale of Three Chefs
It is often said that good things come in threes, and that is certainly the case at Raduno, launching in July in Traverse City by the dream team triad of chefs Paul Carlson, Janene Silverman and Andrea Deibler.
With its broad palette of house-made pastas, pasta sauces, sausages, sandwiches and hearty salads, as well as a host of complementary comestibles—which customers can either sit down to eat or pick up to go—Raduno is hard to pin down to one definition. Call it a café/deli, call it a gastronomia (as Italophile Silverman does) or call it a restaurant-market hybrid (as the culinary industry dubs this new mixedformat concept). It doesn’t matter to your hosts. They just want you to walk, bike or drive to their inviting, casual neighborhood gathering place (the translation of Raduno from Italian is “gathering”) where, says Carlson, “We want to treat you like family. We want to feed you, because it’s what we like to do. We’re going to do our best to give you wholesome, great-tasting, handcrafted food in a warm, friendly atmosphere.”
The three chef-owners had each built their own solid culinary reputation long before they pooled their talents: Deibler as a butcher, Silverman as a pasta maker and Carlson as—to put it his way—“everything else.” While their inaugural menu leans toward Mediterranean influences, they make it clear that they will be adding other global—and regional—flavors into the mix as the mood or opportunity presents itself. Not surprising, considering that their combined experience and inspiration draws on training and travels in classrooms and kitchens across the country and around the globe.
“If we want to explore an area with a certain type of cuisine, we’ll dig into it,” says Carlson. “That’s what makes it fun and interesting.”
While the members of this culinary trio are all virtuosos in their respective specialties, none of them is inclined to sing their own praises. “We all want and need encouragement from each other—we don’t have huge egos,” says Deibler. However, they freely give props to their colleague.
Carlson has nothing but admiration for Deibler and Silverman: “There was a time, a few years back, when Janene and Andrea both worked for me. And I was, like, ‘Wow, these two women are super skilled.’ Andrea is very good at what she does—I don’t think most people realize how good. If you had asked me a couple of years ago how I felt about bratwurst, I would have said, ‘Eh, they’re OK.’ But I remember the first time she made some for us, and I told her, ‘This literally changes the way I feel about bratwurst.’ And Janene is on that same high level with her knowledge of Italian food and pasta—and just her ability to make things happen. She owned her own trattoria in Oakland, California, for ten years. She knows what she’s doing.”
“We’re all chefs and love to cook,” says Deibler, “but Paul and Janene are incredible. I can learn so much from both of them, and I think the food will be just that much better when we’re doing it as a group. Janene is a pasta maker and baker extraordinaire. And Paul wouldn’t want me saying this—he’ll say we’re all equal, and we are, as partners—but for me, he is the consummate chef. He has the vision for how dishes go together and he’s a phenomenal cook. I think he will be the glue that holds the whole concept together.”
Silverman weighs in with similar praise: “I am extremely proud to be working with these two. Paul has the best palate I have ever seen in a chef. He is incredibly talented. And Andrea is the same when it comes to meats and poultry. She is all precision, no cutting corners, and all about sourcing—she has extremely high standards and always maintains them.”
A CHEF FOR ALL REASONS
Carlson says that growing up in Detroit, his grandfather was a big influence on him. “He had a big garden, and he was really into preserving food. He would write his own recipes for chili sauce, corn relish and lots of other things. I loved working beside him.” Northern Michigan University’s culinary program further inspired Carlson, and in his 25-year career in the food industry so far, he has become a highly skilled all-arounder. “I’ve sold fish, I’ve sold meat, I’ve done retail, I’ve cooked—you name it,” he says modestly.
At Raduno, Carlson will unleash his creativity and expertise on pasta sauces and pasta fillings, vegetable- and grain-focused salads and sides, and his famous yogurt panna cotta, among other things. “I’ll also be overseeing the front of the house—actually, overseeing everything, since I have the most recent experience running a restaurant,” he says.
“Obviously, the menu is going to change a lot—that’s just who we are. We want to be able to grab what’s fresh and get excited about it and cook with it. And when that’s done, we’ll start with the next thing.”
THE PASTA PRODIGY
Silverman is a born entrepreneur and dynamo who began cooking her own vegetarian food in high school, studied nutrition at UC Berkeley, became a food truck pioneer with a homemade pizza wagon in her early 20s (catering to hungry fans at Grateful Dead concerts in the Bay Area) and chose the CIA in Hyde Park, NY, for her culinary studies “because it was supposedly the best in the country at that time.”
But it was a trip to Italy in the 1980s that turned out to be life-changing for her. “My love affair with Italy and its food began right then and there, and inspired me to open an Italian restaurant back home in California.
“But I still kept going back again and again to research and work to learn more—especially about pasta. I wanted to understand all of the different types from the different regions. I ended up living in Piedmont for 18 years.” In addition to her repertoire of pastas, she will also be making breads—including focaccia, ciabatta and rye—as well as some dessert items. And just so this go-getter doesn’t get bored, Wednesday mornings will find her at the Sara Hardy downtown farmers’ market selling her fresh pasta and spreading the word about Raduno.
THE MEAT MAESTRO
Missouri-bred Deibler is a gentle, animalloving butcher. That’s not as contradictory as it may seem. After earning a degree in English, she realized that what really moved her was raising awareness about America’s flawed food system and support for farmers who raise animals humanely and naturally. She ended up enrolling in culinary school, and it was there, during the program’s intensive restaurant internship phase, that she discovered she had an aptitude for butchering and charcuterie. Moving to Chicago to further hone her craft, she sought out mentors who shared her ideals about ethical, sustainable butchery.
She emphasizes that although she will be making sausages, pâtés, smoked meats and poultry and, eventually, charcuterie at Raduno, it is not going to be about “big” meat. “We’ll be using the whole animal, and using it intelligently and respectfully—making it stretch and making it last. That not only keeps costs down, but it is what we all really believe in,” she says. “We are also going to have an abundance of vegetarian and vegetable-focused foods. And we will treat the products that go into them with respect and intelligence, too.
Silverman was living in Italy and coming back to Traverse City in the summers to cook, cater and teach when she first met Carlson and ended up working with him. During that time they shared thoughts about what each might like to do down the road. Carlson envisioned having his own restaurant, and Silverman dreamed of having a pastificio [pasta factory]. Soon afterward, Deibler came on the scene. “She told us she hoped to have a butcher shop someday,” says Silverman. Over the next several months, many conversations about those ideas followed. “And then one day,” says Carlson, “we all looked at each other and said, ‘Wait a minute. Why don’t we just do this together and make it happen?’”
Luckily, everyone was on the same page when it came to location. They knew that they wanted to set up shop in a neighborhood, rather than right downtown. And the Eighth Street corridor kept popping up on their radar even before the city’s charrette process for improving it had begun.
“I really think that side of town has a lot of energy, and a lot of people who want great food,” says Deibler. “I live in that neighborhood, and I want to see traffic slowed, and to see that street become more walkable and bikeable. The quality of life goes up when you can go places to shop and eat without having to drive.”
The space Raduno occupies now wasn’t available when the partners first inquired about it, but they bided their time and their patience finally paid off. Besides plenty of free parking and easy access from surrounding streets, they say there is “a great synergy” with the adjacent wine shop Bon Vin. “People can stop on their way home to pick up dinner here and a bottle of wine there,” says Deibler.
From the outside, Raduno greets customers with a raised herb garden and a wide covered porch adorned with pots and baskets of colorful flowers and seats for about 20. Just inside the front door, a glass wall affords a view into the open kitchen where, in addition to the activity on the hot line and prep tables, the specialized pieces of equipment needed for Janene’s and Andrea’s creations—a sheeter, extruder, mixer, grinder, smoker and hand-crank sausage stuffer—are all part of the show.
Display coolers facing the 40-seat dining room may, on any given day, hold heaping dishes of curried cauliflower salad and lentils with beets and feta; neat rows of smoked andouille and roasted red pepper and fennel sausage; decadent chicken liver mousse and duck confit; fresh pea and ricotta ravioli and corkscrew-like gemelli pasta; or lamb ragù and pesto sauce. Questions about the food are welcomed and gladly answered.
The close relationship between Carlson, Silverman and Deibler is based on likeminded ethics and a single philosophy. “We all believe in making simple, ingredient- driven food with the best ingredients we can find,” says Carlson. “The word ‘local’ has been diluted somewhat by overuse, but for us it’s a given. We try as hard as we can to source locally, and if we can’t find it here, we try within the state, and if it’s not there, we try to find what’s best elsewhere.”
Deibler concurs: “Our intent is to use real food that is grown with care, raised with care and cooked with care—thoughtful from start to finish—for crafting whatever we make in house.” And Silverman adds, “We obviously want to work with what is available seasonally here. And it is amazing for a town this size what we can get, year round, but there will be some things we’ll have to give in to.” Coffee, flour, meats and poultry, produce in season, eggs and dairy products are some of the things that the three have already arranged to procure from nearby purveyors.
Breaking from the rule of three, there are two more ingredients in Raduno’s mix that are sure to add to their potential recipe for success. One is a generational thing. Carlson’s son Noah, though not a partner, is a valued member of the team.
“He has been working with me for a long time, and he brings the youthful perspective to the table,” says Carlson. “We are basically all about ten years apart. After Noah comes Andrea, then Janene, then me. There are different ways of looking at things that come with a certain age, so the younger one might be able to help the older one see things more progressively, or the older one might be able to help the younger one learn something that only comes from experience.”
Adds Silverman, “Having that balance, along with the male and female points of view, is good, not only for our customers, but for us.”
The other ingredient is a sense of community. “We’ll have a lot of face-to-face contact. We’ll get to know our customers and cultivate this to be the place where people know they can count on us to be here for them,” says Deibler. “We’re not just selling our wares. Being part of the community, being involved in it, is one of the things we look forward to most.”
IF YOU GO:
Opening first week of July
545 E. Eighth St., Traverse City
Open Monday–Friday 11 AM–7 PM, Saturday
9 AM–5 PM, closed Sunday